The UN and Austria’s WORLD SPACE FORUM, taking place 18-22 November in Vienna, was an extension of the idea of the UN’s High-Level fora as preparatory and follow-up events of the 2018 millenium space conference UNISPACE+50. The invitation-only event brought together experts and policymakers from regional, national and local institutions, private organizations, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and international organizations, who exchanged views on the new SpaceAgenda 2030, a key policy outcome of UNISPACE+50. It was the international community’s agreement, endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/73/91), to establish this agenda. The Space2030 agenda is envisioned as „a comprehensive strategy for reaffirming and strengthening the contribution of space activities and technologies to the achievement of global agendas such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.“
The Forum took place in the UN’s Vienna International Centre and was roughly divided in two parts, Tuesday/Wednesday with short presentations by quite a number of space actors, and Thursday/Friday with panel discussions and key notes, including more elaborative ones by UNOOSA Director Simonetta di Pippo.
The first days were devoted to the idea of Access if space for all, as described by UNOOSA: “Through the initiative Access to Space for All, UNOOSA enables communities from all over the world, with special focus on non-space faring and emerging space-faring nations to use and benefit from space technologies and applications, with the support of space-faring nations and different stakeholders.” The first two days hence comprised sessions on Space Economy for All, Benefits of Space for All, Access to Space for All and Secure Space environment for All. Most interesting I found the talk by the NASA delegate presenting the “Artemis” mission, NASA’s vision to send another astronaut, and the first female one, to the moon. Other talks included – for instance – architectonic solutions for habitats in outer space. The need of a sustainable developing outer space was early and often on the agenda, not only by presentations of envisioned space debris removal systems, but also through the questions raised by the audience. One participant asked about the necessity of a SDG18 for outer space, a question which I of course support, and which was welcomed by the moderator as a wonderful idea. To be clear: For any lasting meaning to this concept, however, a state would need to pick up the idea officially. That’s why we need to stick to it, to have it included latest when the SDG’s are revisited.
On Wednesday was also room for short presentations by other UN agencys and offices, which highlighted complementary perspectives on space issues. Thursday and Friday were then devoted to the panel discussions on the Space2030 agenda’s dimension: space economy, space society, space accessibility and space diplomacy, each opened by short keynotes. The diversity of the panels was stimulating, and the opportunity to ask questions from the audience was a great tool of exchange. Social events, like an excursion to the planetarium, and a poster session contributed to making this a remarkable event.
I believe it is important to drive sustainability in space further, and to connect it with the global SDG discussion. I believe UNOOSA itself (including its Space4SDG’s approach) is very much on the right track, but maybe the general sustainability discussion needs to be more aware of the substantial contribution of a sustainable space environment. I learned, for instance, that it was through space research, that we first heard about climate change. Maybe the next important move to lobby a SDG18 “Space Environment” could including places outside the space community – if funding allows. Like the idea? Share it! And if you can, kindly support the planetary sustainability project.