Portugal and UNOOSA present the Lisbon Declaration for Outer Space

The Lisbon Declaration for Outer Space was presented at the Management and Sustainability of Space Activities Conference, organised by UNOOSA and the Portuguese Space Agency. For the UN Under-Secretary-General for Policy, Guy Ryde, the dialogue in Portugal "will impact the way forward because we are now in a unique position where preparation has met opportunity".

In the heart of Lisbon, Portugal, the Carlos Lopes Pavilion hosted the Management and Sustainability of Space Activities Conference on May 14-15, organised by the Portuguese Space Agency and the United Nations Office for Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The first day of the event focused on the debate on the sustainability of space, which will involve creating global strategies and regulations that promote cooperation between states.  

Whether it’s managing space traffic, mitigating space debris, or coordinating the approach to resource exploitation, the aim was to agree on basic principles for the future governance of space activities, a goal referred to in the United Nations Common Agenda, published by its Secretary General, António Guterres.  

In the Common Agenda, the UN’s highest representative recommended the organisation of the Summit of the Future, which will occur in New York September 22-23, 2024. Based on the Policy Brief All Humanity – The Future of Outer Space Governance, published in May 2023 by the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Portugal and UNOOSA laid the foundations to support the theme of outer space in the future pact. 

The Lisbon Conference was preceded by two preparatory symposia, in November 2023 and March 2024, which focused on technical and governance issues, respectively, and brought together more than 80 experts from 24 countries. This work resulted in the Lisbon Declaration for Outer Space, presented on the second day of the Management and Sustainability of Space Activities Conference. The document identifies six key points contributing to a sustainable space future. 


Declaration Calls for a Multilateral Action in Favour of the Future of Space  

The Lisbon Declaration for Outer Space was presented in front of the many representatives of United Nations countries present at the conference, the director of UNOOSA, Aarti Holla-Maini, and also Ana Paiva, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Science, who recalled that taking action “is more urgent than ever and that there is an urgent need to move towards a regime in which future space governance is agreed”, for which the Lisbon Declaration for Outer Space will be fundamental.  

The executive director of the Portuguese Space Agency, Hugo André Costa, began by pointing out that “what we are doing today is not for us, but our decisions will have an impact on our children and grandchildren is the legacy we leave them”, emphasising the importance of the declaration.  

The document begins by calling for the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to continue to play a leading role in the debate on current and emerging challenges regarding the safe and sustainable use of space, promoting consensus and international cooperation, including through the development of voluntary and non-legally binding guidelines, calling for the advancement of multilateral efforts for the peaceful, safe and sustainable use of space and the need for collaboration to define policies for space activities. Standards can only be determined with the involvement of all stakeholders in a multi-sectoral approach that thinks about the principles that will govern space activities, for example, through a specific platform in COPUOS. 

International coordination remains fundamental in the development of space policies, and this interconnection between member states should guarantee transparency and consistency in regulation. The declaration also highlights the need to involve young people in the debate on space activities at the national and international levels, integrate them into UN decision-making processes, and promote intergenerational dialogue. 

The last key point of the manifesto is dedicated to the Future Summit and the Pact for the Future in Space, initiatives that will be essential to promote greater cooperation and coordination in the exploration and joint use of space, underlining the efforts to empower developing space nations. Thinking about the Pact for the Future, Aarti Holla-Maini emphasised the importance of it “clearly stating what COPUOS wants and can do”. 

Among the representatives of the various member states in Lisbon, the need to maintain and democratise access to space while preserving its sustainability was clear. In this regard, Ricardo Conde, president of the Portuguese Space Agency, recalled that “humanity can no longer live on Earth without the support of space structures”, so promoting dialogue between nations, as was the case in Lisbon, is “preparing the legacy of the next generations”. 


 The conference gathered specialists and representatives from COPUOS state members. © Portuguese Space Agency/ Atelier Obscura


Paving the Way for the Summit of the Future 

After Lisbon, the debate on the future of space will move to New York in September for the Future Summit, where member states have already committed to creating a Pact for the Future. The dialogue in Portugal “will impact the way forward because we are now in a unique position where preparation has met opportunity,” said Guy Ryder, UN Under-Secretary-General for Policy. 

Where once there was “relative stability of objects in orbit, in the last decade we have seen exponential growth that is here to stay, which brings opportunities but also challenges”, and space, being essential for sectors such as agriculture or the internet, for example, cannot “be at risk of satellites colliding with space debris or of possible confusion in the exploitation of resources”, Guy Ryder said. 

Uta Bohacek, representing the co-facilitator of the Future Summit, stressed the importance of arriving in New York to “materialise the desire for more peace, more security, and more sustainability, bearing in mind that it is also a unique opportunity to address issues such as new technologies”. Guy Ryder left the representatives of the various member states with the objective of “providing a sustainable and secure future for future generations, in what is a unique opportunity to take decisions that suit the reality of the 21st century”. 


Portugal Space
16 of May, 2024