Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the opening of World Space Week, delivered in the Secretary-General’s absence by Under-Secretary-General for
Communications and Public Information Kensaku Hogen:
Welcome to the celebrations for World Space Week. How apt that at the start of this new millennium, we also launch this new annual event, which was established by the General Assembly after an idea originating at last year’s historic UNISPACE III Conference.
It was 43 years ago today that Sputnik-1 became the first satellite to be launched. Ten years later, the General Assembly adopted the landmark Outer Space Treaty, which reserved the use of outer space for peaceful purposes. By commemorating these two events, World Space Week underlines the power of technology and the need to ensure that it is used peacefully for the benefit of all humanity. It also invites us to look ahead and consider how it can be used to further strengthen the bonds of our global community.
Every time we call a friend on another continent, every time the Internet puts libraries of information at our fingertips, we can thank the pioneering achievements of space technology and the unlimited possibilities of satellite communications. Yet half the world’s population has never made, or received, a telephone call. This week, our thoughts should turn to practical ways of connecting the people who need it most.
This forms the basis for a number of new United Nations initiatives which I announced in my Millennium Report. The "First on the Ground" disaster-response programme will provide and maintain mobile and satellite telephones for humanitarian relief workers to help the victims after earthquakes, floods and other disasters. The Health InterNetwork aims to establish 10,000 on-line health information centres at hospitals and clinics in the developing world. The United Nations Information Technology Service, or UNITeS, will train people in developing countries in the uses of information technologies, including the Internet.
This week also invites us to focus on making the best use of space technology as a tool to help us sustain our future on this planet. Earth observation satellites are now an indispensable part of efforts to monitor global environmental change. Space exploration gives us a sense of perspective that should help us develop the sense of global stewardship we so desperately need.
It has already provided us with a common challenge that brings nations closer together. What began as the "space race" just over four decades ago has become an unrivalled focus for international cooperation. As the International Space Station demonstrates, it is now indispensable for countries to work together in all stages of a space mission, from designing and building a satellite to launching and using it.
And as all these examples demonstrate, we are fortunate enough to live in a millennium where it is not war, but the improvement of people’s lives, that drives technology to new frontiers. Our greatest challenge now is to cross the final frontier: to bridge the divide between technology’s haves and have-nots, and harness its power to serve all people on this planet. World Space Week can provide valuable impetus to push us further in that direction. On behalf of the United Nations, I thank you for your commitment.