Multilateral Space Security Initiatives


Space security discussions within the United Nations have been taking place since the early 1980s, although without much progress. Since 1985, most space security discussions have taken place within the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, Switzerland, under the topic of “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” (PAROS). Due to ongoing geopolitical tensions, the PAROS discussions have not yielded meaningful results and the CD as a whole has seen continued gridlock. As a result, several other fora have been used to try and advance space security discussions, including the 2007 International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (ICOC) proposed by the European Union, the 2011 United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities, and the 2022 Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Reducing Space Threats. While each had its own strengths and added to the discussions, only the 2011 GGE on TCBMs reached consensus.

Throughout these various multilateral discussions, some countries have made specific proposals for either political agreements or binding treaties to advance space security. This page summarizes several of these major multilateral space security initiatives and discussions proposed since 2000. A detailed list of votes on UNGA resolutions mentioned below and also the countries that have made voluntary pledges towards these initiatives can be found here.

No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space Pledge (NFP)

On October 5, 2004, the Russian Federation announced that it would not be the first to place any weapons in outer space, and called on all nations with an outer space potential to follow suit. The pledge followed long-standing concerns by Russia on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) and the weaponization of outer space, particularly that some countries might pursue space-based missile defenses. However, it should be noted that the Soviet Union placed more than a dozen weapons in space between 1963 and 1982 as part of the testing program for their co-orbital IS and IS-M weapon systems, and there is evidence suggesting Russia may have tested additional co-orbital ASAT weapons in 2017, 2019, and 2021.

On December 2, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 69/32 by a vote of 126-4-46, which encouraged all States, and especially space-faring nations, to consider the possibility of upholding as appropriate a political commitment not to be the first to place weapons in outer space. Similar UNGA resolutions on the NFP pledge were also passed nearly annually since 2015. Voting records of several of these resolutions can be found here.

As of September 1, 2023, 31 countries have made the same pledge not to deploy any kind of weapons in outer space. 

Voluntary Moratorium on Destructive Anti-Satellite Missile Testing

On April 19, 2022, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris publicly announced that the United States would voluntarily commit not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile testing, and that the United States seeks to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space. The pledge was prompted in large part by the destructive DA-ASAT test conducted by Russia in November 2021, which created more than 1,800 pieces of trackable orbital debris. The pledge also came just prior to the first session of the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats, and was a featured part of the United States' proposals within those discussions. The United States tested such DA-ASAT weapons against orbital targets in 1985 and 2008, and continues to test similar technologies against ballistic missile targets.

On December 12, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 77/41, which called upon all States to commit not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests and to continue discussions in the relevant bodies to enhance space security. The resolution passed 155-9-9.

 As of October 23, 2023, 37 countries have made the same pledge not to conduct destructive DA-ASAT missile testing.


Last updated on November 13, 2023