Peace-keeping Satellites: A Review of a Science for Peace Activity

Science for Peace has, over the years, been steadily promoting the idea of an International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA) or, more generally, the concept of a multinational system of peace-keeping satellites. In 1982, a SfP delegation made a presentation to the Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence, which strongly endorsed the ISMA proposal in its report. Since then several members of Science for Peace have written articles on the topic, including Professor John Polanyi1, and there is a comprehensive review by Walter Dorn.2

Science for Peace has sponsored several workshops on the topic. The first “Peace-keeping Satellite Workshop” was held in October 1986, bringing together members of the peace movement, academia and government to discuss the possible future of the peace-keeping satellite concept. A Workshop Statement was developed and sent to various government ministers.

Shortly after the Workshop, a new study group, called the Working Group on International Surveillance and Verification was created to examine further the possibilities for a satellite surveillance agency and other types of international monitoring systems. In addition to individuals with relevant expertise, the Working Group is composed of the following member organizations: Science for Peace, World Federalists of Canada, Veterans Against Nuclear Arms, Lawyers for Social Responsibility, Peace Research Institute — Dundas, Engineers for Nuclear Disarmament, and the Group of 78.

In May 1987, a delegation from the Working Group was invited to present a paper to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Research and Technology. The paper made a case for Canadian leadership in the use of surveillance for peace-keeping and verification purposes. Passages from the paper were quoted in the committee’s final report (“Canada’s Space Program: A Voyage to the Future”).

A second workshop3 on “Satellite and Airborne Surveillance”, chaired, as was the first workshop, by Dr. Larry Morley, Executive Director of the Institute for Space and Terrestrial Science, was held in July 1987. Participants included several chief executive officers from Canadian companies and a representative of the Department of National Defence. At the end of the workshop, the following consensus statement was adopted:

“The mandate for the research and development of technologies for arms control verification and crisis monitoring should be included as part of the mandate of the proposed Canadian space agency.”

Over time, the working group has expanded its interests to cover other areas of verification and monitoring: the Stockholm agreement on notification of large troop manoeuvres, verification of the INF Treaty, the verification regime under the proposed Chemical Weapons Convention and other areas. The Working Group is preparing further recommendations for the Canadian government, and a workshop on the verification of a Chemical Weapons Convention is being planned for the Fall of 1988.

— Walter Dorn

1 J.C. Polanyi, 1981: in The Globe and Mail, 27 Feb.; Proc. 31st Intl. Pugwash Conf. on Science and World Affairs, pp. 242-244; Ploughshares Monitor, vol. 3, no. 6 (Oct.). 1982: in The Globe and Mail, 9 May. 1983: abstract in the Pugwash Newsletter, vol. 20, no. 3 (Jan.); Proc. 31st Intl. Pugwash Conf. on Science and World Affairs, pp. 60-62, 234-240; in “Canada and the Nuclear Arms Race” ed. E. Regehr and S. Rosenblum. ^

2 Peace Research Reviews 1987, nos. 5 and 6 (182 pp.). Obtainable ($8) from Peace Research Institute Dundas, 25 Dundana Ave., Dundas, Ont. L9H 4E5. ^

3 Science for Peace Special Report No. 1, obtainable from the Science for Peace National Office, University College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont. M5S 1A1. ^


Meetings of the Working Group on International Surveillance and Verification are held in the Physics Building at the University of Toronto (Room 1203). The next meeting will be on Thursday, April 21, 1988 at 5 pm. All interested Science for Peace members are welcome to attend. For more information please call Walter Dorn (Working Group Chairman) at 978-6568 or 293-8660.

Whole issue on one page | as PDF

ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)