Space-related activities have a global impact on people’s everyday lives. From the Earth’s orbit, it has been possible to interconnect the world. Widespread scientific and economic benefits have been produced by artificial satellites, revolutionizing distinct activities such as agriculture, transportation, urbanization, and environmental protection.
The complex phenomenon of globalization, characterized by a constant spread of information, technology, products and jobs across borders and cultures, is highly dependent upon space infrastructure. Indeed, outer space is currently recognized as a strategic asset to the social, political and economic development of every nation.
Nevertheless, exploration and use of outer space is still not universal: related costs, although diminishing, remain prohibitive to some developing nations. Additionally, barriers such as limitations of space technology transfer, involving both governmental and non-governmental entities, are commonplace due to its dual-use potential. The everlasting tension between competition and cooperation, a trademark of classic studies of international relation, is certainly evident vis-à-vis space-related activities.
Since outer space constitutes a resource domain to which all nations have access but to which none has the right to claim sovereignty, international coordination is necessary, towards common goals and shared interests. Space cooperation has been recognized as an essential tool for capacity building and advancement of sensitive technology, as well as to secure strategic data and services.
At the centre of those debates resides the United Nations. Its importance to global space governance is unequivocal. Whether concerning the development of space law, the coordination of multilateral efforts, the dissemination of space data, or the furtherance of diplomatic collaboration, the UN, through its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), remains the space global forum par excellence.
It is not, by any means, the only one, as other important multilateral venues and ad hoc arrangements certainly attest.
Multilateralism helps States to reduce coordination costs while enjoying further international legitimacy, thus serving as a basis for global governance. Defined in general terms as the coordination of international relations between three or more States in accordance with a shared set of principles, multilateralism operates through many mechanisms, including parliamentary diplomacy.
In our complex multipolar world, marked by fluidity in national and international politics, the importance of multilateralism for global space governance must be properly acknowledged, with eyes to the future. In many ways, multilateralism is not a matter of choice, but of necessity, as far as space diplomacy is concerned. That is why global space governance is fundamental to assure that the exploration and use of outer space are conducted in a peaceful and coordinated manner, addressing the concerns of the international community in general, for the benefit of all humankind.