Space is an extraordinary and multi-faceted area, encompassing at the same time issues of a legal, scientific, cultural, strategic, commercial, military, national security, economic, exploratory, social and religious nature, depending on one’s frame of reference. In essence, the future of humanity is inextricably tied to our ability to ensure a viable long-term future for space activities. At a minimum, this requires a holistic approach to the development of the most appropriate governance frameworks to promote the ongoing safety, security and sustainability of space.
The existing international regulatory framework, whilst important, cannot alone stand up to the complexities that the ever-increasing range of space activities – and the possibilities that still lie ahead – impose. The opportunity presents for all stakeholders – Governments, industry, lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs and civil society – to work together to develop appropriate future governance principles that will best supplement and compliment the robust foundational legal principles that underpin how space has ‘worked’.
This encompasses several important considerations. How should the societal, community and human impacts of our inexorable march into space be measured? Why has there been relatively little work done so far as regards the human rights aspects of the exploration and use of outer space? What governance structures and frameworks best protect the broader interests of society without unduly restricting the development of appropriate space activities in the future? And, indeed, what are the criteria by which we are to determine the priorities as to what constitutes ‘appropriate’ future space activities? What role does law play in fashioning these choices?
As we develop frameworks to address these challenges, we must always remain cognizant of the ‘stewardship’ role we, as human beings, have in the way we manage our ongoing relationship with space. Our responsibilities in this regard extend not just to ourselves, but to future generations. It is incumbent on us, and imperative for the future of humanity, that we do not repeat some of the mistakes we have made on Earth that threaten our ability to coexist here into the very long term.
In addition, the principle of humanity must be the bedrock of any successful global space governance model. We must at all times be conscious of, and adhere to, the core principles of ‘humanity’ that underpin our relationship with space, in order to avoid the possibility of scenarios that do not bear contemplation.
In this regard, law will therefore continue to play a crucial role. But lawyers certainly cannot do this on their own. They simply do not have the tools to do so. All relevant stakeholders must exchange ideas, knowledge and expertise, and understand how each can contribute to an appropriate future where space continues to play a vital role for all humankind. In the end, only through these inclusive discussions will we create the right global governance model to advance the many exciting innovations and developments for the benefit of us all.