The Geopolitics of Outer Space and International Law: Square Peg in a Round Hold?
Professor Steven Freeland, Western Sydney University
We stand at the forefront of quite remarkable technological developments that have the potential to make this coming decade a turning point as regards humankind’s activities in space. Coupled with this, the challenges associated with the increasing proliferation of space debris raise an imperative for us to alter the current ‘business as usual’ model, in an attempt to address the risk of a ‘tragedy of the commons’ scenario in space. The myriad challenges and opportunities of space call for a more collective and cooperative approach to applying and further developing the international framework to manage (and prioritise) our future activities in space. Despite obvious ‘terrestrial’ tensions and geopolitical differences, the major space faring States generally have very significant common interests in maintaining a stable space environment. The decisions that we take now about whether, and how, to cooperate and reach some form of international understanding on the forthcoming ‘big’ space issues, rather than tending towards viewing space in a binary fashion, will determine how we move forward as a humanity. This lecture will address the role of the international legal framework – complemented by national space law specific to each country’s unique requirements – in emphasizing the common interests of all space faring (and other) States in acting in a manner that supports the safety, security and sustainability of space, rather than reinforcing the multi-polar stances that are seen in the current geopolitical context.
Steven Freeland is Professor of International Law at Western Sydney University, specialising in Commercial Space Law, and previously the Dean of the School of Law. He also holds Visiting or Adjunct positions at Universities/Institutes in Copenhagen, Vienna, Toulouse, Hong Kong, Montreal, Kuala Lumpur and London and is a Member of the Advisory Group of the Australian Space Agency. He has been an advisor to the Australian, New Zealand, Norwegian and several other Governments on issues relating to national space legislative frameworks and policy and has represented the Australian Government at COPUOS meetings. He has been appointed by COPUOS to co-chair multilateral discussions on the exploration, exploitation and utilisation of space resources at the forthcoming meeting of the COPUOS Legal Subcommittee. He is a Director of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), and a Member of the Space Law Committees of both the International Bar Association (IBA) and International Law Association (ILA).
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