Name: Annie Kazarjan
Affiliation and position: Hungarian Helsinki Committee, legal officer
Panel: The future of the Moon Agreement
Why is the Future of the Moon Agreement Emergent?
It has been concluded in many occasions that, the true test of the Moon Agreement both as treaty and customary law will come only when the exploration of extraterritorial resources becomes technically and economically feasible. The author of this Abstract however argues that there is already an urgent need for palpable international reaction and prevention to the tendency of unilateral legislation and act of space powers.
The United States in 2015 guaranteed through its Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) to its private companies the right to own, sell, and profit from sources extracted from asteroids and other celestial bodies. Following the US precedent, in August 2017, Luxembourg became the first European state to officially allow commercial groups based within the country to appropriate space resources. If the two countries’ universally unregulated venture is successful, they would not only potentially violate various international treaties, but may also widen the inequality gap between the developed and the less competent nations, and would also enhance unlimited contamination of space.
By now, it is clear that in order to boost inevitable space exploration, development, and appropriation, a well-elaborated and universally institutionalized regulation is needed. Although the multilateral approach might not be in the interest of space-faring countries and their associations, they should learn from past experiences that individual interest does not suffice in the long term. Negligent refusal of the Moon Treaty is very likely to result with the rise of conflicts among unilateral space actors due to the rush for space mining.
Under Article 11 of the Moon Treaty − when it is feasible − for the sake of exploitation of the natural resources of the Moon and other celestial bodies, an international regime shall be established. Nonetheless, the specific norms on the creation and management of the international regime was not stated within the Moon Treaty, since about 40 years ago − when the Moon Treaty was adopted by the General Assembly, space exploitation was still implausible. Needless to say, the trend of unilateral space legislations, the continuous news on technological space developments, achievements, and further aspirations − these imminent signs should all indicate that exploitation of natural resources of celestial bodies is upon us, and if we fail to act collectively and promptly for the sake of mankind, we may come to the same fate as it has been happening with the environment of the Earth due to our inaction or late reaction (through set of non-binding guidelines, principles and standards).
In order to ensure global space development, – the author asserts –, the US space appropriation hegemony with its CSLCA Treaty is needed to be balanced, by making the Moon Treaty appealing to other space powers (such as China, Russia, Japan, etc.). In addition, the Moon Treaty should be more explicit with regards to the international regime and its connection to the common heritage of mankind principle, which should be effectuated through the Treaty’s consensual alteration or through lex specialis legislation. For further clarification, practical potential measures (ie. The International Seabed Authority, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) can be incorporated from the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. These measures would not only make space activities transparent and foreseeable, but it would also restore confidence in the Moon Agreement and therefore in the efficiency of multilateral cooperation for the sake of the immediate future.