26 April 2019
Europe/Amsterdam timezone

Past, present and future perspectives for the Moon Agreement

Not scheduled
Newton 2 (ESA/ESTEC)

Newton 2


Keplerlaan 1 2201 AZ Noordwijk


A fundamental issue facing the Moon Agreement (MA) is the lack of consensus within the international community. Different states have different interpretations. From their interpretations, they can either accept in full or part the provisions of the MA. The lack of support raises concern about the future of the MA. Do we require a United Nations (UN) general resolution to open the debate over the MA based on new developments? Is leadership required by key players to make the agreement more widely accepted? There is no definitive answer. My abstract for the proposed presentation on this topic will aim to resolve these issues.

Application of ius spatiale has identified that definitions are required for “outer space”, “space activities” and “celestial body”. The concept of “common heritage of mankind” found within the MA and the “jurisdiction and control” in the OST are ambiguous. Both these concepts interplay, when considering the international legal regime for the celestial bodies being influenced by national laws concerning natural or juridical persons engaged in the extraction of Moon minerals. Another question raised whether exercise jurisdiction concerns the exploitation of property rights.

Article XI (5) of the MA provides an international regime to govern the extraction of resources for the purpose of equitable sharing for all states. The treaty does not define “equitable”. However, ‘equitable’ does not mean ‘equal’ and therefore is not meant to be interpreted for the benefit of developing countries. A balance must be determined based on the return of the benefit with considering the contributions of space-faring and non-space faring nations.
A UN General Assembly Resolution is required to resolve these issues. In 2018, the UN ‘Oceans and the Law of Sea' resolution were described by Norway as a step forward for sustainable fishing practices. The General Assembly adopted the Resolution to ‘elaborate the text of UN Convention on the Law Sea (UNCLOS)’. The resolution called upon states to agree on the proposed changes to the provisions of the covenant if states have not aligned their national legislation with these provisions. The original draft shared similar problems to the MA, as a result of later discussions this lead to a more accepted and more resilient framework.
From this Resolution, it is advisable to have a discussion to formulate principles on the governance of the moon and celestial bodies. The principles can harmonize the current international legal regime with the “Revised” MA. These principles will further strengthen the enforcement of the MA whilst considering future perspectives that are optimal for all stakeholders.

The MA is still relevant although its lack of support which is troublesome. However, reopening discussions between states may encourage more states to ratify the MA. All states can offer different perspectives which can enhance the agreement. There is no easy way to develop a balanced MA, however superior spacefaring-states (eg the European Union) should consider how their space activities can benefit developing countries in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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