UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and Japan join forces to support new space law missions to the Philippines and Thailand

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As the exploration and utilization of outer space become increasingly important in today’s world, countries must have a strong understanding of the legal framework governing activities in space. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Government of Japan have recognized this need and have taken a significant step towards promoting cooperation and capacity-building in the field of space law.

The “Space Law for New Space Actors” project, established in 2021, aims to provide legal advisory services and capacity-building support to countries in Asia and the Pacific region. This collaboration between UNOOSA and the Government of Japan is a testament to their commitment to promoting peaceful and responsible activities in outer space.

Space Law for New Space Actors is a unique project that provides tailored capacity building to UN Member States to draft, revise and implement national space legislation and/or national space policies in accordance with international space law in order to achieve long-term sustainability and safe exploration of outer space. The project also raises awareness of and promotes compliance with the existing normative framework governing space activities, in particular, the five international space law treaties developed and concluded by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

Through this project, UNOOSA will conduct space law technical advisory missions to countries such as the Philippines and Thailand. These missions will assess the specific legal, administrative, and technical needs of each country, with the goal of establishing a network of cross-government focal points to facilitate international expertise and peer-to-peer networking opportunities.

The objectives of these missions go beyond just providing legal advice. They seek to build a community of space law experts who can collaborate, learn from each other, and promote the responsible use of outer space. By fostering this network of experts, the “Space Law for New Space Actors,” project aims to strengthen the legal framework for space activities in the region and ensure that countries are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of space law.

In a statement, UNOOSA Director Aarti Holla-Maini emphasized the importance of partnerships in addressing the challenges of increasing space activities, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. The collaboration with the Government of Japan has been instrumental in enhancing adherence to the existing regulatory framework and promoting responsible space behaviour. The complexities of outer space affairs extend beyond legal and regulatory issues. As more countries develop space capabilities, the potential for international cooperation and competition in space exploration grows. The need for transparency, inclusivity, and sustainability in outer space activities is essential to avoid conflicts and promote peaceful uses of space.  

“Over 80 Member States are now operating national space programmes. As more countries start to explore the opportunities space activities offer, it’s essential for our Office to provide support to enhance adherence to the existing regulatory framework governing outer space activities. The global governance of outer space has been negotiated over the last 65 years by COPUOS. Now our attention must turn to implementation. Our partnership with the Government of Japan is invaluable in meeting this demand, particularly given the increasing number of space activities in the Asia-Pacific region.” UNOOSA Director said.

The role of UNOOSA in facilitating cooperation and ensuring adherence to the regulatory framework is crucial in ensuring a peaceful and sustainable future for outer space exploration.

Japan’s contribution to this project demonstrates its commitment to promoting international cooperation and capacity-building in the field of space law. By partnering with UNOOSA, Japan is taking a proactive approach to addressing the legal challenges and opportunities presented by outer space activities.

The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty), serves as the foundation of international space law. Since the Outer Space Treaty, UN Member States have agreed and adopted a growing list of treaties, principles, guidelines and resolutions that together form the normative framework defining responsible activities in outer space. This normative framework has been instrumental in creating a safe, secure and sustainable space environment that has enabled over half a century of exponential growth in space activities and the global space economy.

Philippine Ambassador to Austria, Evangelina Arroyo Bernas, expressed her gratitude to UNOOSA’s technical advisory missions that allow multiple stakeholders to understand the fundamental principles of outer space law. Bernas affirmed the importance of international cooperation in the space agenda and the development of national regulatory policy frameworks on outer space.

“I thanked the government of Japan for their generous support of technical advisory mission for the Space Actor program,” the Philippine Ambassador said.

The Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations in Vienna, Kaifu Atsushi, said: “It is our great pleasure to cooperate with UNOOSA on this important project since 2021. It is also an honour for us to assist Asia-Pacific countries in drafting national space laws and policies, as well as raising awareness of the existing normative framework. Through this cooperation, we look forward to contributing to the further advancement of the rule of law in outer space.

In conclusion, the “Space Law for New Space Actors” project represents a significant step towards promoting a cooperative and inclusive approach to space law. By working together, countries in Asia and the Pacific can build the expertise and networks necessary to navigate the evolving landscape of outer space activities. This initiative is a shining example of how collaboration and capacity-building can pave the way for a peaceful and prosperous future in outer space.

  • Hector Pascua
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