NPOC Space Law Austria Event: „The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group - Discussion on the 19 Draft Building Blocks“

On 13 April 2018, the National Point of Contact (NPOC) for Space Law Austria organized an event on the topic of “The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group - Discussion on the 19 Draft Building Blocks” at the margins of the Legal Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) at the Vienna International Centre.

After a welcome and introduction by Professor Irmgard Marboe, the head of the NPOC Space Law Austria, Dr Giuseppe Reibaldi, Executive Secretary of the Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group, gave a general overview of the main objectives, structure and work of the Working Group. The Working Group has been created as a forum to discuss legal questions regarding the use of space resources and to prepare the ground for future negotiations of an international instrument for the use of space resources. The members of the Working Group are representatives from governments, industry, universities, and NGOs. In a first phase (January 2016 – December 2017) 19 Draft Building Blocks for the governance of space resource activities were formulated as a basis for negotiations on an international framework. During a second phase (January 2018 – December 2019) inclusive consultations will be held on the Draft Building Blocks and the need and form of any future mechanism for the governance of space resource activities are explored.

Professor Olavo de Oliveira Bittencourt Neto of the Catholic University of Santos, Brazil, Vice-Chair of the Working Group, presented some important features of the 19 Draft Building Blocks. The Building Blocks propose definitions of key terms as well as an objective and scope of a potential international framework on space resource activities. They also suggest provisions regarding international responsibility for space resource activities and jurisdiction over space products, access to and utilization of space resources, technical standards for space resource activities, the sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of space resources, avoidance of harmful impacts resulting from space resource activities, registration and notification requirements as well as liability and settlement of disputes.

Sagi Kfir, general counsel and co-founder of Deep Space Industries, presented the industry perspective. For the second phase of the Working Group’s activities a Technical Panel was created which is composed of universities, space agencies and industry representatives. The Panel’s main objective is to discuss current and future technical questions related to the governance of space resource activities, such as what kind of technology is needed for different kinds of celestial bodies. The Panel will provide input to the Working Group allowing it to verify the technical viability of the Building Blocks under discussion. A very positive aspect of industry involvement is that many experts with specific technical knowledge in the field of resource mining can contribute to the work of the Technical Panel.

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion with the audience, including UNCOPUOS members and observers, academia, experts, industry representatives and others.