Report No 110 - 2023

Establishing norms of behaviour in outer space from the earth to the moon, and beyond


Ongoing space revolutions (change in the relationship between state and private partners, access to space technologies facilitated for many players, technological evolutions, etc.) modify risks and threats players using space are confronted with. It would be useless to try to describe with certainty the space landscape of tomorrow, as evolutions are rapid, and the consequences of the latter more or less known, understood and controlled. Despite these uncertainties, it seems essential for most of the space players to establish new norms in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of space, i.e. to perpetuate its use to the benefit of everyone. To this end, the promotion of binding and non-binding norms is carried out through a number of initiatives under different formats, such as the United Nations Open-ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours, which held in May 2022 and September 2023 four distinct sessions. The precise analysis of the third session permits, through interstate exchanges, to grasp current space challenges, and to notice the impact of the international context on space discussions. In this regard, the report that should result from these exchanges will not be published. In fact, the states did not succeed in coming to an agreement, by consensus, on its content. If this can be seen as a failure, the favourable evolution of the positions of certain states, once reluctant to accept non-binding norms of behaviour, suggests the discussions are not closed. The purpose of this study is to analyse the mechanisms for the emergence and cascade of norms of behaviour in space, be it for terrestrial orbits, the cislunar space, or the Moon. It also outlines the role and influence of each of the state actors in the promotion of these norms.

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