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The Use of Space Technology Export Controls as a Bargaining Solution for Sustainability: A Chicago Convention Model of Space Governance

Author(s): Cassandra Steer

With the increase in space debris and space traffic, there is growing awareness that sustainable use of space requires improvements in global space governance, yet no binding international treaty has been concluded for almost four decades. There is little national incentive for countries to enter into binding instruments that may impose limits on their freedom of action: key issues such as space debris and space traffic management may not immediately threaten national interest. However, they threaten the collective interest in the long term, and the question is how to incentivize States towards creating new space governance instruments to ensure sustainable use of space. Successful international treaties can be described as the striking of a “bargain”, whereby States accept limits on their behavior in exchange for the cooperation of other States. This paper proposes a model similar to the 1949 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, widely seen as the regulatory pillar upon which global civil aviation was built. The Chicago Convention successfully continues to adapt to technologies and to provide incentives for State Parties to comply, due largely to the key mechanism of the technical Annexes. State Parties agree to comply with uniform standards and recommended practices (SARPs) for the safety and efficiency of air navigation in exchange for the cooperation of other States. Hence there is significant short term economic incentive to comply. This paper proposes a new international convention for civil space activities, which would incorporate SARPs for safety and sustainability in outer space. National space technology export control mechanisms can be used by States to incentivize compliance: States could refuse to export space technologies to non-complaint States. Thus, the bargaining mechanism would ensure compliance with long term sustainability interests based on the short-term incentive of access to space technology.

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