On 13 April 2018 the ECSL National Point of Contact for Space Law Austria organized the Event: “The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group – Discussion on the 19 Draft Building Blocks” at the Vienna International Centre.
After a welcome and introduction by Professor Irmgard Marboe, 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, the membership and the structure of the Working Group. The Working Group has been created as a forum to discuss legal questions regarding the use of space resources found on asteroids and other celestial bodies and to prepare the ground for future negotiations of an international agreement or non-legally binding instrument. The Working Group platform is a Consortium serviced by a Secretariat. The Consortium is made up of partners from around the world such as the Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University, the Catholic University of Santos and the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at the University of Melbourne. The members of the Working Group are major stakeholders from government, industry, universities and research centres. They form the operative body of the Working Group and are responsible for making the decisions. The number of members to the Working Group is limited to 35. Currently there are 28 members in the Working Group. The Working Group also consists of observers, who are professionals directly involved in space resources issues. There are currently 45 observers to the Working Group and this number is consistently increasing. In a first phase (January 2016–December 2017) 19 Draft Building Blocks for the governance of space resource activities were formulated by the Working Group as a basis for negotiations on an international framework. During a second phase (January 2018–December 2019) inclusive consultations are 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, who is Vice-Chair of the Working Group, presented some important features of the 19 Draft Building Blocks. The Building Blocks propose definitions of key terms, such as space resource and space resource activity, 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, vice president of policy and co-founder at Deep Space Industries, who is a member of the Working Group, presented the industry perspective. For the second phase of the Working Group’s activities a Technical Panel was created. It 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 which 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 validity 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. An initial report of the Panel will be finalized in April.
The presentations were followed by a lively discussion with the audience, including UNCOPUOS members and observers, academia, experts, industry representatives and others.
Olavo de Oliveira Bittencourt Neto