Declaration on International Cooperation and the Needs of Developing Countries

The Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries, adopted in 1996 (General Assembly Resolution 51/122), recognises the importance of international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for the benefit and interest of all states, in particular the needs of developing countries.

At its 1996/1997 session, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus Resolution 51/122, containing a Declaration on international cooperation in space. This Declaration finalises the agenda item which has become known as “Space Benefits” in the UNCOPUOS Legal Subcommittee. It provides an authoritative interpretation of the cooperation principle in Article I of the Outer Space Treaty and should thereby put an end to North-South confrontation over the question of shaping the international order for space activities.

How is this Resolution shaped?

Let’s recall that Article I of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (entered into force on October 10, 1967) states that “The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.

Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.

There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and States shall facilitate and encourage international cooperation in such investigation”.

The Resolution we are analysing for this new Space Law article on Space Legal Issues provides that international cooperation among states must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of international law for the benefit and in the interest of all states, irrespective of their degree of economic, social or scientific and technological development where particular account should be taken of the needs of developing countries.

States with space capabilities and programs should contribute to promoting and fostering international cooperation on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis and particular attention should be given to the developing countries.

Does this Resolution provides for international cooperation? Yes, on the manner as to how international cooperation should be conducted, it is provided that it has to be conducted in the manner that is considered most effective and appropriate by the countries concerned.

While taking into particular account the needs of developing countries, international cooperation should aim at achieving these three goals: firstly, promoting the development of space science and technology and of its applications, secondly, fostering the development of relevant and appropriate space capabilities in interested states; and thirdly, facilitating the exchange of expertise and technology among states on a mutually acceptable basis.

Are General Assembly Resolutions legally binding?

A United Nations Resolution (UN Resolution) is a formal text adopted by a United Nations (UN) body. Although any UN body can issue resolutions, in practice, most resolutions are issued by the Security Council (one of the six principal organs of the United Nations charged with ensuring international peace and security, accepting new members to the United Nations, and approving any changes to its charter) or the General Assembly (one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), the only one in which all member nations have equal representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN).

Most experts consider most General Assembly resolutions to be non-binding. Articles 10 and 14 of the UN Charter refer to General Assembly resolutions as “recommendations”; the recommendatory nature of General Assembly resolutions has repeatedly been stressed by the International Court of Justice. However, some General Assembly resolutions dealing with matters internal to the United Nations, such as budgetary decisions or instructions to lower-ranking organs, are clearly binding on their addressees.

The Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries

Among all paragraphs contained in the Preamble of the Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries, let’s note that the UN General Assembly is “Convinced of the necessity and the significance of further strengthening international cooperation in order to reach a broad and efficient collaboration in this field for the mutual benefit and in the interest of all parties involved” and “Desirous of facilitating the application of the principle that the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind”.

Paragraph 1 of the Annex of the Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries, notably states that “Particular account should be taken of the needs of developing countries” while restating the main principles of Article 1 of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Paragraph 2 of the aforementioned Resolution adds that “States are free to determine all aspects of their participation in international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. Contractual terms in such cooperative ventures should be fair and reasonable and they should be in full compliance with the legitimate rights and interests of the parties concerned as, for example, with intellectual property rights”.

Paragraph 3 develops that idea by declaring that “All States, particularly those with relevant space capabilities and with programmes for the exploration and use of outer space, should contribute to promoting and fostering international cooperation on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. In this context, particular attention should be given to the benefit for and the interests of developing countries and countries with incipient space programmes stemming from such international cooperation conducted with countries with more advanced space capabilities”.

Paragraph 4 announces that “International cooperation should be conducted in the modes that are considered most effective and appropriate by the countries concerned, including, inter alia, governmental and non-governmental; commercial and non-commercial; global, multilateral, regional or bilateral; and international cooperation among countries in all levels of development”.

Paragraph 5 declares that “International cooperation, while taking into particular account the needs of developing countries, should aim, inter alia, at the following goals, considering their need for technical assistance and rational and efficient allocation of financial and technical resources: (a) Promoting the development of space science and technology and of its applications; (b) Fostering the development of relevant and appropriate space capabilities in interested States; (c) Facilitating the exchange of expertise and technology among States on a mutually acceptable basis”. These are the three goals international cooperation should aim at achieving.

These are the most important principles contained in the Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries.