Legal and Policy Aspects of Space Cooperation in the BRICS Region

Author: Zhao Yun

in Rostam J. Neuwirth, Alexandr Svetlicinii, Denis De Castro Halis (eds), The BRICS-Lawyers’ Guide to Global Cooperation (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Ch 14, pp. 309 – 332.

Introduction: Since the launch of first satellite in 1957, international society has emphasized the importance of cooperation in space. The United Nations has advocated the principle of international space cooperation on various occasions, to be demonstrated by the adoption of a series of documents elaborating on this principle. The most recent achievement is the adoption by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 1996 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. This document illustrates the means (formal requirements) and factors (substantive requirements) to be considered in applying the principle of international space cooperation. It is to be noted that it elaborates this principle in the broadest sense, encouraging space cooperation to be carried out in various manners and approaches and at all levels.

While emphasizing the importance of space cooperation at the international level, one cannot disregard the special role that bilateral or regional cooperation can play in promoting the development of space activities and ensuring the realization of space security. With more and more countries joining the space club, international space cooperation will face many challenges and difficulties in view of the diversified state interests in this strategic field, and bilateral and regional cooperation has proven to be a feasible and relative easy way for countries with similar history and culture to work together in the space field, ultimately leading to space cooperation at the international level.

The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, all being developing countries, grouped together and formed a flexible political and economic bloc in 2009. This provides a platform for these five countries on which to coordinate and cooperate on various issues. While space activities are not specifically mentioned in the area of cooperation, the open and flexible nature of the platform does allow for intra-BRICS space cooperation, of which bilateral cooperation is the main future. This chapter then analyzes the reasons for the current situation and identifies the difficulties and barriers in carrying out multilateral cooperation among the BRICS members. It concludes that the widely accepted principle of space cooperation also applies to the BRICS and then that more efforts are needed to realize the wider scope of space cooperation among the members.

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