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Developing a Framework and Potential Policies for Space Sustainability Based on Sustainable Management of Common-Pool Resources

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Weeden, Brian; Chow, Tiffany
Conference: International Astronautical Congress
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Conf. Date: 3-7 October
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7734
Sector: Global Commons
Subject(s): outer space
governance and politics
common pool resources
Abstract: "Over the past few years, achieving the long-term sustainability of space activities has become a central goal of many policy initiatives. Space sustainability is emerging as a core element of national policy and international initiatives. However, while more policymakers and stakeholders are recognizing the importance of space sustainability, none have developed an effective strategy, and accompanying policies, for accomplishing it. This paper examines scholarly research from the fields of economics and governance theory and evaluates its potential to serve as a roadmap for a space sustainability strategy. In particular, it examines Nobel Prize Winner Elinor Ostrom’s principles for sustainable governance of common-pool resources (CPR). These principles were distilled from decades of studies on dozens of CPR situations. They capture the best practices of CPRs that have been used sustainably for decades or even centuries, thus avoiding the famous 'Tragedy of the Commons,' without being either completely privatized or controlled by a Leviathan entity. Ostrom’s principles highlight the need for clear definitions of boundaries for the space domain, what entities are considered resource appropriators, rules tailored to fit the domain, who has a say in formulation of collective-choice agreements and operational rules, monitoring of behavior and accountability, graduated penalties, conflict-resolution mechanisms, and nested arrangements. When viewed in the context of the space domain, these principles highlight some long-standing issues, such as the definition of where space begins and gaps in the existing liability regime; and emerging issues, such as the concept of shared or collaborative space situational awareness as a monitoring and verification mechanism and how best to include emerging and developing space actors in negotiations and decision making. The paper concludes that Ostrom’s principles highlight specific areas on which to focus initial space sustainability efforts and national and international policy on this subject. It also recommends further analysis into how best to translate her principles to the space domain, where they may not be wholly applicable due to the unique nature of space, and how to evolve space governance institutions and mechanisms over time to best suit the unique environment of outer space."

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