The Outer Space Treaty (OST) stands strong as the guiding agreement governing space matters, and recent years have seen a growing recognition that space resource utilization (SRU) will be a necessary component of any sustained presence in outer space. However, different interpretations of the legal status of SRU persist. These differences may cause uncertainties that hinder development and increase the chances of misunderstanding and conflict.
Focusing on the binary between bottom up national efforts and top down international agreements can also obfuscate other options for effective governance of SRU. Members of the 60th meeting of the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space may wish to consider alternatives for regulating these activities. One such alternative would be polycentric governance: a governance approach featuring multiple, independent management regimes specific to different types of lunar resources and local conditions. Such an approach would be coordinated under a minimal overarching set of norms and agreements established by member states, while delegating operational details for specific resource systems to those closest to the issues. This reduces the burden of coordination and emphasizes stakeholder leadership.
Read the full memo in the linked PDF.