Handbook of Space Law
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Handbook of Space Law

Edited by Frans von der Dunk

Handbook of Space Law addresses the legal and regulatory aspects of activities in outer space and major space applications from a comprehensive and structured perspective. The book fundamentally addresses the dichotomy between the state-oriented character of international space law and the increasing commercialization and privatization of space activities.
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Chapter 5: International organizations in space law

Frans von der Dunk


Chapter 5 focuses on the special role of international intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) in space law, as a special branch of international law where such a role was of special importance in view of the extreme expenses space activities entail and the major risks involved in space activities. This role has essentially been twofold. On the one hand, in a manner essentially similar to general public international law, IGOs have provided international fora for discussion of and cooperation on international political and legal issues pertinent to space activities, on drafting guidelines, rules of the road, recommendations and sometimes binding regulation. Usually, those organizations already existed and at some point extended the scope of their activities to outer space and space activities. Major examples thereof are the United Nations itself, the ITU, the WTO, and UNIDROIT, whereas the European Union nowadays presents a rather special case in this context. On the other hand, rather uniquely for international law, states have bundled their technical and financial capabilities to develop joint space programmes, projects and infrastructures through specifically established intergovernmental organizations. Whilst also playing roles in the area of quasi-regulatory or regulatory developments, their main focus on developing space programmes, projects and infrastructures caused them to address such issues as financing arrangements, liabilities and related governance issues in great detail. Major examples are INTELSAT, INMARSAT and EUTELSAT in their pre-privatized capacities, and other currently IGOs such as INTERSPUTNUK, ARABSAT, the European Space Agency (ESA) and EUMETSAT. The present chapter addresses these specific roles of IGOs in the context of existing space law, in particular as concerning international responsibilities and liabilities, as well as their specific contributions to the further development and codification of international space law. It then also discusses the specific topic of three of those IGOs meanwhile having been privatized, as that allows considerable further insight into the particular role of such IGOs, and their legal character in the context of (international) space law more broadly speaking.

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