MJIEL Vol 2 Issue 1 2005 - Article 2



The article examines the legal validity, import and relevance of the concept of common heritage of mankind in relation to outer space territories. The term common heritage of mankind lends itself to a myriad of possible interpretations. Consequently there is a situation where both proponents as well as adversaries of commercial space activities use the term to advance their standpoints. The push by certain states and their private business institutions to begin exploitation of outer space resources for commercial purposes has become more forceful in the dawn of the twenty first century. It becomes imperative to ascertain the legality of appropriation of outer space resources within the context of the overriding principles that outer space is the common heritage of mankind and the province of mankind. The article, therefore, traces the development of the concept of common spaces in international law and draws upon analogies found in parallel regimes of common ownership over other international spaces such as the deep sea bed and Antarctica. The merits and demerits of the existing interpretations of the CHM principle are considered and the author argues that there are sufficient legal, jurisprudential and indeed moral imperatives to adopt the restrictive view that outer space and celestial bodies cannot as of yet be appropriated for profit motives by both states and private bodies. The author also argues in favour of a moratorium over commercial exploitation until an international regime of exploitation is developed taking into account the interests of all mankind and the reality of private commercial operations in outer space.

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