By Alexandra Dolce –

November 2023

Human Rights are “rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.” Examples of human rights include: the right to health; the right to a clean and healthy environment; the right to life and security of person;  and the right to freedom of expression and association.

Human  rights are relevant in the context of  commercial outer space exploration, mining,  tourism and eventual habitation because  the pursuit of these activities may impact the recognition and applicability of these rights.  For example, it is well known that space debris  is a serious threat to life,  health, cleanliness and even property here on earth. However will incidents associated with space debris be analyzed through the lens of human rights or strictly tort law.  Further if human rights are non-discriminating, how will equal protection concerning these hazards and accidents be enforced?

How will these violations be addressed, assessed and adjudicated?

Human rights have been applied “extraterritorially,” but a State has to have “effective control.”  As of yet, no one can legally have control of outer space.  States usually bear the responsibility of enforcing human rights through local legislation after ratifying  international treaties.  However commercial space actors can be compelled to recognize and comply with these rights through the same avenue because private companies, like individuals, are bound by State and local legislation. Consequently, human rights in outer space can be recognized and memorialized by treaty which will  then cause signatories to incorporate these rights into local legislation.  A new treaty does not have to be drafted, immediately[1]. Current human rights treaties can simply be amended to include activities taking place outer space.

For example, the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations.” This language can be edited to include language borrowed from the Moon Agreement or another treaty concerning outer space, to express “Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations, on Earth, the Moon and other celestial bodies within the solar system.” After State ratification, this amendment will be incorporated into State and local laws and by some measure companies will have to comply. “By some measure” because  assimilation may be thwarted by national law, religion and culture.

The frontier of outer space is vast and complicated. However incorporating the realm of human rights into this frontier can be diminutive and comprehensible.

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of For All Moonkind’s Institute on Space Law and Ethics.


[1] As space law becomes more mainstream  a treaty specifically addressing human rights in outer space is an option.

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