Space: A Model for International Collaboration?

While NASA is still the largest space program in the world, governments — like China and India — are developing their space programs at a rapid pace, not to mention private space initiatives such as SpaceX. Collaboration has been vital to this development, and will continue to be as new players emerge and more and more satellites crowd the orbit around Earth. During the European Conference at Harvard, cosponsored by The Fletcher School, The Forum recently sat down with Donato Giorgi of the Centre National d’Études Spatiales, the French space agency, to discuss the present and future of international relations in the final frontier.


Fletcher Forum: Why should the average foreign affairs reader of our journal be interested in space? What is the diplomacy and international relations aspect of it?

Donato Giorgi: Space is international by definition. You cannot imagine space activities as local interactions that imply no interactions with other countries. Once you launch a satellite, its orbit will take it over most of every single other country and probably travel over your head. The space activity of a country can become the business of some other country. For instance, you can use satellites to verify compliance to specific international treaties like, for example, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM).

FF: In a nutshell, what do you do?

DG: I manage the team in charge of the European and international relations of CNES. Part of my team deals with the European countries and their Agencies (like DLR in Germany, ASI in Italy and UKSA in the United Kingdom), the European Space Agency and the European Union. The other part deals with the rest of the world, other countries and their space agencies and the multilateral international entities, like the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs. Basically, with my team, we manage all the relations between my agency and the rest of the space world outside France.

Also, space science is international by definition. Whatever team of space scientists you meet; you always find an international team. And these are just two examples.

FF: What do you see as the future of space?

DG: There is both competition and collaboration. Collaboration is essential. Whenever you want to build something that you cannot afford on your own, and/or you want to strengthen relations with your partners, you open yourself up for cooperation. The International Space Station, the largest international program in space so far, was built by the US with its international partners. Later on, it became a tool to show that the world changed and we could work with former USSR. This clearly shows how cooperation is one of the essentials of space, providing mutual benefits.


To see the rest of this article, go to The Fletcher Forum.

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