How do you like your regulation - hard or soft? The Antarctic Treaty and the Outer Space Treaty compared

Steven R. Freeland, Anja Nakarada Pecujlic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The end of World War II simultaneously turned into the beginning of a new global conflict- the Cold War. The manifestations of the conflict between its two main proponents, the United States of America ('USA') and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ('USSR'), were propelled by the possibilities offered by modern technology (nuclear weapons, missile tech­nology, computers, and satellites), and included interventions, proxy wars, and the struggle for natural resources. However, periods of confrontation and crises were succeeded by more sta­ble periods of negotiation, coexistence, and competition. Two 'non-territorial' areas, Antarctica and Outer Space, which came into focus during the second phase of the Cold War (1953-1969), become examples of an attempt to refrain from confrontation. With respect to these areas, the two proponents as well as a majority of other States had to set aside their territorial/appro­priation ambitions in favor of international cooperative man­agement regimes, at the very least. This attempt was ultimately codified by the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and the Outer Space
Treaty (1967).
The Antarctic Treaty developed into the Antarctic Treaty System ('ATS') and, in the course of the following decades,
has facilitated largely harmonious and effective governance
of the region. At the heart of the ATS lies the possibility for constant and effective adaptation to new challenges. It thereby evolved into an increasingly sophisticated, inclusive, dynamic
and responsive binding legal regime. The Outer Space Treaty regime, on the other hand, remains largely unchanged from its inception during the Cold War period, and any responses to subsequent technological and other developments in respect of
space activities have been addressed on a largely ad hoc basis
by non-binding instruments and guidelines.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Outer Space
Treaty, this article will examine some of the similarities and dif­ferences between these two 'cousin' treaty regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-36
JournalNational Law School of India Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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