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Code of Conduct

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In 2002, the Stimson Center first proposed a Code of Conduct for responsible space-faring nations.  Stimson’s Space Security Project has worked ever since to increase public awareness of the dangerous consequences of flight testing and deploying space weapons, while offering alternative approaches to enhance US and international security. The centerpiece of Stimson’s concept of Space Assurance, a Code of Conduct or “rules of the road” for the responsible use of space, has now been endorsed in principle by the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, and many other countries. 

The European Union has taken the lead to develop consensual language for an international Code of Conduct and on broadening international support for this initiative. The EU’s latest draft can be found here. A UN Group of Governmental experts issued a report on transparency and confidence building in outer space in July 2013 that provided further support for the concept of a Code of Conduct. In this report, for the first time, China and Russia endorsed the concept of a Code of Conduct, while withholding support for the EU’s draft text. The Governments of India and Brazil have also expressed reservations about the EU’s draft.  

Currently the United States and other nations endorse and practice codes of appropriate conduct at sea, on the ground, and in the air. At a time when space is becoming more congested and contested, there are many benefits to be gained by reaching agreement among major space-faring nations to mitigate space debris, refrain from purposeful, harmful interference against objects in space, and implement space traffic management procedures.

What is the Code of Conduct?

The Code of Conduct is a proposed executive-level, political commitment between states that sets out “rules of the road” for operations in outer space.

Why is a Code of Conduct needed?

A Code of Conduct is needed to ensure the safe operation of satellites, while at the same time increasing cooperation in space, thereby reducing tensions that might lead to conflict in space.

Do codes of conduct exist for other purposes?

The United States now adheres to and champions codes of conduct to prevent dangerous military practices on the sea, ground and air, as well as to prevent proliferation and terrorism. Space also deserves “rules of the road” to help prevent incidents and irresponsible activities.

Do you have a draft Code of Conduct?

The European Union has issued several iterations of a draft International Code of Conduct for outer space activities. A copy of the EU Code is available here (.pdf). Much earlier, to spark governmental interest, the Stimson Center drafted a model Code of Conduct, with international NGO partners from Russia, China, Canada, Japan and France. To look at the earliest drafts of a Code of Conduct, see Model Code of Conduct for Responsible Space-Faring Nations.

What has been the response to the Code of Conduct?

The Code of Conduct approach has been endorsed by multiple stakeholders in space, including governments, officials, non-governmental organizations, and military personnel. For more see our page on Endorsements of a Code of Conduct.


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Photo Credit: Flickr, Nasa Goddard Photo and Video,


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