The Hague Institute for Global Justice has launched a program entitled “The Off World Approach” to address the role of civil society in the future space enterprise. The Off-World Approach is the first international, non-governmental organization established to examine all aspects of the future space enterprise in five decades.

The Off World Approach is guided by a Council of 17 leading experts in all aspects of the space enterprise. The first meeting of the Council was convened on September 14, 2021, under the leadership of Co-Chairs Lady Sohair, President of the Hague Institute for Global Justice and Ken Hodgkins, Co-Chair of the Off-World Approach and Honorary Senior Advisor of The Hague Institute for Global Justice..

Governing new and innovative commercial space ventures will require a nimble and comprehensive vision. There is no appetite in the space sector for decades-long negotiations on new binding legal instruments.  Instead, a rich menu of legal and policy concepts that space actors can choose from and adapt to their circumstances and goals is urgently needed. Yet, these policy options must balance civil society’s needs with mounting space security challenges, like space debris, that if left unchecked, could render the global commons another tragedy.

The Off World Approach is a basic concept that has great potential to enable the sustainable development of space if it can be adequately supported by civil society and governments alike. As we proceed through the 21st Century and beyond, there must be thoughtful consideration given to the totality of the role of civil society in the future space enterprise. We must look at mechanisms that will provide a regular and sustainable platform for all stakeholders the opportunity to express their vision on global stability, economic growth, societal well-being, and the rule of law. New institutions or confederations not traditionally associated with space should also be examined to bring new perspectives to the space enterprise. For example, the amalgamation of international private and public space law would be another avenue for study as well as other shared domains such as air and the seas.

The Off World Approach is guided by the following cross-cutting concepts:

  • Transparency
  • Predictability
  • Interoperability
  • The Rule of Law
  • Fair and Equal Governance
  • Sustainability of the Space Environment
  • Use of Space Systems for Sustainability on Earth
  • Freedom of Scientific Inquiry and Data Exchange
  • Permissive International and Domestic Frameworks for Civil Society
  • Wisdom and Lessons Learned for the Next Generation of Space Entrepreneurs
  • Capacity-building for the global community to reap the benefits of space exploration to meet their needs
  • Develop bottom up “best practices” for the utilization of space resources.
  • Integrate civil society into governmental policy decision-making regarding outer space.

The Off World Approach will provide a reliable and objective venue for civil society and government to set the path from Earth to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But to be part of this construct, participants must commit to transparency, interoperability, sustainability, economic well-being, and the rule of law. The Off World Approach should not be an arbiter of geopolitical differences but an advocate for practical solutions to make the space enterprise meaningful to everyday life worldwide.

We must not limit the future of the space enterprise by clinging only to what is familiar. Rather, the focus should be to discover what is possible. The need for a new approach to space exploration writ-large is not a reflection of failure but progress. It is the result of the natural evolution of space exploration and exploitation and space diplomacy. What started as a few states acting under Cold War pressures has grown into a global, state, and civil society endeavor that requires new thinking to meet emerging space development needs once again. This process of developing new space endeavors followed by new international approaches should be expected to continue. Ideally, it will involve space actors seeking and embracing new methods for engaging in constructive dialogue to further sustain the human experience in and through space.

The Institute welcomes the possibility of collaboration with governments, private industry, the scientific community, educators, and the mass media to take an all-inclusive approach to demonstrating the value of space ventures for everyday life on Earth.