McGill Manual webinar with the African Space Leadership Institute

Published: 4 March 2023

On 1 March 2023, the Institute of Air and Space Law co-hosted a webinar with the African Space Leadership Institute (ASLI) titled the “Governance of Military Space Activities: The McGill Manual”.

Professor Ram Jakhu and Professor Steven Freeland (Western Sydney University/Bond University), Co-Editors of the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (McGill Manual), were joined by McGill Manual Core Expert Professor Setsuko Aoki (Keio University), McGill Manual Managing Editor Mr Kuan-Wei Chen, and McGill Manual Research Coordinator Mr. Bayar Goswami. For over two hours, the speakers highlighted the origins, scope, and significance of the world’s first manual clarifying the law as it applies to military and strategic uses of outer space.

The webinar, the third in an ASLI series on space sustainability, was attended by participants from many African countries and across the globe.

Through the webinar, ASLI and the McGill Institute hope to raise awareness on the importance of enhancing the rule of law and space governance, particularly related to military space activities. The McGill Manual will be a valuable tool to support continuing multilateral dialogue on disarmament, reducing space threats, and increasing confidence-building and transparency. In such important discussions, it is vital that the voices and needs of African States and peoples are represented and taken into account. In this light, participants took note of the inauguration of the African Space Agency, which will spur space research, space innovation, and enhance the progressive development of space governance across Africa.

ASLI Co-Founder Mr. Etim Offiong also took the opportunity to outline the mission of the African Space Leadership Institute. Founded in 2022, ASLI is an independent think-tank which aims to develop African space leaders and cultivate new talents and young space professionals through courses and public outreach events such as the webinar series. With the strong belief that space science and applications can be harnessed for African socio-economic development, ASLI aims to connect space expertise in Africa and internationally and enhancing capacity-building in space strategy, policy and law.

The webinar was the first public engagement event of the McGill Manual with a major space stakeholder in Africa. With the release of Volume I of the McGill Manual in 2022, concerted efforts are continually being made to engage and inform the public and space stakeholders on how the objective clarification of the rules and principles of space law will contribute to the sustainability, safety and security of outer space.

In May 2022, the McGill Manual was presented to delegates at the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on reducing Space Threats through Norms, Rules and Principles of Responsible Behaviours. On 1st March 2023, at the 3rd Annual United States Space Command Legal Conference, McGill Manual Core Experts Mr. Gilles Doucet (Spectrum Space Security Inc.) and Lt. Col. John Goehring (United States Department of Defense) were invited to address the scope and value of the McGill Manual to military officials and space operators. They were joined by Col. Matt King (United States Department of Defense) and panel moderator Maj. Brian Green (United States Space Force), all of whom are graduates of the Institute.

In June 2023, the German Federal Academy for Security Policy will organise a conference to highlight the contents of the McGill Manual to officials and stakeholders of Germany and European States. Further engagement and outreach events are being planned in the coming period in the Middle East and East Asia. All efforts are being made to finalise Volume II: Rules with Commentaries, which will be published by Springer in the second half of 2023.

Both Professor Jakhu and Mr. Offiong expressed the hope that the jointly organised webinar would be the first step to further opportunities for collaboration and exchange between the Institute of Air and Space Law and the African Space Leadership Institute.

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