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Star wars : how superpowers cooperate over space, and what it means in case of an ET discovery Granger, Philippe


This study seeks to assess the conditions under which multilateral consensus emerges with superpowers when the time comes to negotiate on new dimensions of the commons, such as space, with a view to identifying which precedents can be used in the event of an extraterrestrial discovery. This qualitative research explores the literature on three international documents - two UN documents and one document from non-state actors - explicitly or implicitly touching on the possibility of extraterrestrial discovery, in order to identify where they stand within the “3-i” (ideas, institutions, and interests) paradigm. Through this research, I highlight the relevance of the “interests” and “institution” factor, and argue that two mechanisms support a successful global cooperation. First, global cooperation may start when there is a small group of powers (some “superpowers”) that try to entrench a first move, overriding in some way the zero-sum game between these superpowers. Then, global cooperation happens when these superpowers see value in participating to multilateral institutions’ activities to legitimize their own actions relative to the rest of the world or with respect to their own domestic interests. This research therefore aims to show that global cooperation on space is not a process driven by civil society, global governance institutions, or the UN. Thus, in the event of an extraterrestrial discovery, collaboration between the superpowers could possibly take place only if such collaboration proves reasonable in order to serve the interests of the discovering state.

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