What is Peaceful use of Outer Space?

"Peaceful Use of outer Space" leads the way for the people of the world to see how peaceful co-existence can be achieved. Outer Space has also become a focus as one of the United Nation's five global commons, which belong equally to all mankind.

The Global Commons:
The common Heritage of mankind


Outer space is simply the space beyond the atmosphere of the Earth. Most of outer space is emptiness, but there are areas where matter and energy have gathered--forming galaxies and solar systems.

Outer space is the largest global commons. In 1967, the United Nations declared outer space "the common province of Mankind." Therefore, information gained from weather observation satellites is shared by many countries, and communication satellites can be used to 'beam' television programs around the world. In addition, countries that are able to launch rockets into space are cooperating in order to learn better how to live and work in outer space. For example, thirteen nations are engaged in building an International Space Station.



Antarctica is the coldest of Earth's continents. Sometimes it's a lonely place, but during the short summer months, the coastal areas of Antarctica come alive with animal life hatching, swimming, and soaring on the sea wind. And scientists from all over the world--in small groups--gather to do research.

Antarctica is a special global commons. At one time people were trying to claim parts of the continent as private property, but in 1959, a dozen nations signed the Antarctic Treaty stating that no person or country can own Antarctica; the treaty also banned nuclear weapons and military operations and instilled strict control of pollution. Now any nation can conduct scientific research on the icy continent --as long as they cooperate with the rules of the treaty.



Atmosphere is the gaseous envelope that surrounds the Earth. It's made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% argon, helium, methane, and carbon dioxide. This mixture changes as it gets farther away from the Earth's surface until it thins out to the general density of outer space.

The atmosphere is regarded as a global commons because it can't be owned or controlled by anyone or any country. It's always moving--like clouds and storms. That's why atmospheric pollution, such as acid rain, is generating international conflict; fortunately, there also has been a good deal of international cooperation, and people from many countries are working together to prevent further damage to the atmosphere



Oceans are the dominating feature of the Earth, covering 71% of the surface. Earth is the only planet in our solar system that has vast oceans of liquid water. It is Earth's unique oceans that make our planet uniquely life-bearing.

Of all the global commons, the oceans are the most explored. The oceans are governed by the Law of the Sea Treaty, and the United Nations declared the oceans "the common heritage of Mankind." Coastal waters can be claimed for private use, like drilling for oil, but the oceans more than two hundred miles from land belong to all.



Information is knowledge that is gained through communication, research, or instruction; it can be given or received.

Information is an unlimited resource that flows worldwide. Information can't be owned or conquered, and it's getting harder to control, or hide, or hoard. The worldwide spread of news reports and the spectacular growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web have made information available to almost everyone, so more and more people are treating information as a global commons


Click here for the pamphlet on "Introducing the Global Commons" by Harlan Cleveland