The use of space for military purposes is not a new concept. For decades, space objects have played a vital role in warfare.
Satellites are – however – also crucial for civilian life and humanitarian operations, and disruptions can harm them. Think for instance about weather services used for disaster prevention, navigation systems used for the shipping of essential goods, or even satellite phone services that may be necessary for the delivery of aid by the ICRC and other organisations.
Another risk is posed by space debris that, when generated – for instance in space warfare – can continue to travel in space for decades, endangering satellites and potentially impacting civilians on Earth.
For these reasons, it is increasingly important to ensure that International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the body of law applicable during armed conflict, is applied to all domains, including outer space.
As part of our global outreach to the military, the ICRC – and us specifically as the delegation to NATO – shares its humanitarian, IHL and security concerns. NATO plays a crucial role in shaping international security policies, and its decisions and actions have a global impact across dozens of different contexts. By actively participating in events like the NATO Youth Summit, the ICRC aims to contribute its expertise and perspectives to NATO’s advancing thinking on disruptive technologies, including in relation to space.
Pauline Warnotte, ICRC Senior Legal Adviser
The ICRC’s participation in the NATO Youth Summit received an enthusiastic response from the young professionals present online and at NATO Headquarters. By engaging with the younger generation, the ICRC also aims to raise awareness of IHL-related matters and humanitarian concerns amongst tomorrow’s decision-makers, fostering a sense of responsibility and encouraging innovative approaches to address these challenges effectively.
— ICRC Brussels (@ICRC_bxl) June 5, 2023
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