International Law and State Responsibility in Territories Beyond National Jurisdiction

On 25 March 2019, an inaugural workshop entitled International Law and State Responsibility in Territories Beyond National Jurisdiction Workshop was held at the University of Helsinki. This event brought together an international and interdisciplinary group of experts to discuss some of the most challenging new issues in international law and the future of lawmaking. Prof. Dr. Steven Freeland (University of Western Sydney) gave the keynote speech.

New technologies have allowed for the commercialization of outer space, as well as in the increasingly delgacialised Arctic high seas (some of the sources include: Cirkovic, 2019; Kirchner, 2019; Feichtner, 2019). Public and private actors, and more specifically extractive industries, extend their operations beyond national jurisdiction, which poses the question of sovereign reaches into new spaces and the role of international law in regulating them. These new developments are challenging our existing notions of territoriality, ownership, and borders, as well as the claims to international legal universality. What will be the consequences for international law? What is at stake with the new technological, temporal, and spatial changes, and for whom? The workshop created a platform for further reflection and discussion on these issues, as well as formulates possible alternatives.

The four sessions covered a wide variety of topics.

Session I: Thinking for the Future: Autonomous Operations, Space, Ice, and International Law was interpreted with two presentations: Elena Cirkovic, “Space, Ice, Artificial Intelligence and the Final Frontiers of International Law’s Universality: the Cosmolegal” and Prof. Dr. Henry Jones (Durham University), “Fluid Space, Static Law: New Challenges in Ocean Governance”.

Session II: Arctic Spaces Beyond National Jurisdiction: Autonomous Operations, Climate Change, and Environmental Responsibility gave a fascinating analysis on the following topics: Prof. Dr. Stefan Kirshner (University of Lapland) and Nafisa Yeasmin (LLM, University of Lapland), “Vessel-source air pollution and the human rights of coastal residents in the Arctic”; Prof. Dr. Malgosia A Fitzmaurice (Queen Mary University of London) and Mercedes Rosello (PhD Candidate, University of Hull), “The Agreement to Prevent Unregulated Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean as Precautionary Decision-Making Framework in Matters of IUU Fishing Control”, and Prof. Dr. Daria Boklan’s (HSE-Moscow), “Prevention of Transboundary Harm beyond national jurisdiction in Arctic: is the State Responsibility for International Wrongful Act Still Effective?”

The Public Lecture on Space Law was open to the University and public. Steven Freeland and Alexander Soucek (European Space Agency) gave a presentation on “Public International Law: The Wonders of Space Law”


Session III: Law and Technology: Autonomous Artificial Intelligence and its Role in State and Private Access to New Spaces provided an analyses from David Kuan-Wei Chen (LLM Leiden, LLM, McGill University), “Bearing Responsibility for AI Activities in Outer Space: Space Law meets the Montreal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence”, and Donna Lawler (Principal, AZIMUTH Advisory Pty Ltd)“Autonomous AI and its Role in Outer Space”.

Session IV: Autonomous Operations in Outer Space: State and Private Responsibility offered insight from Prof. Dr. Katrin Nyman Metcalf (Tallinn University), and her presentation on “The province of mankind in private hands?” Martin Svec (Ph.D. Candidate, Masaryk University), “Legal aspects of the commercial utilization of space resources: Between state and private responsibility (Interactions between International Space Law, International Energy Law and International Investment Law)”; Dimitra Stefoudi (Ph.D. Candidate Leiden University), “The challenge to the notion of “state” by the development of remote sensing of the Earth from the outer space”; Jenni Tapio (Ph.D. Candidate, Faculty of Law, Helsinki University), “The Bottom-Up: Contributions of National Space Laws to the Interpretation of Elements Giving Rise to State Responsibility Under Article VI OST”; and Alexander Soucek (Mag.Iur., MSS), “Effects and Limits of International Law in a New Era of Solar System Exploration”.

Our final discussion focused on how we could create new knowledge about international law by combining expertise of different disciplines. We hope to follow up to this inaugural event with an establishment of a Consortium and a series of publications.

The workshop was co-organized by Dr. Elena Cirkovic (Associate Professor, National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE)-St. Petersburg) and Ms. Jenni Tapio (Ph.D. Candidate, Faculty of Law, Helsinki University) with generous assistance from the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki and the Erik Castrén Institute for International Law and Human Rights. We wish to give special thanks for the kind support from the Dean of the Faculty of Law Prof. Dr. Pia Letto-Vanamo, Prof. Dr. Kimmo Nuotio, and Prof. Dr Jan Klabbers.