Somewhat abruptly, the planet entered into a new and rapidly accelerating space race. Latin America and the Caribbean have decided to join that race.
On 24 July 2021, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay and Mexico signed a joint declaration containing a draft constitutive convention establishing the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency (“ALCE”).
On 18 September 2021, at the VI Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the final version of the Constitutive Convention was approved by 18 Caribbean and Latin American States (Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Venezuela). The Constitutive Convention provides that ALCE is an international organisation and will be headquartered in Mexico.
The signatories share the view that space exploration will be critical for the development of their States and the region as a whole. They recognise that failing to join the space race and partake in space exploration activities will highlight the technological and scientific disadvantages that the region currently faces. At the same time, they are conscious that no Latin American or Caribbean State has, on its own, the financial, technological or scientific capacity to engage meaningfully in any space exploration activities. ALCE seeks to address those issues.
In the style of the European Space Agency, ALCE will coordinate space-related activities among its Member States. It promises to direct the application of space science, technology and resources towards the region’s shared goals and challenges. Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, who spearheaded the project along with his Argentinian counterpart, explained that joining financial and human resources will enable Latin American and Caribbean States to become relevant players in the space race. Among others, ALCE promises to improve the region’s capabilities in Earth observation systems for use in agriculture, natural disasters (droughts, floods, fires, hurricanes), security and surveillance, oceanography, meteorology, exploration of natural resources and cartography.
ALCE’s Constitutive Convention will remain open for signature by the other Latin American and Caribbean States. It also contemplates the possibility for other States and international organisations to participate, provided that their participation is previously approved by ALCE’s Assembly.