The Accord of Galactic Polities

The Accord of Galactic Polities, less formally known simply as the Accord, is a loose meta-civilization composed of the non-starbound polities of the known regions of the galaxy. The Accord is frequently conflated with the Associated Worlds, which is more properly a galactographic term. (While the Accord is primarily composed of the polities of the Associated Worlds, it is neither exclusively nor exhaustively so composed; there exist both Accord signatories not galactographically part of the Worlds, and polities of the Worlds who are not Conclave signatories.)

It should be noted that the Accord is an association, not a governance – its membership is comprised of those polities which have agreed by treaty to observe certain borders, protocols, and procedures designed to maintain the peace and make trade and communication possible. Similarly, the Accord itself has no officers and maintains no offices; it is simply an agreement between its members.

The most important of the treaties which make up the Accord, of course, is the Accord on the Conclave, being a signatory to which grants full membership in the Conclave of Galactic Polities. This in turn grants you an embassy and exclave on the Conclave Drift, and the right to send one voting representative (titled curate) to the Conclave itself, along with a number of secondary negotiating representatives on the basis of your population. In short, it gives you a seat at the table.

Conclave membership also commits you to the single binding principle thereof: Members of the Accord shall not make war on each other, nor commit acts of war upon each other (including but not limited to piracy, slaving, and intentional destruction or confiscation of property), to the detriment of the Accord.

Violations of the Accords are arbitrated before the Central Conclave Court, an arm of the Conclave.

The ten lesser Accords (which are almost universally adhered to among signatories to the Accord on the Conclave, although a small number of members derogate from one or more of these agreements) are these:

I. the Accord on Colonization

The Accord on Colonization establishes the rules by which claims on colony worlds may be made and negotiated, and/or purchases may be made from the star systems held in trust by the Accord as the stargate plexus expands, including the allocation of limited numbers of habitable and near-habitable worlds as freesoil worlds, open to settlement by anyone.

NOTE: We would urge those polities for whom it galls to be asked to subordinate one’s expansion claims to the overall growth of known space, rather than to be able to expand as one wills into terra nullius, to study the historical summaries included in the first contact packet.

II. the Accord on Intellectual Properties

The Accord on Intellectual Properties provides for the mutual recognition of intellectual property claims between signatories, requiring them to treat all foreign intellectual property at least as well as domestic examples, and setting both strong minimum standards and weaker recommended standards for creator’s privilege, copyright, patent, discovery, and trademark law.

The Accord on Intellectual Properties does not provide for the recognition of intellectual property claims from non-signatory polities.

III. the Accord on Mail and Communications

The Accord on Mail and Communications establishes the Conclave Communications Commission, which addresses both the extranet and physical packet delivery.

In the former role, it defines and publishes open standards for extranet networking protocols and policies, and acts as a registrar for various shared extranet resources.

In the latter role, the Commission publishes transstellar addressing standards, and coordinates postal unions and other cooperative endeavors to ensure efficient and secure physical packet delivery throughout the volume of its signatories’ space.

IV. the Accord on Protected Planets

The Accord on Protected Planets establishes the Galactic Trusteeship Commission to regulate research access to and passage by protected planets, those planets subject to administration or interdict under the jurisdiction of the Conclave. Such planets typically include quarantined worlds, necropolis worlds, Precursor sites or other fossil worlds, unique sites of scientific interest, promising prebiotic worlds, and worlds home to unusual emergent sophont species that have not yet achieved technological competence or xenognosis.

It also sets the rules for designating a world a protected planet under Conclave law.

V. the Accord on the Law of Free Space

The Accord on the Law of Free Space sets common standards for interstellar jurisdiction, starship operations, space traffic control, communication protocols, duties and privileges of Flight Commanders and owners, distress, salvage, and related matters.

VI. the Accord on Trade

The Accord on Trade, through its arbitration and standards body, the Galactic Trade Association, defines protocols for trade and other forms of economic exchange between signatories, generally accepted accounting standards, transstellar corporate forms, choice of law, form contracts, trade categories and open standards, and provides access to interstellar transaction clearing services via the Accord Exval Fiscal Exchange.

VII. the Accord on Uniform Security

The Accord on Uniform Security coordinates law enforcement between the various jurisdictions within the Accord. Its provisions require either the extradition or local trial of criminals who are accused of serious crimes in another jurisdiction, with the reservation that signatory polities may reserve the right to only extradite and/or try those whose crime would have been such under local law.

It defines no universal legal code of its own.

VIII. the Common Volumetric Accord

The Common Volumetric Accord defines the agreement between Accord polities concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, on the system, planetary, and habitat scales, and which areas within and without it shall be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all.

It provides, additionally, for the recognition of regional galactographic institutes, and their coordination via the Galactic Volumetric Registry.

IX. the Ley Accords

The Ley Accords extend the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights to encode the rights of sophonts, both combatant and non-combatant, in time of war.

Their first chapter concerns itself with those Instruments of Regrettable Necessity which are capable of causing gross damage, such as gigadeaths or major environmental damage to a world, proscribing their use and laying out pains and penalties for violations.

The later chapters lay out the conventions of civilized warfare applying between signatories, forbidding the use of Instruments of Regrettable Necessity near civilian areas, types of noetic warfare which might affect or corrupt noetic backups, mistreatment of prisoners, and other causes of permanent and irreplaceable harm. Terrorism and other asymmetric or indiscriminate attacks on non-military targets are forbidden. Parole is to be accepted, as is honorable surrender, and quarter will be given. A baseline is also established for the treatment of POWs and of civilians under martial law in areas under occupation.

X. the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights

The Universal Accord on Sophont Rights (noted as universal as it is intended to be applied even to non-signatories) establishes the equality before the law of all sophont species, regardless of substrate, and their fundamental and inalienable possession of certain sophont rights: to liberty, to property, to associate and to contract freely, to defense of their self-integrity. It goes on to establish, too, certain rights derived therefrom to avoid misinterpretations.

The difficulty, of course, is in the details, and interpretations of the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights have been known to vary considerably between signatories – leading to a cautious approach in Conclave Court-led mediation which might prefer one interpretation above another – and in addition, the rights asserted are notably circumscribed: attempts to include economic “rights to” rather than “rights of” have been vetoed by the Conclave, for example, as have pressures to include protections for sub-sophonts against suffering or sophont cruelty, although non-binding statements of principles on these and other matters have been appended.

– An Introduction to the Accord, First Contact Publications

The Common Volumetric Accord

The Common Volumetric Accord is simply the current agreement (under the protocols of the Accord) concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, what will be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all, and what is not normally claimable as such. The Common Volumetric Accord implements the following basic principles:

  • In the situation in which one polity, or inter-polity coordinating body, controls a star system:
    • Sovereignty over that star system shall extend as a sphere one light-day (Imperial Standard Time)1 in radius from the primary star of that system; and likewise from any secondary, tertiary, etc., stars of that system, defined for the purposes of this Accord as self-luminous bodies exceeding in mass 2.4 x 1028 kg.
    • To exercise such a claim of sovereignty, the claim must be registered with at least one of the relevant galactographic institutes2, and the polity asserting its claim must possess the ability to assert the claimed sovereign rights; such registry and assertion shall vest the claimant with all currently unasserted sovereign rights over all matter and energy within the volume in question.
      • Such a successful claim shall not negate any property rights already held within the claimed volume; nor shall it appropriate in and of itself existing sovereign rights there held as part of such property rights claims; but further homesteading shall be subject to the established sovereignty3.
    • Within the volume bounded by the outer sphere of sovereignty and the inner sphere extending one light-watch (2.16 T-hours)5 from the aforementioned bodies, space shall be considered free for the passage of all; starships of any and all Accord polities are to be permitted free transit, and no domestic rights of search, seizure, excise, forfeiture, angary, or other such may be exercised against a vessel exercising this right to free navigation, nor shall any others wheresoever arising, save those provided for by the Accord on the Law of Free Space, or should such a vessel commit an act of war.
    • Within the volume bounded by the sphere extending one light-watch from the aforementioned bodies, navigation and transit, as all other matters, are subject to the domestic law of the sovereign body.
  • In the situation in which no single polity or coordinating body controls a star system, or with reference to bodies outside the light-day limit:
    • The volume of the star system not subsumed within single-body claims shall be considered free for the passage of all, as above, and no polity’s domestic law shall apply therein.
    • Any polity controlling a celestial body, planet, moon, asteroid, habitat, or other region may claim sovereignty over the surrounding space:
      • Such sovereignty, for a natural body, may extend as a sphere of radius equivalent to 12 times the average diameter of that body, or one-third of a light-second6, whichever is larger7.
      • Such sovereignty, for a habitat cluster or drift-habitat, may extend as a sphere of radius one-third of a light-second.
      • Such sovereignty, for an individual habitat other than a drift, may extend only to its immediate territorial space.
      • Control of one or more moons shall not extend to control of that body which they orbit, if not explicitly claimed and asserted; nor shall sovereignty over multiple bodies in a single system extend to sovereighty over volumes and routes between them, unless system sovereignty entire is asserted8.
    • Where such claims would overlap due to the motions of celestial bodies, the boundary between the two claimed sovereignties shall be deemed to exist at the point halfway between the two central points of the claimed sphere and no overlap shall take place.
      • For the purpose of ongoing civic functions, entities passing through and not remaining within foreign sovereignties due to the motions of celestial bodies shall be deemed to remain within the sovereign control of their original and final sovereignty.
      • Nor shall any transit and sojourn through foreign sovereignties due to the motions of celestial bodies impair the property or other rights attaching to those making transit.
    • In accordance with the spirit of the above, where a smaller sovereignty preexisted a larger one, and would exist within its sovereign volume, the smaller sovereignty shall enjoy a sovereign volume of one-half its usual radius.
      • Where one sovereignty shall exist entirely within another, it shall be the presumption that starships bound to and from, and/or registered within, the contained sovereignty shall enjoy a right to free navigation to and from its contained volume, notwithstanding exigent circumstance, and any disputes on this matter shall be adjudicated by the Central Conclave Court.
  • Where the claiming polity does not provide a minimum of advisory control for space traffic within the claimed volume, beacons must be established indicating the parameters of the claim9.
  • All claims made under the Common Volumetric Accord shall defer to explicit transfers of sovereign rights made by their lawful possessors at times subsequent to the initial claim.

One major omission in the Common Volumetric Accord concerns the status of worldbound civilizations (which are often multi-polity planets, to add to the difficulty). More civilized star nations recognize (and, indeed, defend) the sovereign rights of those civilizations within their own system, under the first clause of the Accord; indeed, it is customary to refrain from asserting territorial claims in the systems of pre-space species, or in the systems of non-worldbound species engaged in active system development. However, under the conventions of the Accord, where a non-worldbound species is not engaged in active system development, the secondary and tertiary bodies of their system become open for colonization, resource extraction, or other use by other star nations after a period of 144 years (one century, empire time)10.


  1. i.e., 26 T-hours, or 187.6 au. Which is to say, the Kuiper Belt is usually considered sovereign territory of a given system, while the Oort cloud is not.
  2. The Imperial Grand Survey, say.
  3. Which is to say: you can’t steal, or even start taxing and legislating for, preexisting independent habs and homesteads, however small, just because you have a flag and a shiny hat, and assume that interstellar law will back you up. They had their sovereign rights first. If you want them that badly and they don’t feel like selling them to you, you’re going to have to go to actual war for them, and risk the potential consequences of someone deciding to intervene. Or at the very least the PR problems associated with stomping around like a bunch of jackbooted space fascists4.
  4. No prizes for guessing which Presidium power was responsible for backing this contribution to creative political instability…
  5. i.e., 2.16 T-hours, or 15.58 au; that’s most of the system. Stargates are typically located further out among the outer ice giants, if any, which is why that outer region of free transit exists in the first place.
  6. 62,094 miles.
  7. The careful observer will note that this and subsequent allotments are all tiny: by these rules, Earth’s planetary sovereignty is a smidge under 100,000 miles in radius and doesn’t even reach Luna. This is entirely intentional.11
  8. A rule which exists because the possibility of someone squatting on a moonlet and claiming fees from everyone who used the parent gas giant for a gravity assist occurred to all parties within about a second of writing the above clauses… and so they felt it was worth being really explicit that the ability to build a dome on Amalthea wouldn’t make you King of Jupiter.
  9. Because you can’t expect people to respect laws they don’t know about, another contribution from the local reasonability enforcers.
  10. Use them or lose them!
  11. A careful, cynical observer might go on to point out that in addition to being minimalist, these rules are likely to create a great deal of inconvenient complexity – indeed, they seem almost tailormade to produce this kind of charlie-foxtrot (click here, then scroll up for the Manna quote immediately preceding) every time one tries to get anywhere.Such an observer would be entirely correct.

    They don’t give you much, and they make using the per-body rules annoying, as an incentive in two directions. The first being, quite simply, GET YOUR ASS TO SPACE. If you want anything in this game, you have to get out there and play, belike.

    And the second being incentive to learn to cooperate and create some sort of interpolity holding body to claim and hold system sovereignty, such that everyone else doesn’t have to put up with your patchwork-quilt craziness.

    (The extra intent here, for that matter, is that the default system should turn out to be annoying enough that people will form very weak and technically focused system sovereignty-holders because no-one, even their totally deserving selves, getting their imperialist dreams of making everyone passing through their volume descend to their knee-equivalents is still preferable to putting up with endless administrative overhead.)

Use Them or Lose Them

Written in honor of a news story I read today regarding the as-yet-not-fully-relevant Moon Treaty and the existing Outer Space Treaty.

”While this Court admires the ambition, chutzpah, and indeed hubris of the World Assembly of the ettreo of Sarine in asserting the right to control the entire circumcelestial sphere, even merely to deny the legitimacy of all volumetric claims sovereign or propertarian, the Assembly can hardly expect us to take such assertions from a civilization which, far from enjoying such a galactic span of control, remains itself worldbound and possesses no off-homeworld territorial claims, seriously.”

”For this reason, and under the principle that domestic law bears no weight in interstellar matters save where provided for by treaty or Accord law, the Celestial Resources Decree of the World Assembly of Sarine is dismissed from this Court’s consideration insofar as it applies to external entities.”

”While it is customary to refrain from asserting territorial claims in the systems of pre-space species, or in the systems of non-worldbound species engaged in active system development, neither the World Assembly of Sarine nor any other organizations of the Sarine system have attempted to colonize or otherwise utilize the secondary or tertiary bodies of their system in the 104 years since their contact with the Accord.”

”Under the Common Volumetric Accord, the principle is well-established that the secondary and tertiary bodies of the Sarine system would be open for colonization, resource extraction, or other use by any civilization capable of actively homesteading them in 40 further years.”

”However, in the light of the intent to specifically and explicitly renounce any and all sovereign claims of the Celestial Resources Decree, which the defendants argue is applicable as a matter of Sarine domestic law, this waiting period arguably is voided by intent.”

”This Court finds for the DEFENDANTS, whose sovereign claims in the Sarine system are UPHELD. The plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief and compensation is DENIED.”

 – World Assembly of Sarine v. Galactic Volumetric Registry, Calcic-Photonic Condominion and First Distributed Exclavine Republic, Central Conclave Court