No, the United Nations absolutely cannot do that - and it wouldn't do any good if it could.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) left one and only one doorway open to creating Lunar property rights:
Only private entities (people, companies, groups of companies) can claim Lunar land, and only by use and occupation. That is, only private people living on the land, "boots on the ground", can claim it.
Article II of the Outer Space Treaty makes it very clear that:
Nations can't claim sovereignty over Lunar land.
Nations can't give it to anyone.
The US can't claim sovereignty over Lunar land.
The US can't give it to anyone.
Further along in the treaty, Article XIII says that what applies to nations applies to "international intergovernmental organizations". Therefore:
Groups of nations can't claim Lunar land.
Groups of nations can't give it to anyone.
The UN, an international intergovernmental organization, can't claim Lunar land.
The UN can't give it to anyone.
Most especially, the UN couldn't give it to nations, which can't own it.
And, incidentally, to answer other suggestions:
Specially created intergovernmental space agencies can't claim Lunar land.
Specially created intergovernmental space agencies can't give it to anyone.
But this very question hides a fundamental misunderstanding of the economics involved.
Property rights are not valuable in and of themselves.
Property ownership of a place no human can ever get to would be worth only the novelty value of the piece of paper it is written on. If it were possible to grant Lunar property rights when there is no way to get there, the deeds would be worth a few dollars, at most.
Lunar (or Martian) land ownership will only acquire significant value when there are people on the land and a space "airline" with regular flights going back and forth.
Fortunately, the Outer Space Treaty established a legal framework structured so that the only way property rights can come to be is when those conditions have been met.
If a private company, from any nation, established a true settlement on the Moon, and the settlement then claimed a reasonable amount of Lunar property, every nation on Earth would have to decide for itself whether it would recognize that claim as valid. (Like every nation has to decide, today, which government in Libya to recognize.)
All we want the US to do is say, now, what a Lunar settlement would have to do to get US recognition - so that the settlement can sell its land to people back on Earth and pay for the settlement's establishment.
Hopefully most other nations would do so as well, but the economic strength of the US makes its decision the most important. Perhaps, if the US starts the ball rolling, the UN or some other intergovernmental body might suggest standards for when nations should recognize a private Lunar settlement's claim as valid.
Those who suggest the UN should give away Lunar property to every nation want to be sure that everyone on Earth could have a role in the development and benefits of space if they want to. But, under our proposal, everyone on Earth could participate - by investing in a Lunar settlement company, or buying land from a settlement, or buying a ticket to go to the Moon on the settlement's ships.
Note: The first 25 FAQs below are reprinted from the Space Settlement Initiative website.
The FAQs above cover basic questions about Lunar Land Claims Recognition. The following questions address more advanced issues.
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