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Topnews, Statements

29. January 2018

STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR TEBOGO SEOKOLO, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA, 55TH SESSION OF THE SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL SUB-COMMITTEE, UNITED NATIONS COMMITTEE ON THE PEACEFUL USES OF OUTER SPACE (COPUOS), 29 JANUARY 2018, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

AGENDA ITEM 4: GENERAL EXCHANGE OF VIEWS (GEV)

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Madam Chair,

South Africa is pleased with your election as Chair of this august gathering and is grateful to the African Group for the nomination. We also want to thank all UNCOPUOS Members for entrusting my country with this responsibility. 

My delegation also wishes to express our sincerest appreciation to Ms Simonetta Di Pippo, Director for the Office on Outer Space Affairs and of course to the Secretariat for their dedicated work, in preparing for and servicing this 55th Session of the STSC.

South Africa would also like to align itself with the African Group statement delivered by the Ambassador of Egypt.

South Africa would also like to welcome Bahrain, Denmark and Norway as new UNCOPUOS member states, as well as other organisations and observers that have come on board since we last met in January 2017. We also note and welcome with pride, the request for permanent membership from Mauritius from our continent.

Madam Chair,

International cooperation is the cornerstone of South Africa’s Space programme. In this regard, South Africa would like to underscore the importance of the African Space Policy and Strategy, which was adopted in Addis Ababa on 31 January 2016. This policy and strategy has become one of the flagship programmes of the African Union Agenda 2063 and is raising awareness on the central role of Space science and technology in Africa’s socio-economic development and calls for member states to mobilise domestic resources for the implementation of this policy and strategy. South Africa looks forward to working with our Continental partners, both multilaterally and bilaterally, towards the achievement of this objective.

In our efforts to strengthen human capital in the continent, the South African government has made significant progress in negotiating the Pan African University on Space Sciences (PAUSSI) Host Country Agreement with the African Union (AU). It is anticipated that the Host Country Agreement will be signed in 2018 with the first student intake scheduled for 2019.

On 27 September 2017, on the margins of the 68th International Astronautics Conference (IAC) that took place in Australia, SANSA and the Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft-und Raumfahrt (DLR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Under the first MoU a number of successful initiatives have been implemented, which include the launch and hosting of an optical Space laboratory in Sutherland, Western Cape, that will track Space debris up to the geostationary orbit. In addition, an international Space Weather Camp was initiated involving eight students each from South Africa, Germany and the United States.

Madam Chair

South Africa would like to report that substantial progress has been made towards the establishment of the BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation Initiative. This Initiative will assist in the sustainable development of a BRICS economy and society and inject new vitality into the strategic partnership among BRICS States. It is anticipated that a Draft Agreement will be signed later this year. There is a consensus that the BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Virtual Constellation is a practical step towards high-tech cooperation between these countries that will assist in attaining the sustainable development goals and challenges pertaining to our respective economies and societies.

Madam Chair

We are pleased to note progress that has been made towards the development of a set of voluntary, non-binding Guidelines to promote safety, sustainability and security of activities in Outer Space. South Africa also firmly believes that the multilateral approach, within the United Nations system, to develop these Guidelines is the only way forward. South Africa remains committed to the view that it is imperative that the Guidelines being developed by this Working Group, be further developed and finalized to promote the safety, sustainability and security of activities in Outer Space, in the interests of all nations. With this in mind, South Africa calls on all countries to actively and positively participate towards the ultimate agreement and finalization of the Guidelines document during this session. Further interventions will be made under the relevant Agenda item.

South Africa places great importance on the development and innovative utilisation of Space technology for the benefit of mankind. Indeed, going forward scientific and technological developments in Outer Space will be key factors in assisting towards the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN in September 2015 and which has as its core a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this regard, South Africa will continue playing an active role in the UNISPACE +50 agenda, the development and implementation of the Space2030 strategy and the long-term sustainability of Outer Space activities.

Madam Chair,

At the South African Science Forum held in Pretoria in December 2017, the South African National Space Agency (“SANSA”) hosted a discussion about how investment in Space science and technology is being used as effective tools to develop the African continent. This provided a platform for experts from abroad and Africa the opportunity to showcase the use of Space science and technology to address some of the developmental challenges on the African continent.

In terms of driving South Africa’s National Space Programme, SANSA, as the implementing agency, is in the process of developing small and medium satellites, mainly for Earth observation. Through SANSA, we continue to provide training on the use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), throughout all government and research agencies. The drive behind SAR is to accrue maximum benefits from our oceans, as a means of speeding up the growth of South Africa’s economy and to creating sustainable jobs.  In addition, the collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) continues to forge fruitful partnerships in support of the development of the ocean’s economy in South Africa, from Outer Space.

Information generated by Earth observation satellites is used to support critical decision-making by the South African government and industry in terms of supporting agriculture, land use, urban planning and disaster management, among many others applications. South Africa is also increasingly developing its industry and in this regard SANSA is focusing on Space system and subsystem development testing and integration. SANSA is also responsible for overseeing the country’s next satellite, the Earth observation satellite EOSat-1.

Madam Chair,

Last year two significant international Space symposiums were held in South Africa, the first was the Joint International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO), International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS) and The International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA) Assembly, which was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 27 August to 1 September 2017. The wide range of ocean environments south of Africa that influence both the biota and climate conditions of the region provided an ideal scientific backdrop for the 2017 Joint Assembly.

The second event was the United Nations/South Africa Symposium on Basic Space Technology
"Small Satellite Missions for Scientific and Technological Advancement" held in Stellenbosch from 11 to 15 December 2017.  The event was co-organised by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and the Government of the Republic of South Africa and Co-sponsored by the European Space Agency. The symposium was attended by more than 130 participants from 32 Countries, including 11 African countries. There were also 32 presentations covering 8 sessions, and in addition 24 posters and 12 exhibitions were delivered. The main objective of the BSTI was to review the different initiatives, including lessons learnt of past and ongoing activities in the small satellite missions’ domain. The Symposium objectives also fed into the thematic priorities identified under UNISPACE +50.

It is important to highlight that participants of the Symposium noted that the African continent had the highest potential for growth in the field of small satellites and could benefit from an increase in the use of satellite applications for social and economic development. Recognising these needs, the participants recommended that the Office for Outer Space Affairs increase targeted capacity-building and training specifically dedicated to Africa. Participants also recommended efforts to increase awareness in the potential of small satellites programmes for capacity-building, education, provision of Earth observation data and telecommunication services, and technological development. It further recommended the consideration of a coordination mechanism for the development and operation of an African universities constellation of CubeSats.

Madam Chair,  

In closing allow me to reiterate that we are aware that currently, technological developments, innovation, exploration and utilization of Outer Space are progressing at an unprecedented rate. Consequently, we should be cognizant that these developments could lead to a situation of increased anxiety in Outer Space relations. However, we should be guided by the existing international Space treaties and by the fact that Outer Space is a global commons for equitable exploitation and indeed protection by all nations.

I thank you

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