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Topnews, Statements

09. April 2018


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Mr Chairman

It is with great pleasure that the South African delegation participates in this the 57th Session of the Legal Sub-committee of the UNCOPUOS. We would also like to make use of this opportunity congratulate you on your appointment as Chairman of this august gathering and we hereby also reaffirm our support towards actively contributing to the successful realisation of the Agenda before us.

My delegation also wishes to express our sincerest appreciation for the work carried out by the Office for Outer Space Affairs, and its Director Ms Simonetta Di Pippo and of course to the Secretariat for their dedicated work, in preparing for, and servicing this 57th Session of the LSC.

South Africa also aligns with the statement delivered by the Ambassador of Nigeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China

Mr Chairman,

South Africa places great importance on the development of legal mechanisms to regulate the peaceful use, exploration and utilisation of outer space. It is only by following a rule based approach to the peaceful use of outer space that equality can be maintained between all nations participating in outer space activities, irrespective of their development status. This 57th Session of the LSC takes on added significance as we prepare for the UNISPACE+50 events to take place in June 2018.

Last year, the Legal Sub-committee began deliberating on important issues in terms of space governance that are of relevance to the development and implementation of international space law rules.  In particular, I refer here to deliberations on the exchange of views on the application of International Law to small satellite activities and of course the general exchange of views on potential legal models for activities in the exploration, exploitation and utilisation of space resources , which are issues relevant to emerging space nations.

Mr Chairman,

South Africa would like to call on all UNCOPUOS members who have signed and ratified and/or acceded to the existing Space treaties to work within their legal prescripts and encourages those member states who have not yet done so, to consider acceding and domesticating them. These Treaties are the cornerstone of the International legal framework governing outer space and shape the manner in which space exploration and utilisation activities may be conducted.

My delegation recognises that the utilisation of Outer Space will be a key driver towards the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment that many developing countries continue to face. Consequently, South Africa will strive to be at the forefront of efforts to pursue discussions on the long-term sustainability of Outer Space activities. Even though the Working Group developing the Guidelines on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities does not form part of the mandate of this sub-committee, we would like to commend the incredible work being done by this working group and we look forward to a successful conclusion of the activities of the Working Group in June 2018, to coincide with UNISPACE +50. In this regard, we call on all States to show maximum flexibility and redouble efforts to address the remaining Guidelines and to decide on the outstanding modalities going forward with the ultimate goal of implementing these guidelines at the national level by all States.

Mr Chairman,

Last year, South Africa reported that the process of finalising a review of our existing Space legislation in order to include new and topical provisions was underway. This task is drawing to its conclusion, and we are pleased with the development of the new draft legislation that will act as an enabler, for both Government and our emerging Space industry. This updated legislation, expressly incorporates the legal principles and elements established by the space treaties that South Africa is Party to.

South Africa has submitted a report to this Meeting on our National legislation and practice relating to definition and delimitation of outer space, as well as a response to the Questions on suborbital flights for scientific missions and/or for human transportation.

I am also honoured to announce that the South African Council for Space Affairs (the Space Council) which was reconstituted in 2017, is actively pursuing its mandate as the regulatory  body for Space Affairs in South Africa, under the leadership of the Minister of Trade and Industry. The Space Council includes experts and senior representatives from relevant South African Agencies, Government Departments and private institutions conducting space activities with a view to ensuring South Africa’s adherence to its international obligations.

Mr Chairman,

In March 2018, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) as our Space implementing Agency, together with South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA), co-hosted “The Space for National Development (SND) Week.” This event brought together the South African space sector and its stakeholders to deliberate on the legislation that governs the sector and its implementation.

During the deliberations, the point was underscored that international cooperation is the cornerstone of South Africa’s Space programme. In this regard, South Africa would like to reiterate the importance of the African Space Policy and Strategy, which was adopted on January 2016. This Policy and Strategy has become one of the flagship programmes of the African Union Agenda 2063 and is raising awareness to the central role of Space science and technology in Africa’s socio-economic development. To this end, my delegation 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.

It should also be noted that 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.

Mr Chairman,

South Africa would like to refer to the United Nations/South Africa Symposium on Basic Space Technology “Small Satellite Missions for Scientific and Technological Advancement" which was 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, which included presentations on legal and regulatory issues.

In terms of capacity building and international outreach, South Africa is again honoured to have organised the 2017 Africa Round of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Competition. The Africa Round took place on the 9 of June 2017 and was hosted by the South African Council for Space Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry with the support of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The great significance of the competition was to offer a platform and exposure for students, academics, legal professionals and space community from across Africa to legal debates on matters of international space law. In 2017, six Universities participated, representing South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Nigeria. The University of Pretoria, South Africa was crowned as the winner of the competition and went on to represent Africa at the world finals in Adelaide, Australia in September 2017.

Mr Chairman,

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 cognisant that these developments could lead to a situation of increased tension in Outer Space relations in the absence of a coherent legal environment. 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.

Thank You.


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