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Topnews, Statements

12. February 2019



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Madam Chair,

It is with great pleasure that the South African delegation participates in this the 56th session of the Scientific and Technical Sub-committee of the UNCOPUOS. We would also like to pledge our continued support to you as Chairperson of this august gathering.  

Similarly, we would also like to recognize the continued excellent work and dedication by the Director of the Office of Outer Space Affairs, Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo and her professional staff, for the successful preparations for this STSC.

Madam Chair,

South Africa notes with pride that UNCOPUOS continues to grow and is now up to 92 members, and accordingly we welcome the inclusion of; Ethiopia, Cyprus, Finland, Paraguay, and Malaysia as new UNCOPUOS member states, as well as other organisations and observers that have come on board since we last met in January 2018.

The South African delegation also aligns itself with the statements delivered by the Group of 77 and China.

Madam Chair,

Since the last STSC meeting in 2018, South Africa has made significant strides in driving its Space science and technology agenda and in this regard we are proud to highlight, on Thursday 27 December 2018, South Africa’s second and what is widely acclaimed to be the African continents most advanced nanosatellite,  namely the ZACube-2, was successfully launched into space.

In her congratulatory remarks, the South African Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane commended the team at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) that helped build the satellite, saying the launch was a historic event that represented a milestone in the nation’s plan to become a key player in space science and technology-innovation. The purpose of this satellite will be to monitor ocean traffic as part of South Africa’s oceans economy, it will also provide near real-time information on veld fires, ensuring a quick response time by disaster management teams.

Madame Chair,

Through you I would like to invite all UNCOPUOS members and observers to attend a technical presentation on the development of this ZACube 2, to be held, on the afternoon of 19 February 2019.

Madam Chair,

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 Space2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN in September 2015, This Agenda has at its core a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, challenges that many developing countries in Africa continue to face. In this regard, South Africa intends to continue playing an active role in the Space 2030 Working Group aimed at the development and implementation of the Space2030 strategy. The call for this strategy came about as a result of the highly successful UNISPACE+50 events held during June 2018. Consequently, it is imperative that all members recommit there support to this Working Group under the Chairpersonship of H.E. Dr. Awni Mohammad Khasawneh of the Kingdom of Jordan. Consequently, we look forward to this session of the STSC and the Working Group meetings that will be held on the sidelines of this Sub-committee.   

Madam Chair,

Further, in terms of integrating space science into delivering on the SDGs, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has partnered with New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) agency to provide capacity on the use of Earth observation and other geospatial tools to fast-track planning and monitoring of African Agenda 2063 and the SDGs implementation. In this regard we are pleased to report that the first country training workshop, was hosted by Centre National D’études Stratégiques Et De Securite (CNESS), in Niamey, Niger from 16 – 19 October 2018.  Fifty-five participants from policy and technical government officers of various ministries that included economic planning, monitoring and evaluation, agriculture, education, cartography, and health, among others, attended the workshop.

This training workshop followed another successful NEPAD collaborative training held in September 2018 for the African Regional Economic Communities that included the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC), and Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and representatives from the African Union Commission. The training workshops highlighted critical aspects on the linkages of the global agenda, i.e. SDGs, the continental development agenda, which is the Agenda 2063 and the National Development Plans in different countries. 

Madam Chair,

Further in terms of utilizing Space science in support of the SDG’s, South Africa again, through SANSA, participated in the First Forum of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES and Africa) from 19 -23 November 2018 in Libreville, Gabon. The theme of the forum was “Unlocking the Potential of Earth Observation as a Key Driver of Africa’s Sustainable Development.” The topics covered in the forum included a focus on marine and coastal resources, water and natural resources, service development and delivery, data and infrastructure, training, research and development resource mobilization, collaborations and partnerships.

Madam Chair,

Achieving both national development goals and the SDGs will require the adoption of latest Earth Observation (EO) technologies for providing actionable information useful for improving the productivity and incomes of small-holder farmers, promoting sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. In this regard SANSA has joined forces with a number of African and European partners to develop space-based EO solutions to advance food security and agriculture in the African continent through a H2020 funded project (774652), namely; Enhancing Food Security in African Agricultural Systems with the support of Remote Sensing (AfriCultuReS). The AfriCultuReS project aims to design, implement and demonstrate an integrated agricultural monitoring and early warning system that will support decision making in the field of food security. The project will deliver a broad range of climatic, production, biophysical and economic information, for various regions in Africa. AfriCultuReS applies geospatial science to sustainable agricultural development, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and poverty alleviation in Africa. Apart from contributing to the overall project aims,

Madame Chair,

South Africa is also proud to report that SANSA, as the South African representative, has been designated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as a Regional Centre for the provision of space weather information to international air traffic. This is in addition to SANSA operating the Space Weather Regional Warning Centre for Africa as one of 19 Regional Warning Centres globally under the International Space Environment Service (ISES).

South Africa recognises the importance of developing capacity and capability around space weather in order to protect the technological systems we depend on for economic vitality and national security. In this regard, South Africa is working with a number of international partners to improve the understanding of space weather and to determine the economic benefits and impacts that arise from space weather events.

Our recent designation indicates the confidence the international community has in our ability to be a global player in the space weather field. We appreciate this confidence and will utilize the designation to ensure compliant space weather information is available to our nation and its partners.

Through you I would like to invite all UNCOPUOS members and observers to attend a technical presentation on Space Weather Information for Aviation, to be held on 13 February 2019.

Madam Chair,

South Africa is also aware that there are numerous challenges that lie before UNCOPUOS with regards to applications of space science, space debris issues, space traffic management to allow ease of safe space access and the exploitation of space resources. In this regard we urge UNCOPUOS to take the initiative to facilitate the equitable use of outer space, in support of maintaining it in a sustainable manner and for use by future generations.

Madam Chair,

Nationally, we are pleased to confirm the pro-active approach to Space matters by the South African Council for Space Affairs, as the Space regulatory body, under the leadership of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The Space Council has been working tirelessly to support the review of the South African Space legislation and further information on this will be given during the forthcoming Legal Sub-committee meeting in April this year. .

Madam Chair,

South Africa is also pleased to report that on the margins of the 69th International Astronautics Conference (IAC) that took place in Bremen, Germany during October 2018 a team from the University of Pretoria, as winners of the Africa Round of the Manfred Lachs Moot Court competition, achieved first place in the World finals. We are also pleased to confirm that South Africa will also again host the African Regional finals later this year in Pretoria. 

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 to 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 terms of practical developments, during the BRICS Summit held in South Africa during July 2018, SANSA cemented its partnership with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes. The signing of this MoU also strengthens the South- South Cooperation for developing countries in the Global South. It should be noted that SANSA and ISRO have worked successfully together in the past and established a respectful and beneficial partnership, with one significant mission that could be mentioned being the Mars Orbiter Mission by ISRO that SANSA provided launch support to.

We are also pleased to report that South Africa became, Lead Co-Chair of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) in November last year, stepping into the role held in 2018 by the United States. As you are all aware, the function of the Lead Co-Chair is to preside over the GEO Plenary and Executive Committee, as well as to set priorities for the year and work closely with the GEO Secretariat to advance GEO’s mission. South Africa will lead alongside Co-Chairs from the United States, the European Commission, and China. Under South Africa’s guidance, the GEO community will prioritize engagement with the Global South in building a results-orientated Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), supporting global policy priorities through Earth observations and strengthening the sustainability of the GEO enterprise. As GEO moves towards its 5th Ministerial in 2019, it is important to emphasise the diversity and inclusivity of its vision through the active engagement of the Global South. GEO can only be effective if all regions are contributors to this vision, particularly the youth and entrepreneurs located in the Global South. South Africa played a significant role in the establishment of GEO in 2005, and is a founding member.

Madam chair

South Africa is pleased to note progress that the Working Group on the Long Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, under the chairpersonship of our own Dr Peter Martinez, completed its work in agreeing a set of 21 Guidelines, which can be taken forth for implementation by all member states, including established, as well as emerging Space nations. This is indeed a significant achievement, concluded against the background of a dynamic and challenging space environment. We look forward to further discussions under the relevant agenda item on how to continue to take these Guidelines further and how to ensure that a mechanism to look at the implementation, as well as review and updating of these guidelines can take place. It must be remembered that outer space is a dynamic environment and in order to remain relevant these Guidelines need to be periodically reviewed and assessed. As part of the discussions on this issue, South Africa and Austria, with the support of the Secure World Foundation, will be hosting a panel discussion on the implementation of the Guidelines, on 12 February, during the lunch hour. Lunch, will also of course be provided to participants, at the panels conclusion.

Madam Chair,

As we draw towards closure I wish to briefly highlight two upcoming events, firstly, that SANSA will co-host SpaceOps 2020, from 18 – 22 May 2020 in Cape Town. This event will bring together the global space operations community to address state-of-the-art operations principles, methods and tools. South Africa is also proud to announce that SpaceOps 2020 will be held for the first time on the African continent, and all are invited. Secondly, through South Africa’s active involvement in the International Astronautics Federation, as Vice President for Developing Countries and Emerging Nations, a Global Conference on Space for Emerging Countries (GLEC2019) will be hosted in Morocco between 24 and 26 April 2019.

Madam Chair,

Finally, 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 tension in Outer Space relations. However, we should be guided by the existing international Space treaties and to the fact that Outer Space is a global common for equitable exploitation and indeed protection by all nations.

Thank you.


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