12. Juni 2013

Statement by South Africa, The 55th session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Agenda Item 5: General Exchange of Views

Delivered by Ambassador Xolisa Mabhongo on 12 June 2013

Mr Chairman,

Allow me at the outset to express the South African delegation’s satisfaction at seeing you presiding over the session of the COPUOS and we wish to assure you of our support.

We further commend the Office of Outer Space Affairs under the leadership of Dr. Othman and her colleagues at the Secretariat for consistently assisting and preparing for these sessions.

We note that this will be Dr. Othman’s last UNCOPUOS session; my delegation wishes to express our heartfelt thanks for her hard work and dedication over the years, and to wish her all the best for the future.

Mr Chairman,

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first space flight by a woman, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. My delegation is delighted that Ms Tereshkova will honour us with her presence at the special event being organised to commemorate this important event. We salute Ms Tereshkov and all other women who have contributed to the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space, and we recall especially those women who have given their lives in this regard: astronauts Judith Resnik, Christa Mcauliffe and Kaipana Chawla and Laurel Clark. Their stars will shine brightly in the records of human accomplishments.

The South African government is fully committed to ensure the involvement of women in the science and technology. In this regard, we are taking a more proactive role in encouraging women to take up careers in space science and technology as they are critical for innovation and economic growth.

The provision of equipment grants and special conference funding; workshops in publication and writing skills; postgraduate grants and research fellowships for women; special concessions for study leave (including lecturing replacements); and active institutional communication about research opportunities for women, are amongst the activities that our government has put in place to encourage women participation in space science and technology.

Mr. Chairman,

We firmly believe that international, regional and interregional cooperation and coordination is one of the best ways of preserving outer space for peaceful purposes and to assist States in the development of heir space capabilities. Intra-regional cooperation could play an important role in developing the space arena in Africa. In this context, together with all our African partners, South Africa’s aim is to ensure that the benefits of space technology are expanded in our continent. We continue to work for the realisation of the ARMC.

South Africa joins the call for all nations to work together to ensure that we preserve the Earth’s outer space environment for future generations. The current generation therefore has a responsibility to ensure that future generations also reap benefits from the peaceful use of outer space. Furthermore the principle of equity in the exploitation of outer space should ensure that all countries, big and small, benefit.

South Africa is concerned with the harmful effects of the proliferation of space debris and the increased possibilities of collisions and interference which can have a negative impact on the long-term sustainability of space activities. In this regard welcome the progress that has been made by the Working Group on the Long Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities and look forward to the finalization and review of its draft report at the 51st session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. In preparing its report, it is recommends that the Working Group should take into consideration the report of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities, established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/68. The Guidelines being developed by the Working Group on Long-Term Sustainability under COPUOS will provide a technical basis to implement some of the TCBMs to be produced by the Group of Governmental experts.

During Rio+20 Conference the international community renewed its commitment to sustainable development which includes collective efforts to improve the lives of all people as well as to ensure that we leave a healthy planet for future generations. It is therefore for this reason that my delegation is of the view that that under Agenda Item 13 on the Future Role of the Committee, consideration could be given to finding ways in which space technology can be utilized to contribute to the achievements of the post 2015 development agenda and other development targets resulting from political commitments undertaken by Member States at International Conferences such as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

Mr Chairman,

South Africa has made progress on a number of fronts in space science and technology. Allow me briefly to summarise the most significant ones.

South Africa and the European Union agreed to cooperate on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) applications and services. In this context, a series of discussions at the SA-EU Space Dialogue are held yearly in Pretoria and Brussels.

At a regional level, the African Union Commission endorsed the establishment of the Working Group (WG) on Space Science. In its first meeting held in Pretoria on 13 – 14 December 2012, South Africa was appointed to be the Chair of the Working Group. The Working Group is tasked to develop a draft African Space Policy and Strategy. It is expected that the WG would complete these drafts by mid 2014 and present the work for consideration and adoption by the African Ministerial Committee on Science and Technology (AMCOST VI).

South Africa, in consultation with SADC, is exploring the feasibility of hosting the space component of the Pan African University (PAU). We believe this is a great initiative given the work in progress on Africa Space Policy and Strategy as well as the African Resource Management Constellation. The PAU concept involves the promotion, networking and development of programmes and research centres within some universities in the five geographic sub-regions of the continent.

On the 26th of March 2013 the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) signed an agreement to cooperate on the tracking of the RadioAstron space astronomy mission. RadioAstron will complement other existing and planned radio astronomy facilities in Africa (like the Square Kilometre Array), enhancing the continent’s growing role in radio astronomy.

South Africa is playing a key role and is making progress in the design and technology development of the Square Kilometre Array project. In this regard, the development of the MeerKAT array, the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the completion of the Square Kilometre Array around 2024, is also taking shape.

Recognising that the SKA Project represents an opportunity for the development of high level skills and expertise in Africa, the MeerKAT project offers postgraduate bursaries to students who excel in their studies. To date about 411 students have benefited from SKA South Africa bursaries and scholarships including students from other African countries. Close to 100 young scientists and engineers are currently working on the MeerKAT project.

The South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA), responsible for regulating space activities in South Africa, has initiated a review of the South African Space Affairs Act of 1993. The review is taking into account the need to re-evaluate and to define the regulatory and service functions, within the domestic space landscape, including the need to regulate the growing commercial space sector. The review of the Act will be influenced by the important work undertaken in the two Sub-Committees and the work of the Working Group on the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities.

In conclusion, Mr Chair South Africa would also like to take the opportunity to express our support for Ghana’s application for membership to COPUOS.

I thank you.

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