ATC110622: Report Joint attendance with Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology of the 61st International Astronautical Federation’s Congress

Trade, Industry and Competition

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry on the joint attendance with the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology of the 61st International Astronautical Federation’s Congress, dated 22 June 2011


The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, having attended the International Meeting for Parliamentarians as part of the International Astronautical Federation’s (IAF) Congress held in Prague, Czech Republic on 26 September 2010, reports as follows:


1.         Introduction


Space so often called the last frontier also offers support for the challenges facing the first frontier on earth. It addresses issues ranging from the weather to the terrain that affects housing, health, transport and agriculture among other issues. South Africa recognizes the significance of space exploration and the purpose of the satellites, in particular our own recently launched Sumbandila, meaning pathfinder, for the improvement of humanity. 

The IAF brings together major players in the space sector, institutional, public and private, on an international scale.  In the context of developing its vision: “A space-faring world cooperating for the benefit of humanity”, the IAF is expanding its network to the community of politicians with a special focus on Members of Parliaments. As the responsible oversight Portfolio Committees regarding space matters in South Africa, the IAF invited members of Trade and Industry and on Science and Technology to attend the 61st International Astronautical Congress for Parliamentarians held in Prague, Czech Republic on 26 September 2010. This followed a highly successful first meeting in October 2009 in Daejeon, Seoul.

In pursuing this initiative, the IAF offered Members of Parliaments a well-defined and organised platform for a dialogue with the traditional space community (governmental representatives, agencies, industry, engineers and scientists) on a global scale. The event gave an opportunity to present to political stakeholders from governing and non-governing parties alike the potential of current or future space technologies to deal with key topics of global interest.


The following Members of Parliament and the Secretariat attended the Congress:


1.       Ms J L Fubbs (ANC) (Chairperson of the PC on Trade and Industry &  delegation)

2.       Dr E N N Ngcobo (ANC) (Chairperson of the PC on Science and Technology)

3.       Ms M L Dunjwa (ANC)

4.       Mr N E Gcwabaza (ANC)

5.       Ms S K Molao (Cope)

6.       Adv A Alberts (FF+)

7.       Mr A Hermans – Committee Secretary

8.       Ms M Herling – Content Advisor


2.         Legislative Mandate

The primary South African legislative instrument governing the regulation of both governmental and non-governmental space-related activities is the Space Affairs Act (No. 84 of 1993). The Act establishes the South African Council for Space Affairs under the authority of the Minister of Trade and Industry to implement its regulatory, monitoring and registration functions. In 2009, the Minister of Trade and Industry launched South Africa’s National Space Policy, which sets out various objectives to develop the national space arena to support sustainable development, industrial development, human capital development and international cooperation in space activities.

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has been established under the Department of Science and Technology to implement the National Space Strategy. Mr Gcwabaza explained that the Strategy seeks to enableSouth Africa to make effective use of space science and technology to enhance economic growth and sustainable development. In accordance with this, the priority areas of the Strategy are: Innovation and Economic Growth; Health, Safety and Security; and Environmental and Resource Management.

South Africa enacted the Disaster Management Act (No. 57 of 2002), which calls for a “significantly strengthened capacity to track, collate, monitor and disseminate information on phenomena and activities...” The Government goes further to identify disaster management systems and states that “A key to having good information systems is to invest in mechanisms and capacity for surveillance, monitoring and evaluation”. GIS plays a central role in the development of the National Disaster Management Centre's (NDMC) enhanced National Disaster Management Information System (NDMIS). The system relates to various aspects such as Hazard Analysis, Vulnerability Assessment, Contingency Planning, Reporting Systems as well as Early Warning Systems.

As pointed out by Ms Molao South Africa is located in a semi-arid to arid climate, which is prone to climatic extremes including floods, droughts, forest fires and windstorms. Due to its socio-economic challenges such as high levels of poverty and unemployment, unequal patterns of asset ownership and distribution and environmental degradation, a large proportion of South Africa’s population is living under fragile and vulnerable conditions and are susceptible to the impacts of natural and other disasters

While information systems are an essential tool to assist in the effective and efficient functioning of the disaster management system, Dr Ngcobo emphasized South Africa’s policy decision to focus on the development of infrastructure in space technology to underpin the country’s capacity and decision to strengthen its technological and space skills The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and other stakeholders in the earth observation and aerospace sector have developed a number of tools to assist with planning and mitigating risks ranging from the New Early Warning System on fires, floods, seismic activities and severe weather to the Flash Flood Guidance System in priority areas in the country. However, there are gaps in terms of providing access to space-based information for humanitarian and emergency response in a dynamic and real-time context   (see Annexure A). 

The linkage of space and the impact of climate crisis conditions on people especially the most vulnerable were welcomed by South African Parliamentarians in the previous Congress in Seoul and its continuation in this 61st IAF Congress theme.


The report on Congress reflects the different topics under the “Space in support of the Management of Natural Disasters” theme.


3. Space in support of the Management of Natural Disasters

Prof B Feuerbacher, President of the IAF, welcomed the Parliamentarians of 16 nations indicating that the number of participating nations had increased since 2009. The IAF’s decision to convene a meeting of Parliamentarians was due to the knowledge that legislatures ultimately determine and endorse space policy. The objective of the Parliamentarians’ meeting is to provide the forum for Parliamentarians and the space communities to engage and establish the necessary dialogue on how to improve existing policy and the use of space tools to address global threats.  Prof Feuerbacher expressed the view that natural disasters do not respect borders and therefore require global tools to ameliorate against such threats. Space, being a global tool, can observe, monitor and mitigate against global natural disasters. 

 Dr K Kreuzberg, Vice President of the IAF, in introducing the topic “Space in support of the Management of Natural Disasters” and outlining the purpose of the meeting highlighted the crucial role of Parliamentarians in ensuring the application of space services or tools in the development and implementation of space policy. The IAF realised the need for a closer relationship with Parliaments as it would ultimately be Parliaments that have the responsibility to ratify protocols and agreements.  Important for the IAF is the use of space in support of disaster management, which threatens human life, society and the economy, by providing independent information and supporting coordination of measures to curtail and address natural disasters. He concurred with Prof Feuerbacher that engagement with the legislative community is crucial to improve existing space policies and measures in order to use space information as a vehicle for disaster management support.

Ms Fubbs welcomed the position of other parliaments to support increasing improvement in space policies for disaster management and added that the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) had invested R50m in Sunspace to enable it to increase its capacity to improve competitiveness in the aerospace market and also expand black economic equity.

3.1 Space tools and services

Ms B Jones, representing the United States Geological Survey (USGS), spoke about the relevance of “space tools and services” in supporting natural disaster management. She outlined the statutory obligations of the USGS in that it is responsible for notifications and warnings for earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides and providing situational awareness of disaster areas.  The Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) provides accurate and timely data and information regarding seismic events, including the impact on buildings and structures.  The ANSS specially focuses on earthquakes that may cause a tsunami or precede a volcanic eruption, focusing on high risk regions.

The National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction identified key challenges for disaster reduction, which are:

·         The provision of hazard and disaster information where and when it is needed;

·         Understanding the natural processes that produce hazards;

·         Developing hazard mitigation strategies and technologies;

·         Recognising and reducing vulnerability of interdependent critical infrastructure;

·         Assessing disaster resilience using standard methods; and

·         The promotion of risk-wise behaviour.

Implementing the Hyogo Framework of Action, an International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, ensures that:

·       Disaster risk reduction is a national and local priority;

·       Disaster risks are identified, assessed and monitored and earlier warning is enhanced;

·       Knowledge, innovation and education is used to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels;

·       The underlying risk factors are reduced; and

·       Disaster preparedness is strengthened for effective response at all levels.

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano highlighted the importance of satellite imagery in monitoring the location of volcanic ash. The USGS volcanic observatories combine an array of real time data streams to interpret the behaviour of volcanoes, turning observations into information required by society. This helps identify the threat of airborne volcanic ash to aircraft.

Another application of space tools was mapping of spatial data to detect and monitor wildfires. This is important, as wildfires are a threat to life, property and the ecosystem through erosion, landslides and the invasion of alien plant species, and prevention and early detection can minimise these impacts.

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is an international agreement among space and remote sensing agencies. It provides space-based data and information to support relief efforts in the event of emergencies caused by major disasters. At present no African state is a member of the Charter but new partners such as Brazil, Russia, and Korea have joined the Charter. In order to become members of the Charter, countries must have a space agency and be able to contribute satellite data during an emergency. The absence of African representation is a major concern for the Charter and it should explore partnering with other groups to expand its footprint intoAfrica. 

The activation of the Charter is not restricted to member states, as member states can activate it on behalf of another country, which allows access to data within three hours of activation. For example Argentina has activated the Charter on behalf of Chile with respect to its recent earthquake. The United States of America (USA) activated the Charter 19 times on behalf of other countries that were experiencing a natural disaster. Most activations are due to floods and are restricted to the immediate response phase of the disaster. The Tsunami in 2004 changed the way the international agencies respond and how satellite imagery is used in response to natural disasters. The recent earthquake in Haiti saw the mobilisation of space agencies, commercial companies and the public in response to the crisis.

In response to the question on how agencies avoid duplication of information and increase coordination at different levels, Ms Jones responded that initially in response to the recent Pakistan floods there was a lack of coordination but through improved communication among the various agencies involved in the relief effort coordination and information flow improved.

In conclusion, Ms Jones expressed the view that space-based information plays an essential role in supporting disaster response efforts. Through the Charter, international space agency cooperation provides a “one-stop” service to support disaster responses.

Dr Ngcobo concurred with Ms Jones that it was very important for Africa to be represented in the Charter but there was also a critical need for strategic space infrastructure and technology to be developed in Africa and this would be in everyone’s interests given Africa’s position geographically.

Adv Alberts pointed out the importance on greater co-ordination between international agencies and the sharing of such information with those who may not have access to such technologies but in the interests of space technology serving humanity.

3.2 Disasters mapped from space: Technologies and disasters

Dr Gunther Schreier from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) presented the session on “Disasters Mapped from Space Technologies”. His presentation focused on the use of space technology to map disasters and relief efforts in case of natural disasters.  The Centre for Satellite Based Crisis Information (ZKI) plays a critical role in providing, processing and analysing satellite imagery during natural and environmental disasters, to be used for humanitarian relief and civil security issues worldwide.

Dr Schreier informed the delegation that the major contribution made by the DLR is through the radar imaging provided by the TerraSAR-X satellite. The images are supplied 24/7 and are acquired irrespective of cloud cover or time of day. These are useful in detecting potential floods and also assist in identifying the type of relief systems required in responding to a natural disaster. By making the imagery and information accessible, the DLR provides the necessary support using their satellite in the event of natural disasters, major accidents or humanitarian relief operations.

The TerraSAR-X satellite imagery can be used for maritime and marine applications for the detection of illegal shipping and the avoidance of collisions through ships’ automatic identification systems. The information provided by the satellite also detects sources of fire and allows for preparation in response to potential volcanic eruptions.

Dr Schreier informed the delegation that the Tsunami in 2004 led to the development of an early warning system for the Indian Ocean with the possible extension to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (GITEWS) is a joint cooperation agreement between the German and Indonesian Governments signed in 2005. The establishment of the early warning system is to provide rapid and real time reliable warnings to allow for some evacuation time.

He also referred to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) is an European Union led initiative which provides reliable and up-to-date information related to land, marine, emergency response, security, atmospheric conditions and climate change.  The information will be use by public authorities and legislators to prepare environmental legislation and develop policy with particular focus on Climate Change. It will also provide critical information needed in response to natural and humanitarian disasters.

Ms Dunjwa added that parliament supported the DST’s decision to buy a majority stake of about 60 percent in a Stellenbosch-based microsatellite manufacturer that would also contribute to South Africa’s capacity to prevent but also to respond effectively to natural and humanitarian disasters but also to support properly positioned infrastructure such as roads.


3.3 Global network of space based support measures in natural disaster management

Mr F Pisano, Director at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), which is responsible for the United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), proceeded to provide an input with respect to the “Role of Satellite technology in Disaster Response”. UNOSAT provides satellite solutions to relief and development organisations within and outside the United Nations (UN) system to improve the quality of life of the poor exposed to hazards and risk or affected by natural disasters.

UNITAR/UNOSAT provides humanitarian aid and relief coordination, human security and strategic territorial planning and coordination. Mr Pisano identified three areas of focus in relation to competencies and skills which are mapping (research analysis and applications), in-field (technical support and capacity development) and projects and methodology (training, design, and knowledge). In 2003, the Humanitarian Rapid Mapping service of UNOSAT was launched as mapping is a key component to coordinate responses to natural disasters and emergencies. UNOSAT provides maps and geospatial analysis on demand in the context of rapid response to natural disasters.

In the aftermath of the Tsunami and other disasters, the use of mapping and high resolution images becomes important tools in emergency relief operations. Awareness of the benefits of space applications for disaster management has grown significantly. The Geographic Information System (GIS) and maps are the most frequently used tools in response to emergencies and humanitarian relief, inclusive of all logistical arrangements.

Furthermore, the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) is another tool to facilitate the use of space-based technologies for disaster management and emergency response. The Programme is run by the United National Office for Outer Space Affairs and South Africa is recognised as a UN-SPIDER regional support office for the Southern African region, which is located within the National Disaster Management Centre. The UN-SPIDER is responsible for informing countries of the cost and availability of maps, as well as the various stakeholders that are mapping. Pisano emphasised that critical mass is required so that information about the applications of space technology is more freely available.


4.      Concluding Comments

Dr Ngcobo pointed out that the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology has a role to play to monitor initiatives that would advance innovation in improving access to and quality of space-based information for all stages of disaster management. He added that there has been a shift in South Africa’s policy that now recognised that rockets do not only serve military purposes but also peaceful purposes hence the country’s support of its own launching facilities.

Ms Fubbs said that South Africa’s recent strategic approach in space policy launched in 2009 focussed on co-ordination and co-operative governance as informed by the National Space Policy. She added that on the economic and industrial front, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry would through its oversight function be responsible to ascertain that disaster management is effective to ensure that economic development objectives of job creation, economic empowerment and industrial development are met. Industrial and skills development within the aerospace industry can be encouraged to ensure that the skills and equipment required to gather and analyse the required information for disaster management are readily available within the country.


During the engagement and deliberations the delegation referred to the impacts of natural disasters and the importance of developing applications to prevent and militate against these impacts. Required is the development of a new mindset to respond to early warning systems, notwithstanding the financial resource required to support such action. The delegation was also mindful of South Africa’s policies and objectives and the significance to our country in hosting the 62nd 2011 International Astronautical Congress. Given our vision as part of the continent of Africa the hosting of this Congress will once again be shared with Africa as a whole.


Therefore, both Portfolio Committees supported the continued dialogue among parliaments in promoting space technology for sustainable development. The sharing of knowledge and resources with regard to space technology would be critical to achieve this.


5.      Acknowledgements


The delegation wishes to thank the IAF for extending an invitation to Members of the South African Parliament. The Committee also wishes to thank its Committee support staff, in particular the Committee Secretary, Mr A Hermans, and the Content Advisor, Ms M Herling for their professional support and conscientious commitment to their work.  The Chairperson wish to thank Members of the delegation for their active participation during the process of engagement and deliberations and their constructive recommendations made in this report.


6.   Recommendations


Informed by its engagement at the 61st IAF Congress, the delegation recommends that the House request that:


1. Parliament, through its various fora should encourage, in consultation with the Local Organising Committee of the IAF, the participation of African countries, particularly those with space programmes, at such a meeting.

2. Parliament should ensure that all communities in South Africa, especially the most vulnerable, become more aware of the critical relationship between space technology and ensuring a more secure, safe, environment in which people, especially the most vulnerable, could develop and improve their lives.

3. Parliament should ensure that emphasis is placed on the appropriate scientific, engineering and other training and skills development that will advance the space industry in South Africa in alignment with the revised Industrial Policy Action Plan and the technology focus of the country’s economic development path.



Report to be considered.


Annexure A:


NDMC has developed a number of systems using spatial technologies. These include Early Warning Systems, such as:

  • Integrated New Early Warning System: a central entry point for disaster stakeholders to access early warnings related to fires, flash floods, seismic activities, and severe weather conditions.
  • Updating and upgrading of Fire Danger Index (FDI) (version 3.0): includes Daily Fire Danger Ratings throughout South Africa as well as live fire locations updated every 15 minutes.
  • Ownership and upgrading of Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS) (version 2.0): an operation alert and mapping system providing near real-time information related to the detection, monitoring and assessment of fires inSouthern Africa.
  • Flash Flood Guidance System which will provide early warning and situational awareness mechanisms related to flash floods in priority areas in South Africa.




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