Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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Towards a Tunisian National Space Strategy

Tunisia have always been interested in the peaceful use of space since the launch of first satellite in 1957. Her interest at all levels actually resulted in the creation of the National Commission of Outer Space in 1984 and the National Center of Cartography and Remote Sensing in 1988 while playing a significant role in launching of the ArabSat satellite enjoying the lattice space telecommunications. With her global presence in the international congresses and global United Nations conferences, contribution to activities of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) by Tunisian scientific associations have been constant.

In 2001, Tunisia furthered cooperation with fellow Maghreb states to establish a communication network that was envisioned to utilize satellite communication and data-sharing to further develop the region’s educational system. At a 2005 meeting of the UN Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, Tunisia’s long-time president, Zine El Abidine Been Ali, praised satellite-base technology as a way “to reduce disparities between peoples, and ensure a balanced, safe and equitable information society.”

Coordinating the country’s use of space-based technologies, the Tunisian National Commission for Outer Space Affairs (NCOSA), which was established in 1984 to oversee the activities of the various ministries’ work in space technologies is at it’s best. The principal space-based activities planned are telecommunication, Earth observation, and remote sensing. For example, the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture has made extensive use of satellite data for cartography, monitoring and evaluating natural resources. In 1975, a pilot remote sensing project commenced with French cooperation. This collaboration, known as Arid Zones of Tunisia (ARZOTU), utilized satellite images of the country’s arid environment to study water resources, land use, erosion mapping, and agricultural production. Because of it’s experience, Tunisia have also played a key role in the Arab world in the promotion and growth of satellite technology.

Since 1990, the Tunisian capital have housed the main office of the North African States Regional Center for Remote Sensing, whose members include Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia. Perhaps most noteworthy is Tunisia, as an integral player in the operation of a secondary satellite control center for Arab Satellite Communications Organization (ArabSat), founded in 1976 by 21 members of the Arab League and serving 164 million viewers in over 80 countries.

Concurrently, Tunisia has been developing a compedium of Arabic-language terminology appropriate for use in satellite communication systems. To fulfill it’s current and future ambitions, Tunisia has devoted 1.25 percent of it’s annual federal budget to scientific research, and in 2009 Tunisia became a member of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) for it’s work in remote sensing.

In 1990, the Western Mediterranean Forum, referred to as the “5+5 Dialogue”, was officially launched in Rome as an informal sub-regional forum with the aim of fostering relations between European countries and the newly born Arab Maghreb Union. The 5+5 Dialogue comprises Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia. As a trans-Mediterranean cooperation initiative, the rationale of the 5+5 Dialogue is to provide an informal forum in which the five EU member states and the five Maghreb countries have a chance to discuss subjects of topical interest for the region and to identify new areas for practical cooperation.

Suffice it to say, that Tunisia is participating into the Barcelona process and was the first Mediterranean country to sign an Association Agreement with the EU on 17 July 1995. The Euro-Med Association Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, on the one part, and the Tunisian Republic, on the other, came into force on March 1, 1998.

Under the term of the Agreement, the EU and Tunisia committed themselves to co-operate in a wide range of areas including: strengthened political dialogue, trade, economic, social and cultural issues. The Agreement foresees also financial co-operation to accompany reform measures in Tunisia.

This bi-regional co-operation was given new impetus at the Paris summit in 2008. The ‘Union for the Mediterranean – UfM’ was launched, with the political objective of upgrading relations and focusing on six main axes including Research.

Tunisia is a participant to the European Neighbourhood Policy, which has been reviewed in 2011 to adapt it to the changes in the country. In May 2011, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission published a joint communication (COM (2011) 303) presenting a new approach to strengthen the partnership between the EU and the neighbourhood countries. In terms of Research and Innovation, the focus is on working towards the development of a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space, which would pull together policy dialogue, national and regional capacity-building, cooperation in research and innovation and increased mobility of researchers. An Action Plan, which includes mutually agreed priorities and objectives in the areas of political, economic, commercial, justice, security and cultural cooperation is in force since 4 July 2005. To take the recent changes in the country into account, a new Action Plan is currently being negotiation in the framework of the “nouveau partenariat.” Implementation, notably through the sub-committees established under the Association Agreement, is on-going. Research activities are dealt with in the Research Development and Innovation subcommittee.

 

Over the years, Tunisia’s growth and expansion in space technology has been deliberate and intentional, to foster relatively new milestones in the quest for space colonisation. In continuation of her feat in space technology, the National Commission for Extra-Atmospheric Space (CNEEA) is currently organizing a seminar with the aim of defining the national space strategy. It is a participatory and inclusive process that involves all potential stakeholders, to build lessons learned and lessons learned from past, national and international experiences. {See here}

This first event organized by the CNEEA will also make known its activities and promote its action within the national, North African and international communities. It will enable reflection on the evolution of space activities in Tunisia as part of a fruitful debate integrating the different components of the national space strategy in the framework of the strategic national plan 2016-2020. The possible opportunity of a Tunisian space program will be an important point of the discussion which will also cover the deadlines and the main missions in the short, medium and long term.

Among the main results expected from the seminar, the establishment of an action plan to implement the decisions taken and ensure its implementation.

This is the Tunisia of the future.

 




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