The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) is the only multilateral instrument that specifically deals with ballistic missiles. Signed in 2002, members recognise the need to curb ballistic missile systems that are capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
Subscribing states commit to providing advance notification of any ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle flights, tests and launches. The HCoC is open to all countries, and some 36 African countries have already subscribed.
This experts meeting, co-hosted with the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS), brought together representatives of African states that have not yet subscribed to the Code, as well as representatives of the space community, the industry and academia. Some African states that have subscribed also participated, to share their experience in implementing this important disarmament and non-proliferation international instrument.
The meeting was chaired by representatives from the EU Delegation to South Africa, the FRS and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). Speakers were:
- Christophe Larose, Counsellor, EU Delegation to the Republic of South Africa
- Dr Xavier Pasco, Senior Research Fellow, Foundation for Strategic Research
- Nicolas Kasprzyk, International Consultant, ISS
- Emmanuelle Maitre, Research Fellow, Foundation for Strategic Research
- Gloria Bamusi, Assistant Director of Political Affairs, Head of Disarmament Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malawi
- Michiel Combrink, Deputy Director, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, DIRCO, South Africa
- Dr Jo-Ansie Van Wyk, University of South Africa (UNISA)
- Dr Joelien Pretorius, University of the Western Cape
- Mothepa Shadung, Junior Researcher, ISS
- Dr Spencer Onuh, Director, Nigerian Space Agency
- Dr Christiaan Redelinghuys, CEO, DeltaV Aerospace
- Priscilla Johnson, Executive Manager, Denel Overberg Test Range
The objective of the event was to raise awareness among participants and discuss:
- The HCoC, its objectives and achievements in the broader context of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts on the continent
- Recent trends related to the proliferation of ballistic missiles and the threat it represents for the international community, and
- Significant developments in space activities that increase the relevance of the HCoC.
The event enabled the sharing of national experiences in implementing the HCoC, and the expression of views on the HCoC’s strengths and weaknesses, to assist the European Union and the international community in improving the Code.
The EU Delegation to South Africa, the FRS and the ISS welcomed participants to the meeting. The discussion was organised around three panels:
- An overview of the HCoC regime, noting its relevance for African states, and addressing implementation and universalisation challenges. One intervention highlighted that, in spite of some weaknesses like the lack of an international verification mechanism, the Code strengthens international peace and security. By subscribing to it, African states affirm their commitment to the objectives of disarmament and non-proliferation, and signal their expectation that states with ballistic missiles capabilities will show restraint.
- Representatives from academia provided a larger perspective on these matters. One called for stronger coordination among African states, recommending that African states speak with one voice. Another provided an overview of past and current ballistic programmes in Africa, underlining that only Egypt is considered as having an active programme. All African states except Algeria, Egypt and South Sudan have voted at least once in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Code. The African continent therefore overwhelmingly supports the HCoC.
- Evolutions in space activities that are significant for the HCoC’s future. Space launch technology is becoming increasingly available to a growing number of actors. The rapid development of small launchers means that not only more countries, but also private entities can access double use technologies. This creates new opportunities for states to pursue socio-economic development goals. It also poses a risk of ballistic missile proliferation. Transparency and confidence building measures such as those embodied in the HCoC are useful to prevent the diversion of sensitive technology for proliferation purposes, while preserving the right of peaceful uses of outer space.
Representatives of Denel demonstrated activities at the Overberg Test Range, near Cape Town. This site served as a test range for South Africa’s ballistic missile programme in the past. It is now a well established, fully integrated multipurpose facility. Its core business is the in-flight testing of advanced guided and aviation systems for the local and international aerospace industries.
Participants discussed options for strengthening African support to the HCoC. Speakers recommended that African states that have not yet subscribed should do so without delay. Participants also supported the view that the African Union could play a useful role in promoting the HCoC in the context of disarmament efforts and in keeping with the objective of enhancing access to space activities for socio-economic development purposes.
Picture: ©ISS/Jacqui Cochrane