09-01-201509/01/2015, AERAP welcomes 2015 as the European Year for Development
Riga and Pretoria, 9 January 2015: The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) welcomes the European Union’s (EU) declaration of 2015 as the European Year for Development (EYD2015) which will be inaugurated in Riga, Latvia, on 9 January 2015.
2015 is a pivotal year, as it marks the deadline by which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should have been achieved and in which a new framework for the decade to come should be adopted. 2015 is also expected to provide a strong boost to the on-going global process of elaborating a successor framework to the current MDGs.
EYD2015, the first year designated to such a global theme, aims to raise awareness amongst EU citizens about EU development cooperation, highlighting what the EU can achieve as the biggest aid donor in the world and how it could do even more with the combined strength of its Member States and its institutions.
In line with the overall goals of AERAP, EYD2015 aims to encourage the active interest of European citizens, including industry, in development cooperation and raise a sense of responsibility and opportunity with respect to their participation in policy formulation and implementation.
As a stakeholder platform bringing together industry, academia and the public sector, AERAP is designed to implement the European Parliament’s Written Declaration 45/2011 on “Science Capacity Building in Africa: promoting European-African radio astronomy partnerships”.
AERAP will be an important contribution to EYD2015 by demonstrating the role of science and innovation within the development agenda. Overall, it aims to strengthen science capacity building in Africa by increasing the investment in research infrastructures and by promoting the science of radio astronomy and the innovation and research potential of Africa in future Africa-EU initiatives and partnerships.
As stated by Kevin Govender, Director of the International Astronomical Union's Office of Astronomy for Development, “the developmental challenges facing the world are as vast and diverse as those faced by astronomers in exploring the universe. AERAP represents a common ground for a conversation between Millennium Development Goals implementers and science research communities - a conversation that must be held in order to ensure the long term sustainability of development efforts.”
As demonstrated by EU projects such as EU Universe Awareness and EU Space Awareness, astronomy can also play a unique role in human capacity development and education in Africa and globally. Astronomy and space can inspire young children and teenagers, introduce them to the excitement of science and technology, interest them in scientific and technical careers and broaden their minds.
According to Mrs. Naledi Pandor, South Africa's Minister of Science and Technology, new astronomy facilities help to attract young people to science. “Astronomy is a priority instrument for science education in terms of the excitement it creates for our youth. Which young person doesn’t want to discover a star? Which young person doesn't want to be the first to see that particular galaxy? Astronomy can boost the level of science interest in our country and stimulate our youth to choose careers in science and engineering.”
Professor George Miley from Leiden University in the Netherlands reiterated this viewpoint. As Vice President of the International Astronomical Union, he initiated the IAU strategic plan on “Astronomy for Development” and is presently overseeing its implementation by the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development in Cape Town. “Astronomy is a unique tool for building global capacity because of its links with sophisticated technology, fundamental science and deepest culture, three pillars of development.” He also said that “exploiting astronomy for development in Africa is a mutually beneficial partnership rather than one-way development aid. It provides European high-tech industries with a gateway into Africa.”
Speaking before the launch of EYD2015, Dr Bernard Fanaroff, Project Director at the South African Square Kilometre Array Project, stated: “I welcome the European Council’s commitment to development by establishing EYD2015 and encourage ministers to continue their commitment to science capacity building. Africa is making an enormous contribution to global science through the SKA which presents a unique platform for Europe and Africa to work together to better address key technological challenges and develop key applications.”
The EYD2015 opening event will take place in Riga, Latvia on 9 January 2015, as part of the events marking the beginning of the first Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The second half of the European Year for Development will take place during the Luxembourg presidency.
In order to bring the role of Africa-EU science and technology collaboration for mutual social-economic benefit to the forefront of future collaboration plans, AERAP is organising a roundtable breakfast meeting at the European Parliament on 21 January 2015 titled “EU Development Aid: Experiences and Recommendations from Stakeholders Driving Science and Innovation”. The thematic focus of the engagement with the Members of the European Parliament will be the post-2015 development agenda defining the global development framework after the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
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The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP)
AERAP is a response to the calls of the European Parliament, through the adoption of the Written Declaration 45/2011, and of the Heads of State of the African Union, through their decision “Assembly/AU/Dec.407 CXVIII”, for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa-EU cooperation. AERAP is a stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe.
The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across both continents. The platform also enables effective dialogue to build a shared vision for international cooperation in radio astronomy.
International Astronomical Union
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together almost 11,000 distinguished astronomers from all nations of the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.
The IAU established the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) in partnership with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF). The OAD was officially opened by the South African Minister of Science and Technology on 16th April 2011 at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town. Since then, four Regional Nodes, one Language Expertise Centre and three Task Forces have been established. In 2012 the first of the annual open Call for Proposals was launched for each of the task forces: Universities and Research (TF1); Childrenv and Schools (TF2); and Public Outreach (TF3).
EU Universe Awareness
EU-UNAWE uses the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to inspire young children and encourage them to develop an interest in science and technology. The programme also aims to introduce children to the idea of global citizenship and tolerance at a crucial stage of their development – to show them that they are part of an international community.
UNAWE is endorsed by UNESCO and the IAU and it is now an integral part of the IAU Strategic Plan 2010–2020, which is called Astronomy for the Developing World. This is an ambitious blueprint that aims to use astronomy to foster education and provide skills and competencies in science and technology throughout the world, particularly in developing countries.