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Square Kilometre Array Observatory Treaty Signed

March 18, 2019

Department of Science and Technology

18 March 2019

South Africa has signed the treaty setting up the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO).

The treaty establishes the SKAO as an intergovernmental organisation tasked with building and operating the world’s most powerful radio astronomy telescope.

According to a science and technology department statement, the convention establishing the SKAO was signed in Rome.

“Seven countries – South Africa, Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom – signed the treaty today, concluding four years of negotiations by government representatives and international lawyers, and kicking off the legislative process in each of the seven countries.”

India and Sweden have still to sign to make up the nine founding members of the intergovernmental organization.

The treaty, named as the “Rome Convention”, will come into force once it has been ratified by the legislatures of five signatory countries, including all three SKA hosts (South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom).

The SKA is to be built in South Africa and Australia.

As a pathfinder to the SKA, the MeerKAT has been developed in the Northern Cape.

The science and technology minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, welcomed the signing of the treaty.

“South Africa’s signature on the establishment of the SKAO as an intergovernmental legal entity to oversee the construction and operational phases of the SKA project is a crucial milestone and one which should be celebrated,” she said.