Media Statements

Deputy Minister Nel on the Development of Inclusive, Resilient and Liveable Urban Settlements

12 September 2017



Intervention by Mr Andries Nel, MP, Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs(CoGTA) 

At the High Level Segment of 13th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification during Interactive Dialogue 2: “How can local governments help address the challenges of land degradation?”



Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa welcomes the inclusion of this interactive dialogue on the role of local government in addressing the challenges of land degradation as part of the high-level segment of the 13th Conference of Parties to the UNCCD. We thank the organisers and our hosts, the government and the people of China.

Significantly, this discussion takes place in Ordos, a city that in the past few years has been honoured successively as City of All-Round Development, National Green Model City, National Garden City, and National Forest City – a shining example of local government working to ensure human well-being.

Cities and human settlements face unprecedented threats from unsustainable consumption and production patterns, loss of biodiversity, pressure on ecosystems, pollution, and natural and man-made disasters, and climate change and related risks, including desertification and drought.

The way that cities are planned, financed, developed, built, governed, and managed has a direct impact on sustainability and resilience well beyond urban boundaries.

For this reason, all spheres and sectors of government must be involved in managing urbanisation guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Urban Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and indeed the UNCCD as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, amongst others.

Whilst we recognise the leading role of national governments in the definition and implementation of inclusive and effective urban policies and legislation for sustainable urban development, we also recognise the equally important role of sub-national and local governments, as well as civil society and other relevant stakeholders.

Indeed, the South African Constitution recognises the importance of local government as a sphere government that is distinct yet inter-related and inter-dependent with the national and provincial spheres of government. Significantly, our Constitution recognises the leading role of local government in questions of land-use management and planning.

The implementation of sustainable, people-centred, age- and gender-responsive and integrated approaches to urban and territorial development in line with the New Urban Agenda will depend on amongst others on:

  1. The development and adoption of national urban policies;
  2. Strengthening urban governance;
  3. Reinvigorating long-term and integrated urban and territorial planning and design;
  4. Supporting effective, innovative and sustainable financing frameworks and instruments enabling strengthened municipal finance and local fiscal systems in order to create, sustain, and share the value generated by sustainable urban development in an inclusive manner.

Three aspects of the New Urban Agenda are of particular relevance to local government and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, these are: Integrated spatial planning and land use-management, strengthening urban-rural linkages and disaster risk reduction.

By 2030 seventy percent of South Africans will live in urban areas. By 2050 it is expected that eight out of every ten will live in an urban area.

South Africa has adopted an integrated urban development framework to guide the development of inclusive, resilient and liveable urban settlements, and reverse the terrible legacy of Apartheid spatial injustice, while strengthening urban-rural linkages.

To capacitate local government to deal with these challenges we are implementing a Back to Basics Approach based on five pillars to ensure that our 257 municipalities: (1) Put people first, (2) Deliver quality basic services, (3) Practice good governance, (4) Adhere to sound financial management, and (5) Build capable and resilient institutions.

We support efforts to improve the United Nations system-wide coordination and coherence in the area of sustainable urban development, rural development including the valuable role of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

We also encourage the expansion of opportunities for international cooperation, including sub-national, and city-to-city cooperation with a view to developing capacities and fostering exchanges of urban and rural solutions that have mutual learning at all levels.

We thank you.