Thank you Programme Director . . .
Experts, all other guests,
I am indeed honoured to join you all here today, at this beginning of this important week of urban events, dedicated to discussion and action and knowledge exchange on how we take forward our urban agenda.
It is also a great pleasure to be sharing this platform with Mayor Gumede, who has worked so hard to support and lead this week of events. We are deeply indebted to you, and to the eThekwini municipality, for hosting us all here, and for your commitment, Mayor, to supporting the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the IUDF and many other corresponding international global agreements.
It is also a great honour to be sharing this platform with Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Zou Kota-Fredericks, a most dedicated and committed national partner in our endeavours to steer, guide and implement the IUDF.
As the lead department for the development of the New Urban Agenda, Human Settlements have led a sustained partnership approach with Cooperative Governance, SALGA, the SACN, national departments, provinces, cities and stakeholders across the spectrum, to bring the necessary alliance of forces to the table to build consensus on the direction and focus for this significant milestone in the sustainable urbanization agenda.
As the Deputy Minister has pointed out, urbanization is a complex challenge and managing urbanization demands a complex set of responses, involving a whole of government approach, with the involvement of many actors and role-players.
I think this point takes us to a core principle at the heart of the localization debate: collective action: we cannot manage sustainable urbanization alone, as a sector, or department. We must see implementation as an alliance-based activity; we need partners, donors, the private sector, civil society, investors, communities, research bodies and think-tanks, technical specialists, and many more. One could indeed ask if the extent of collective action and agreements reached through such mechanisms as spatial contracts for targeted development objectives is not in itself a key metric?
As we are witness to, here today, and in the context of this conversation, the very specific role of cities, is highlighted. Cities are in a unique position to harness both state and non-state actors to build their actual and potential identification as the ‘the engines of growth’ in the economy. But in the context of inclusive economic development, we must also see the importance of the economic development dynamics in other specific places of different size and type – e.g. economic regions, metros, intermediary cities and small towns.
As the SACN have analysed, to realise the potential of our diverse urban spaces, we must strive to collectively embed an economic focus across the administration-planning-delivery- skills nexus of the organisations. I emphasise this particular focus here because the skills for IUDF implementation and governance all rest within this nexus, and are broadly applicable across all IUDF policy levers. Thus sufficient capacity to implement the IUDF and the NUA remains a real challenge, and one that requires some innovative thinking, and especially partnership action to resolve.
‘Localising’ also demands of us a very rich intelligence about how urbanisation evolves as a trend, its context specific characteristics, and how and is subsequently interpreted and managed by cities, towns and villages across our rural-urban continuum. I totally agree with the point raised by Ms Kota Fredericks in this respect, that it is important to view both rural and urban spaces as interrelated and interconnected. It is how we subsequently manage this spectrum of differentiation that is our challenge.
We need to understand how each IUDF policy lever, and the framing for the NUA, can be interpreted in a way that focuses perhaps, a little less on metrics and indicators for monitoring, but serves more as a response to local trends and conditions in specific areas. Colleagues, we have some serious thinking to do regarding the context for localization, and how we assess national progress in this respect.
In conclusion, noting that the 4 strategic objectives of the IUDF frame the themes for today’s Cities in Conversation’ discussions, it will be highly instructive for us to take this special opportunity for the localization agenda to benefit from the various critical issues that the speakers and respondents will highlight as each session concludes.
These key issues will definitely assist to inform and frame our IUDF and NUA implementation approaches as we further shape a new compact for implementation of an inclusive and localized urban agenda.
I am excited by the prospects for learning presented to us this week. Today we will benefit not only from dialogue, but also the exploration of the findings of many excellent research reports produced by the SACN and a range of other research bodies, both national and international.
The importance of continuous learning in implementing our urban agenda cannot be over-emphasised, it charges us with new ideas and new thinking; it helps us to understand the past, and leads us towards a better future.