Remarks by Deputy Minister Thembisile Nkadimeng at the Closing Ceremony of 2022 BRICS Summer School South Africa

Programme Director
Honourable Ministers
Ladies and gentlemen and, of course, our most honoured guests 
The Young leaders participating in the 2022 BRICS Summer School 

Good Evening 

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this closing ceremony of the 2022 BRICS Summer School which took place here in Durban, from 21 November 2022. The event this evening is, therefore, a culmination of a week of robust engagements through workshops, lectures and seminars focusing on political, economic, cultural and development matters.

We are delighted that this programme also develops a cohort of BRICS youths who will play a critical role in advocacy on policy work, to contribute towards building aspirant policymakers who will be key players in developmental affairs in BRICS countries and strengthen youth cooperation on issues of interest in BRICS countries. 

As South Africa, we are honoured that we hosted the current chapter of BRICS Summer School. As a country, we have taken a conscious decision to capacitate the youth and programmes like this one affirm our commitment that indeed, you are the leaders of tomorrow!

Ladies and gentlemen, there is an urgent need to encourage not only greater cultural understanding, but also grassroots cross-regional cooperation among BRICS citizens. We have to understand and learn more about BRICS, especially within the context of it being an important role player in the global arena. 

As a country, our engagement in BRICS aims to enhance the future growth and development of South Africa and to strengthen intra-BRICS relations and mutually beneficial cooperation across the three pillars of cooperation, namely political and security, economic and financial, social and people-to-people cooperation. 

Programme Director, in terms of the SDGs, South Africa finds itself in a challenging position, just like the rest of the world, but we have put in place interventions to achieve the global targets. The world agreed on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. To achieve agenda 2030, countries must commit to work tirelessly for the full implementation of the agreed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These goals define global sustainable development priorities and aspirations for 2030 and seek to mobilise global efforts around a common set of goals and targets.

As we gather here today, we all know that the 17 SDGs need ‘an urgent call for action by all countries, developed and developing as part of the global partnership. This is reflected in the report of the UN SDG Knowledge Platform (2020), which highlighted that the world is not on track to achieve the target of less than 3% of the world living in extreme poverty by 2030.

The SDGs call for worldwide action amongst governments, business and civil society to end poverty and create a life of dignity and opportunity for all, within the boundaries of the planet, especially as it relates to SDG 1 which is linked to poverty reduction.

In South Africa, we adopted the National Development Plan (NDP): Vision 2030 – “Our future – make it work” in 2012, as South Africa`s development lodestar and roadmap. This roadmap predated the post-2015 development agenda of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the African Union Agenda 2063. One of the most important characteristics of the 2030 Agenda is its universality; the NDP has a 74% convergence with the SDGs, and prioritises job creation, the elimination of poverty, the reduction of inequality and growing an inclusive economy by 2030. 

Local government is responsible for making the aspirations of the NDP, SDGs, Agenda 2063, RISDP, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as well as the Paris Agreement become real to communities, households, and individuals, particularly to those who are at risk of falling behind. Therefore, scaling and accelerating the local implementation of sustainable development goals in municipalities across the country can no longer be over-emphasised

According to an unpublished analysis by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), 74% of the SDG targets are directly addressed by the NDP, and sectoral programmes address 19% of the remaining targets (DPME, 2019). Seen in this way, the SDGs have the potential to accelerate the realisation of the NDP’s vision, notably by fostering greater policy coherence and reducing duplication and inefficiencies. There are similar synergies between South Africa’s Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) and the NUA.

Localising is not the parachuting of global goals into local contexts. Instead, it is about implementing global agendas to achieve both local and global goals. More than a technical process, localising is a political process based on harnessing local opportunities, priorities and ideas. Local governments have a crucial role to play in this process of localising the SDGs. As policymakers, catalysts for change and key actors in development, they have a unique capacity to implement and monitor sustainable development, prosperity, and well-being at the local level. To fulfil their role in achieving the SDGs, local governments will need sufficient support from all levels of government and adequate financial resources. Moreover, it will be essential for them to increase their capacities using appropriate methods and knowledge platforms.

The first step of SDG localisation is to raise awareness of the SDGs, include all stakeholders in the process, and promote clear and accountable local leadership for the SDGs. Former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon has emphasised that the SDGs are the ‘People’s Agenda’. Local governments, as the level of government closest to the people, are on the frontlines of ensuring that no person, no place, and no partner is left behind in the pursuit of sustainable development. For this, SDG localisation should be an inclusive and participatory process.

Localization begins with raising awareness and understanding of the SDGs among all stakeholders and continues with a dialogue on implementation that is participatory and partnership based. The transformational change needed to achieve the SDGs requires broad-based public support and engagement, and a long-term shift in policy priorities towards sustainable development. 

Programme Director, our government has adopted the District Development Model, which is truly an all-of-government and society approach. This important innovation adopted focuses on forty-four (44) districts and eight metropolitan cities and aims to ensure coherence and integration in planning, budgeting, and implementation of service delivery projects in all districts by all three spheres of government. 

Localisation of the SDG through the DDM assures development-driven decentralization but also considers local development as an organic open process, for which the local government takes primary responsibility and mobilises local resources. This is seen as both complementary and supplementary to national development and further promotes local development as an additional benefit in a positive sum game.

South Africa has already made some strides in terms of tracking the SDGs through a process led by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) and DPME. In 2017, the country produced an SDG Baseline report followed by a Country SDG Report in 2019 which contains all available indicators, using official and other statistics. In 2019, it also reported its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) on SDG progress to the UN High-Level Political Forum Stats SA has also established a platform called Goal Tracker which gives citizens, government, and policymakers a means to track progress made towards achieving the SDGs, identify gaps and ultimately detect areas where greater action is needed. Work done under this assignment will therefore be fed into the Goal Tracker.

It must be noted that although the Global SDG framework has a total of 231 unique indicators, countries could generally only report on 199 of these since these had agreed standards and methodologies. South Africa reported on 128 (64%) of the 199 reportable indicators. In addition, the country reported an additional 26 indicators that were not part of the original set of SDG indicators 

In August 2016, the South African cabinet adopted the Integrated Urban Development Framework, as the country’s national urban policy coordinated by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA). 

The IUDF responds to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular to Goal 11: Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It also builds on various chapters of the National Development Plan (NDP) and extends Chapter 8 ‘Transforming human settlements and the national space economy’ and its vision for urban South Africa: By 2030 South Africa should observe meaningful and measurable progress in reviving rural areas and in creating more functionally integrated, balanced, and vibrant urban settlements. 

There is a need for alignment at all levels in the South African context in order to realise the ambitious SDGs through localisation tools such as the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) and District Development Model (DDM). Local governments where much of the implementation and monitoring occurs need to be empowered. Scaling and accelerating the local implementation of the SDGs in municipalities across the country can no longer be over-emphasised.

Realizing the importance of local government and the bottom-up approach, the Department of Cooperative Governance embarked on a pilot process to introduce the concept of SDG localisation in six Intermediate City municipalities. The project culminated in a generic SDG localisation framework that is to be used across all municipalities in the country as an approach to SDG localisation. Action plans guiding the localisation process in the six municipalities were developed. The SDG localisation process is also meant to guide the Intermediate Cities to undertake Voluntary Local Reviews for their municipalities by 2024, which will also feed into the Voluntary National Review.

Even though significant progress in achieving SDGs has been recorded in wealthier countries where the gaps between the 2015 status quo, at the adoption of the SDGs, goals and targets were already much smaller. We cannot deny that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated some already desperate situations in many underdeveloped countries; creating uncertainty, some policy irrationalities and paralyzing or reversing progress made in a period of 5 years.

Climate change, as one of the core drivers behind the adoption of the SDGs, has been felt in ever-more destructive global, national, regional, and local disasters. These have not only brought death and large-scale devastation of livelihoods, but have also, in a matter of days, undone decades and even centuries of hard work, infrastructure investment and settlement development, and left large numbers of people destitute.    

Gender equality and women empowerment are integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 5 recognizes the need for girls and women to have equal say and position in their homes, communities, and countries. The purpose is to grant women and girls equal rights and afford them opportunities without discrimination, including workplace discrimination or violence. Achieving peaceful, just, and inclusive societies is an aspiration that is increasingly difficult to reach, given pervasive inequalities, conflict, violence against women and pandemic fallout.

Most countries face the challenge of achieving full employment and decent work for youth. There is a detrimental impact on youth when our development policies and programmes fail to recognize the needs and aspirations of youth. Young people are crucial stakeholders in the pursuit of decent and productive work. In addition, young people are often trained for skills, but not matched by labour demands. This leaves many young people stuck in unemployment with their rates being significantly higher than adult rates in all geographic regions. When they do get employed, they often end up working in vulnerable conditions and informal markets instead of transitioning from school to the labour market. 

The transition of young people from schools and training institutions into the labour market is a phase marking a critical period in the life cycle. Yet, too frequently, their voices go unheard and their positive and negative experiences and viewpoints are unshared, particularly with decision-makers. Therefore, youth must be recognized as an important component and priority of our development agenda today. By definition, “sustainable development”- development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs begins with respect for the future generation as an important stakeholder. You are the people who will experience the success or failure of the 2030 Agenda. Therefore, it is particularly important to engage with youth and empower them in our endeavour for a more sustainable future. 

We are meeting tonight just under two months before South Africa takes over as the BRICS chair from 1 January 2023. This third instalment as Chair will be hosted under the theme: BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism. South Africa’s Chairship aims to reflect on South Africa’s national interests, as well as the needs and aspirations of Africa and the Global South. 

We aim to consolidate the gains made during our previous Chairships,