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Address by SALGA President Mr Bheke Stofile

 Minister for Co-operative Governance 

Minister for Human Settlement in South Africa 

All Ministers responsible for Urban Development in our BRICS members 

Premier of the Host Province 

Deputy Presidents of SALGA and the entire leadership collective 

Executive Mayors, Mayors, Speakers and all leaders of Local Government across BRICS countries 

Executive Director for UN Habitat 

Distinguished guests 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

I bring you greetings from the leadership collective of Local Government of South Africa. On behalf of this collective, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) appreciates the invitation to give a statement of support to this important gathering of the BRICS Urbanization Forum convened by South Africa. We just note with a little bit of concern though, that we note in the programe of this session, we are the only local government participants. We do not see out counterparts from other BRICS partners participating in the programme, yet urbanisation is pretty much a phenomenon taking place in cities and urban localities. We hope that this forum will breathe life into sub-national governments and community cooperation among BRICS member countries. 2 

Platforms such as the BRICS urbanization forum are important for the promotion of multi-lateral dialogues to find solutions to many challenges facing the sustainable development of our cities. This BRICS forum must assist to strengthen the voice of Local Government in the various multi-lateral engagements as well as support for considering localization of SDGs to sub national level. Remember, all these global commitments will be met or failed at the local level. 

SALGA wishes that countries within the BRICS family can facilitate mechanisms for local governments to collaborate on exchange of knowledge, tools and solutions to the global challenges that impact on various elements of sustainable urbanisation such as; promotion of sustainable development, peaceful co-existence of citizens in our cities, climate resilience and protection of our vulnerable citizens from the negative impact of climate change and growing occurrences of related disasters in our cities. We must also strengthen our planning tools to realize the goal of livable cities and create spaces of harmony where citizen vulnerabilities like exposure to homelessness, crime and poverty can be reduced. 

Urbanization is a real and an unreversible phenomenon and in many ways desirable. It creates efficiencies and opportunities if managed well. Its impact is felt across the continuum of space from city centers to rural peripheries. We must understand that the BRICS family is largely comprised of developing economies which are significantly affected by the phenomenon of urbanization. The estimated level of urbanization among BRICS countries ranges from high urbanisation rates such as in Brazil with 90.6% and Russia with 73.8%. One the other end we have China with 56% and 31.2% in India. South Africa is somewhere in the middle 3 

with 62%. This means that we have varying degrees of urbanisation with nuanced journeys to address the opportunbities and challenges. This presents an opportunity to learn from one another and urbanise differently and in a sustainable way. 

Notwithstanding our nuanced journeys, all Local and Regional governments within the BRICS family need to be capacitated to satisfy the growing demands of our citizens including access to basic services and climate resilient infrastructure that can support their current aspirational socio-economic activities where their aspirations for prosperity can be sustained. 

Local governments are facing the negative impacts of extreme climate events, such as severe droughts and heavy rainfalls, that puts basic services and infrastructure under threat. Climate related challenges on infrastructure and economic sectors, in turn, strain public budgets and reduce the attractiveness for private investors. If not addressed, climate-related risks could jeopardize the country‚Äôs economic growth and financial stability, while disproportionately affecting the poor and vulnerable groups. 

Given the continued and increasing pressures of climate change, acting at the local level is an urgent matter. Cities are in the front line of climate action, but they are unable to shoulder the massive infrastructure investments and adaptation efforts required for sustainable, low-to-no emission, and climate resilient development. It is important that cities gain access to climate finance that enables both immediate recovery from extreme events and their resultant losses and damage to key social and economic infrastructure; as well as the transformation of service delivery 4 

that allows adaptability to long-term slow-onset impacts of climate change. As a result, the proposed BRICS Local Government Climate Change Programme must be anchored in unlocking funding for adaptation and mitigation while supporting cities in establishing necessary human capital in city administrations and enhance their capacities to attract climate smart investments. 

We therefore call on the BRICS partners to elevate cooperation in respect of efforts to respond to Climate Change. 

As frontline responders to the effects of global warming, they must create sustainable development pathways for resilient communities. However, the low carbon resilient society requires a structural change of enormous scale and speed. This requires joint action by all sectors of society and levels of government. Coordinating these efforts and ensuring their coherence within a multi-level governance system is key to driving forward effective, efficient and ambitious climate actions. With this background, SALGA calls on the BRICS member states to establish a Local Government Climate Change Programme that puts local governments in the driving seat to build their own coalitions, climate technical skills, ensure resources and access to finance for local action implementation, and strengthen local peer-to-peer learning and good practice exchange. 

One of the constraints to all of this is funding. We call for BRICS family of nations to design innovative alternative funding solutions to support infrastructure development, implementation of programs that enhance resilience to climate and disasters in our cities. 5 

In conclusion, we support and wish delegates to this 2023 BRICS urbanization forum, a resounding success. We look forward to implementing practical programs that will emerge from the outcomes of this forum. 

I thank you,