Programme Director – The MEC of COGTA in KwaZulu-Natal, Ms Bongi Sithole-Moloi
Fellow BRICS Ministers for Disaster Management
South African Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube (In absentia)
The Mayor of our host city eThekwini, Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda
Heads of Disaster Management Centres
Disaster Management institutional structures
Civil society organizations; academia and the private sector
SADC secretariat representing member states
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
I want to firstly appreciate this given opportunity and platform to conclude the Fourth Meeting of BRICS Ministers for Disaster Management premised on two priorities of Transforming Education and Skills Development for the future and Strengthening Post-Pandemic Socio-Economic Recovery and the attainment of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
To our esteemed fellow ministers from Brazil, Russia, India and China, I once again extend my heartfelt appreciation for your dedication and collaboration.
Each of you brings a unique lens to the table, enriching our discussions guiding us towards comprehensive and sustainable solutions through well thought and sound areas of collaboration.
As we gather in our beautiful South Africa, I am reminded of a cherished quote of a prominent leader and a former South African President, Nelson Mandela that goes: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” These words resonate deeply as we reflect upon the journey, we embarked upon following the resolutions of our previous meetings.
The challenges posed by disasters have indeed propelled us to think creatively and collaborate effectively. This posture was asserted by the former Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru in one of his famous quotes “Crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think.” Our shared experiences and the lessons we have learned from previous disasters have laid the foundation for our progress. Let us continue to harness the power of our collective wisdom to pioneer new solutions that will stand the test of time.
I wish to bring to your remembrance that the first meeting of the Joint Task Force (JTF) was held in South Africa in 2018 under the theme “BRICS taking action on Sendai commitments”. The robust discussions of that JTF meeting culminated into member states agreeing on identifying opportunities and key actions that formulated a Joint Action Plan, 2018-2020.
Since then, Meetings of BRICS Ministers for Disaster Management have been characterised by broad consensus on future cooperation areas and directions, the commitment of which, was endorsed through the issuance of Declarations of the BRICS Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management.
As we reflect upon the progress we have made, I am reminded of the sentiments shared from our past Meetings of BRICS Ministers:
Sojourning in these shared sentiments, the 3rd meeting of BRICS Ministers for Disaster Management held in China, Beijing on 23 September 2022, saw all parties sharing respective policies and practices on disaster management and the existing cooperation under the BRICS framework under the theme “Modernizing Disaster Prevention and Control Capabilities to Facilitate High-quality Development in BRICS Countries”.
This meeting culminated in partners issuing the Beijing Declaration of the BRICS Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management.
Key to this Declaration was/is “the importance of continuously conducting exchange, dialogue and cooperation in the field of disaster management and resilience and emphasized the need to mutually enhance comprehensive disaster risk reduction capacity and mitigate disaster risks”. The declaration also noticed the continuing impact of the intensifying trend of climate change, the frequent occurrence of natural disasters and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Declaration further compelled BRICS member states to recognize the growing objective needs to strengthen communication, solidarity and coordination, to improve disaster prevention and management capabilities, respond to disaster risk challenges and ensure sustainable economic and social development.
The resolutions we crafted together were not mere words, but a testament to our shared responsibility as nations bound by a common purpose. Over time, we have witnessed the tangible impact of our concerted efforts. The seeds of cooperation that we sowed have borne fruit, and the world has taken notice of our united front against the unpredictable forces of nature. I am compelled to mention a few of our strengths as a way of validation and acknowledgement that our efforts have not been in vain.
Brazil, known for its rich biodiversity and environmental heritage, has been a beacon of insight in addressing ecological disasters. The nation’s experience in managing the Amazon rainforest fires and its commitment to sustainable development resonate deeply with our collective mission. The strides made by Brazil in conserving its natural resources have set an example for us all.
Russia’s vast expanse and experience in handling complex emergencies have provided us with invaluable insights into disaster response strategies. From wildfires to industrial accidents, Russia’s resilience in the face of adversity stands as a testament to the strength of our partnership. The knowledge shared by Russia has enriched our collective understanding of disaster management.
India, with its blend of traditional wisdom and modern innovation, has offered a new paradigm in disaster preparedness and response. The country’s efficient early warning systems, community engagement initiatives, and technology-driven approaches have helped in mitigating the impact of disasters. India’s commitment to capacity building and knowledge exchange continues to inspire us.
China, a nation that has transformed its disaster management landscape, has been an instrumental force in sharing best practices and fostering cooperation. China’s experience in earthquake response and its pioneering work in disaster risk reduction have illuminated our path forward. The collaboration with China has expanded our horizons and solidified our commitment to learning from each other.
Our very own South Africa has exemplified leadership and organization in coordinating our collective efforts. The nation’s commitment to inclusive disaster management and its drive to ensure the smooth implementation of our resolutions, is remarkable. This is one of the reasons why we are reviewing our system of disaster management. Even though our disaster management legislation highly ranks, globally in terms of agility to respond to known and new disasters, we hold the view that there is room for improvement, particularly if we are to strike a balance between economic gains, community resilience and integrate climate change adaptation in all disaster management planning activities, across the board.
It is perhaps time we took stock of commitments made in previous years and objectively assess how we are faring on actualization of those commitments. We thought it prudent therefore, to draft a sequel to the initial Joint Action Plan through which we will collectively hold each other accountable for the implementation of agreed upon solutions aimed at strengthening the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (SFDRR), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have an opportunity to draw from discussions of the 5th Meeting of the Joint Task Force, 2023 to improve our course of action, going forward.
As we look ahead, let us commit ourselves to further strengthening our cooperation. Let us amplify our efforts to share knowledge, enhance technical capacities, and foster cross-border partnerships. In doing so, we will not only mitigate the impact of disasters but also create a legacy of resilience that will endure for generations.
I wish you a warm South African goodbye and safe journeys as travel back home and we hope to see you again visiting our beautiful country,
I thank you.