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
The Mayor of our host city eThekwini, Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda
Heads of Disaster Management Centres
Disaster Management institutional structures
Civil society organisations; academia and the private sector
SADC secretariat representing member states
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Allow me to first extend a hearty welcome to South Africa, the rainbow nation and to our host city, eThekwini. I further extend my sincere appreciation to each of you for taking the time to be a part of this important session. Your presence here signifies not only your dedication to the welfare of your respective nations but also your recognition of the importance of international cooperation in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
While we recognise that BRICS nations have diversity in cultures, economies, and landscapes, we are nevertheless bound together by a shared vision. This vision is centred on promoting cooperation, strengthening resilience, and forging a safer and more secure future for our respective populations.
South Africa serves as a prime example of this diversity, with its diverse cultures, and ethnicities, all embraced and prioritised by our Constitution, which places the welfare of our people at the forefront. Our diversity transcends mere demographic distinctions and encompasses our environment, characterised by diverse climate patterns and varying geomorphological features. These factors provide us with a wealth of natural resources, offering significant economic potential. However, they also pose challenges, demanding a delicate equilibrium between the pursuit of economic prosperity and the imperative to conserve and preserve our resources. Among these challenges are the mitigation of disaster risks and the mitigation of the destructive impacts of climate change.
Indeed, climate change is the nightmare of our times and while South Africa is robustly mitigating the risk of known hazards such as drought, floods, and veld fires; we have seen that in recent years, severity of these occurrences and their impact are progressively increasing because of the inevitable effects of climate change.
We recognise that to mitigate the impact of climate change, urgent action is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resilience. This surely requires daring changes across all sectors of the economy, through a just and equitable transition that ensures that the poorest and most vulnerable are supported and uplifted, as we strive to secure a sustainable society. 3
In response to these challenges, our President, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, has taken a proactive step by establishing a climate commission. This commission’s primary mission is to oversee and facilitate a fair and balanced shift towards an economy that is not only low in emissions but also resilient to the effects of climate change. This initiative stands as one of many within our nation, reflecting our awareness that neglecting to acknowledge and rectify gaps in resilience hinders the advancement of sustainable development and places us at risk, potentially undoing the hard-earned progress we’ve achieved thus far.
Making risk-informed choices is essential to set our countries on a more sustainable future path – one that is adapted to the volatile climate future, and which can prevent and better manage disasters and potential future poly-crises. Through our combined efforts and collaboration as the BRICS countries, action to build resilience is possible and can accelerate achievement of current sustainable development targets in a way that safeguards people, the planet and future prosperity.
This is an essential balance that compels us to move beyond using only economic growth as the primary indicator of progress but rather perceiving improved disaster risk management and climate change adaptation as cost-effective contributions to sound decision-making towards a more sustainable future.
Investing earlier in resilience and adaptation can avoid costs of hazard impacts, and save lives and money because responding, recovery and rehabilitation from disasters costs more than preventing them, in the first place. Striking a balance between the needs of people, the planet and prosperity is not just a desirable goal, but a fundamental requirement.
Whilst we are grappling to strike this balance, we also cannot ignore that the onset and prevalence of COVID-19 came with not only the loss of life but also a lot of socio-economic loses as the world’s economy was brought to a standstill through the necessary lockdowns. From the lessons learnt in response to that global phenomenon, we can join hands towards restoring the lost developmental gains by identifying areas of cooperation 4
and synergising efforts to revive the economies and resume plans and activities for the attainment of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
Looking beyond 2030, increased recognition in emerging international systems of the need to balance the resilience of people, the planet and prosperity; will be essential for current and future generations.
By so saying, I wish to echo the sentiments of the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed in her release of the 2023 Global Assessment Report that: “if we are to achieve the SDGs, it is vital that we act to build resilience through our societies and governance models, otherwise poverty and inequality will continue”.
South Africa is not immune to poverty and inequality and in pursuit of this global mandate, South Africa has placed Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as one of its apex governance priorities as captured in Priority 7 of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework – “A better Africa and World”. This also requires collaborative, faster, more robust, agile, and effective institutions, policies, and responses. This meeting comes at an opportune time, at which we can collectively strengthen efforts towards attainment of the 2023 agenda for sustainable development.
South Africa has assumed a very bold step in this direction by undertaking a process of reviewing the entire system of disaster management, the intended outcome of which is a more agile system that is focused on building resilience through the integration of climate change adaptation; sustainable development goals and recognition; as well as the attainment of the targets of the Sendai Framework. For us to achieve this important task, we will be drawing lessons on how to enhance our system from our fellow BRICS countries. We will also be sharing our own experiences on how we bounced back from the devastating effects of the pandemic and how we are getting communities involved in all our efforts. 5
In South Africa, we remain fully committed to building a future that is better equipped to handle the impact of disasters. As we embark on this collaborative journey, we eagerly anticipate the exchange of ideas, shared experiences, and the establishment of new partnerships. For it is our belief that together, we can forge a future in which disasters no longer have the power to shatter our communities and hinder our progress. Our shared responsibility, after all, is to protect our people, our economies, and our planet – and as South Africa we stand ready, enthusiastic, and committed to this cause.
I thank you