Meeting of the joint SADC Ministers Responsible for Environment and Natural Resources, Aquaculture and Fisheries and Tourism meeting, Pretoria

Honourable Ministers responsible for Environment, Natural Resources, Aquaculture and Fisheries and Tourism,

Your Excellency Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo, SADC Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration;

Government officials;

SADC Secretariat Staff;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Good Day,

On behalf of President Jacob Zuma I would like to welcome you to South Africa’s capital city of Tshwane.

I hope that amidst our busy schedule, you will take the time to see more of this historic city and experience the warm hospitality for which we as South Africans are known.

We have convened here to discuss issues critical to the management and development of our region’s natural resources, fisheries and tourism sectors � and to discuss how best to accelerate the implementation of relevant and SADC-wide programmes to conserve our natural resources, enhance the quality of our environment, and to support livelihoods of the people of our region.

All of this necessitates that SADC Secretariat and governance structures are strengthened, especially in the areas of environment and natural resource management.

We are mindful that maintaining and sustaining our respective natural resource bases, all the while striving to eradicate extreme poverty is among the cornerstones of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. (SDG’s)

As you will know, South Africa assumed the chair of SADC at the 37th Summit of Heads of State and Government meeting held in Tshwane in August 2017. South Africa’s theme for the Chairmanship of SADC is Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains.

As we continue to engage at different levels, we should always be mindful of The SADC We Want. This is the expression of our desire and aspirations to create a prosperous, integrated region.

This will best be realized through tackling the priorities espoused in the various frameworks and strategies such as the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2015-2020) and the Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ (SIPO II).

These strategies are linked to important SADC pillars to accelerate regional political and economic integration. These are, respectively: industrialisation and market integration, infrastructure development, peace and security.

Our Heads of State and governments are expecting us to provide leadership with regard to SADC’s regional integration agenda, the implementation of the revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) as well the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Action Plan.

We all strive to attain this despite extremely trying economic times. The economic performance of SADC Member States has been on a downward trend since the global economic crisis in 2009, which continued into 2016.

Climate change has been identified as one of the key contributors to continuing economic weakening, as floods and droughts affect inflation due to food shortages.

Fiscal accounts have been negatively affected, as Member States increase expenditure for relief and humanitarian purposes and on the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa remains nevertheless confident that we, as a region can contribute meaningfully to the SADC Developmental and Regional Integration agenda.

This can be done by leveraging the natural synergies that exist between and within the environmental, natural resource management, aquaculture and fisheries, and tourism sectors.

I wish to briefly highlight a few key areas that we will be engaged with during this meeting.

Biodiversity and ecosystems continue to play an important role in meeting the developmental objectives of our region. The biodiversity economy has grown in importance in recent years as it contributes significantly to the growth of gross domestic product and employment in all countries.

Similarly, the wildlife economy has become a fundamental economic activity and plays a key role in infrastructure building, competitiveness and trade facilitation.

We know, however, that the threat posed by the transnational illicit trade in wildlife threatens to undermine our successes.

One of the most important outcomes of CITES COP 17 that we hosted in South Africa last year was the collective agreement by Parties that we have to work together to promote and support a legal, well-regulated trade in wildlife, whilst at the same time combating poaching and the trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products within and out of our region.

In this regard, the implementation of Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement and the Law Enforcement and Anti-poaching (LEAP) strategy implementation is a strategic priority for us all.

We must turn the tide on illegal wildlife trade as a matter of urgency otherwise it will continue to undermine the goals that underpin our region’s economic aspirations.

The sustainable use of our natural resources isn’t just a conservation imperative; it plays a role in economic growth and development, job creation and the alleviation of poverty especially in our rural areas.

Our people depend on healthy ecosystems and sufficient natural resources to support their livelihoods �and the trade in illegally obtained resources undermines our efforts. As SADC Member States we need to employ sufficiently trained conservation and enforcement officials to conserve and protect the region’s natural resources, not only elephant and rhino, but also our rich plant life and natural environment in general.

Tourists are drawn to our region not just for our wildlife but to experience the biodiversity of our savannahs, national parks and nature reserves.

Forest resources, Ladies and Gentlemen, also play a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

With the ever-present threat of drought, addressing Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) remains key. In this regard, we need to focus our attention on dealing with this challenge, which affects many other sectors such as Agriculture, Industry and Human Health and Well-being as well as Tourism.

With regards to our ocean space, the link between ocean health and human development is explicitly recognised in Sustainable Development Goal 14, which enjoins United Nations member states to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The development of an Oceans Economy Strategy for SADC is an exciting new area of focus for the region, and I hope that we can draw lessons from South Africa’s Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy, which has led to the creation of new industrial opportunities as well as jobs.

Effectively combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the SADC Region is critical to the long-term sustainability of our fish stocks and the livelihoods which depend on them. It is important that the SADC Protocol on Fisheries be implemented, as well as the development of the Aquaculture sector.

Turning now to tourism, in 2016 international tourist arrivals in Africa increased by an estimated 8% to reach 58 million, which represents 5% of the world total. Sub-Saharan Africa led the growth in arrivals in this period.

It is key that we advance and promote tourism in the SADC Region, and develop shared and cross-border tourism products that are beneficial to Member States.

The Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) programme is a case study of the way in which investments can be driven and resources mobilised for the conservation of wildlife � all the while harnessing the potential of tourism in the region.

Much more needs to be done to unlock the potential of tourism and remove impediments that are hampering its growth in the region. In this regard, implementing the SADC Protocol on Tourism, the activation of the Tourism Unit within SADC and the revitalisation of RETOSA will be critical.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you will know, this meeting takes place days after the conclusion of the international climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

SADC must play a meaningful role in the coordination and implementation of not just the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) but also the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to name but a few.

The development of Common Positions for these which are aligned to and bolster the African Common Positions will be key to obtaining outcomes from the global negotiations that are supportive of Africa and particularly SADC.

COP 23 in Bonn ended with a less than satisfactory decision on climate finance � an aspect of the Paris Agreement that is of critical importance to all developing countries that grapple with having to adapt to climate change whilst at the same time ensuring our region grows economically.

The discussions in Bonn did not represent the comprehensive requirement for the provision of support that we expected.

However, we welcome the clarification in the guidance to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) that all developing countries have access to all the financial instruments; and that the provision of full cost and incremental cost, particularly for adaptation has been restated and clarified. The financial pledges made to the Adaptation Fund are also to be welcomed.

I will leave it here as many of these matters will be gone into at length during our deliberations. I wish you well over this period and trust we will be successful in reaching decisions that will not only protect our environment, but also contribute to the improvement of the lives of all our people.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa