Keynote address by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Buyelwa Sonjica, delivered at the people and parks conference in KwaZulu-Natal, University of Zululand
30 Aug 2010
Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Mme Rejoice Mabudafhasi
The Mayor of Mhlathuze Local Municipality, Councillor Mnqayi
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Zululand, Professor Fikile Mazibuko
Professor Linda Chisholm, Advisor to the Minister of Basic Education Amakhosi represented here
Chairperson of Pick 'n Pay: Mr Gareth Ackerman
Chairperson of the National Lottery Board Professor Nevhutanda Chairpersons, Board Members and CEOs of our conservation entities represented International delegates Ms Refiloe Tsohi from Lesotho
All the delegates
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me take this opportunity at the end of this Women’s Month, especially the poorest of the poor. They are the ones who understand best the challenges of development. I would like to uphold all the men who understand that together side by side we can change the mentality of gender inequality.
I have been asked to address the issue of transformation within biodiversity and conservation space of the environment portfolio. Transformation in our country is central to the attainment of an inclusive economic development takes into cognisance the role of ordinary South Africans and that benefits of such transformation must be realised by all. As a highly politicised society that we are, this is non-negotiable.
The political liberation we realised in 1994 would amount to nothing unless we address the issue of economic development and participation of all our people. This is also true in the biodiversity and conservation sector; and remembers this sector is integral to ensuring that the Green Economy remains central to job-creation and thus propel the country into a green future.
A bit of background and history would come in handy to understand the context of our debate and relevance to this august gathering.
In 1955 various liberation movements gathered in Kliptown to craft the way forward in the midst of an apartheid system that had rendered the indigenous people of this country mere labourers. This same gathering saw the emergence of the Freedom Charter as a key document that would guide how we conducted ourselves since then.
The Freedom Charter contained an important decision which articulated the following: "The people shall govern". It is in this context that I would like us to always place our people at the centre of all the policies and programmes of government for them to have relevance and be responsive to our people’s needs and plight. This is also in line with the ideals of our Constitution that dictates ours to be a participatory democracy. For us this led to the birth of this wonderful programme, people and parks!
We host this Conference as we ready ourselves for the 10th meeting of the conference of Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that will be held in Nagoya, Japan.
Among some of the areas of focus for that gathering will be the adoption of an international regime on access and benefits sharing and negotiations are at a critical stage.
Biodiversity and conservation will play a crucial role in the development of a green economy. Informed by government’s commitment to a new growth path in the form of a green economy, we will use this international platform to advance positions that support a move towards the implementation of economic instruments, including where appropriate, market-based mechanisms for biodiversity conservation. New and innovative financial instruments, particularly those targeted at the poor, need to be developed.
We will advocate that recommendations entailing new financial incentive mechanisms to mobilise both public and private investment in biodiversity conservation and restoration be supported.
The Convention on Biological Diversity is anchored on three key objectives namely the conservation, sustainable use of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of these resources. South Africa subscribes to these three key objectives of this Convention on Biological Diversity. Sustainable utilisation of natural resources is at the forefront of South Africa’s approach to development as articulated in the National Strategy on Sustainable Development.
South Africa is proud to be part of the world community that celebrates 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The celebration should be more relevant to us as a country that is ranked the fifth largest home to biodiversity in the whole world and is well endowed with natural wealth resources which include a vast array of plants, animals, scenic rivers and mountains, unspoilt forests, parks and ecosystems amongst others. However, unless these majestic beauties of our land are shared with all our people the fruits of our liberation will not reach the poorest of the poor.
One of our primary objectives is ecological sustainability; protected areas play a significant role in socio-economic development especially in rural areas, while also contributing to South Africa’s overall development goals.
With the dawn of democracy in 1994, and the passing of new laws, our government has introduced the economic system of shareholding which allows rural people to play a critical role. This is integral towards ensuring that government’s priority of rural development is also attained.
Gone are the days when the environmentalists were viewed as obstructing development, for we believe strongly that the environment portfolio has a substantial role to play in economic development and ensuring that as we grow our economy we do so in a manner that is sustainable and pro-green.
Although the Biodiversity White Paper of 1997 did not necessarily address transformation issues per se, it set out a number of goals, strategies and priorities for conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing.
For instance, goal four identified the lack of capacity in the sector and proposed that this be addressed to enhance biodiversity conservation and to manage its use, thus address factors threatening it. It was further acknowledged that women and rural women in particular, play a vital role in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and should be involved in all decision-making processes.
The institution of land restitution saw thousands of black people claiming ownership of land, with much of that land falling within protected areas.
Previously communities were excluded from playing a role in protecting the environment. Successful land claims presented new economic opportunities for the claimants who had been moved away from their land. The government is now faced with the challenge of seeing that previously disadvantaged people are supported and advised to ensure that they get the benefits they deserve whilst upholding their conservation mandates.
Access and benefit sharing (ABS) in the Protected Areas Act emphasises the need for redress and the importance of equitable access to natural resources, protected areas, information and support for the purposes of enhancing the livelihoods of rural communities. Rural communities and holders of traditional knowledge are often key stakeholders in these agreements and initiatives.
Today our people are becoming shareholders and new practices for protected areas are being created which allow rural people to play a critical role. The Protected Areas Act makes provision for the people and parks programme and makes it possible for co-management agreements to be forged between claimants and authorities.
Claimants that are now new land owners are enjoying shared rights with park authorities. The formation of these agreements is proving to be a challenge and attention needs to be paid to providing support and increasing resources to facilitate this. These agreements must succeed.
In 2007 the then Ministers of Environmental Affairs and Land Affairs concluded an agreement that provides a mechanism to facilitate amongst others:
- A cooperative national approach to resolution of land claims within Protected Areas
- Environmental protection of Protected Areas under claim
- Optimum participation and benefit sharing of claimants and communities
We are immensely proud of some of the successes we have been able to record which have resulted in amongst others, the National Co-Management Framework. The Programme of Work on Protected Areas under the Convention on Biological Diversity encourages state parties to recognise and develop a broad range of protected area governance to reduce biodiversity loss and attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It further advocates for legislating participation of local communities to promote equitable sharing of benefits. The overall objective is to ensure effective redress of land rights, integrated development and long lasting economic opportunities and a better quality of life.
It also provides a harmonised and uniform guideline for conservation authorities and successful restitution claimants who want to enter into a structured cooperation arrangement for the management of protected areas.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to announce that we approved the national co-management framework in March this year and we will be launching it here in partnership with Rural Development and Land Reform.
The co-management framework articulates a number of important principles which must be observed if the parties want to reap a mutually beneficial partnership.
It is also encouraging to note that processes are underway in the hunting industry to transform without too much pressure from the government. It is clear that the industry is aware of the need for transformation and they are willing to make it happen.
The professional hunting industry on its own is responsible for the generation of substantial income in foreign revenue. For the 2007 hunting season, a total income of approximately R650 million was realised. This industry, which is based on the country’s rich fauna, has therefore been identified as providing a potential platform for broadening the participation of local communities in economic activities.
We will be publishing Hunting Norms and Standards soon to ensure that hunting adheres to the principles of sustainable utilisation of resources, takes place lawfully and is regulated uniformly throughout the country, among others.
As government, we will provide guidance. The focus of the transformation efforts should be expanded beyond male domination and training, to include women and previously disadvantaged individuals to establish and own shares in the current industry.
The Protected Areas Act provisions oblige us to establish the People and parks programme and this further compelled our department to introduce co-management agreements in parks forged between claimants and authorities. This is evidence of local economic development which is rooted in the communities with the dividends accrued shared with the affected communities.
Although we have already begun this process, we are still not satisfied with the number of communities benefiting. With our biodiversity richness ranked fifth in the world, I'm disappointed that we have such a small number of beneficiaries.
Mother nature has given us these resources to counter the onslaught of poverty. It is up to us to use these natural resources sustainably whilst ensuring the benefits trickle down to communities, especially rural communities. As a department, we need to double our efforts to ensure that in the next conference in 2012 the number of benefitting communities should have increased, at least ten times.
To achieve this, we need to resolve the challenges experienced today by studying the best practices in order to find effective ways to provide support.
We also noted that lack of capacity in the sector is an impediment that should be addressed as a matter of urgency. We further acknowledge the absence of women in the sector and we need them to play a vital role in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and their involvement in all decision-making processes.
We have identified the biggest problem in themanagement of biodiversity as the plethora of institutions dealing with conservation. The department needs to consider reviewing the roles of the entities and rationalise them to bring about effective management.
In our country about eighteen institutions are managing biodiversity with five nationally based and thirteen being provincial. This has led to gross ineffectiveness and excessive costs. In the meantime, the department will engender a uniform approach by encouraging streamlined reporting to MECs in provinces and the minister for national institutions.
DG, I believe a Biodiversity Charter will be required to guide stakeholders on the appropriate way of conducting business.This means that as partners with private sector and NGOs we should develop and implement a Biodiversity Charter, or Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) scorecard to address transformation and BBBEE in the sector.
Provision was made in the Biodiversity Act to develop a National Biodiversity Framework (NBF) which provides for an integrated, coordinated and uniform approach to biodiversity management. The NBF is in the process of identifying activities to be implemented in the next five years to address transformation in the biodiversity sector.
Needless to say, we have challenging assignments ahead of us to ensure that all problems identified in this conference are addressed and that we should deal with completely new challenges in two years time.
I wish you all fruitful deliberations during the course of the conference.
I also wish to remind all of us that: “Working together we can do more!”
Ngi ya bonga; I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
30 Aug 2010
[ Top ]