KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM, Ms RT MABUDAFHASI, MP, ON THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 15TH ANNUAL CARETAKERS OF THE ENVIRONMENT INTERNATIONAL YOUTH CONFERENCE, Pietermaritzburg, 1 July 2001
Members of the CEI Board
Leaders of delegations
Young people from all corners of our planets
Seated in front of me I see the future; Youth from schools, organisations, projects and networks from many different countries, with diverse cultures and different perspectives.
I see humanity's future and hope, with a huge responsibility for ensuring sustainability of our planet.
My dear young friends, you are a generation facing ecological injustices, drastic climate change patterns and environmental racism and all forms of societies ills, yet you are determined to overcome.
Whether you come from a country shattered by poverty and disease or from a privileged wealthy country, you all have an obligation.
A moral obligation to ensure sustainable development without further threatening the existence of our planet, an obligation to root out actions that are slowly strangling Mother Earth by these actions are carried governments and industry, some with impunity.
YOUNG PEOPLE, THERE CAN BE NO BETTER TIME ACT THAN NOW.
And your presence at this conference shows that you care, and are beginning to act as called upon.
So what are we all about here?
* You comprise nearly 30% of the world population and therefore your participation in environmental decision-making is vital to the long-term success of the agenda for change and development
* Your involvement at all levels of decision-making is critical as it affects your lives today and has implications for your future.
* You possess the intellectual capability, enthusiasm, zeal and ability to mobilise support, which needs to be harnessed.
It is because of your situation now and in the future that we, who hold offices of responsibility and power, must in consultation with you do the following
* Establish a process that allows you to speak to Government/s and to give input into our decisions.
* Establish mechanisms that permit and ease your access to information.
* And provide you with opportunities to present your views on the decisions you take.
* Caretakers of the Environment International (CEI) have been established to address these things that I say we must do.
Your quest to establish a network of secondary schools and teachers who will think globally about environmental issues and then act locally on community projects.
Annually this conference is held to exchange concerns, ideas, strategies and to work on joint environmental projects, thereby encouraging youth to view the earth as one interdependent environment and to work together to provide solutions to the identified problems.
The annual conferences of the Caretakers of Environment International have rotated in various parts of the world exploring various themes, which cover environmental problems pertinent to the host country.
South Africa is honoured to be the first country in Africa to host this annual meeting of great minds, the caretakers of tomorrow's world.
When we conclude the business of our being here, we should be able to say that we have moved closer to the achievements of our goals and the realization of our objectives and those are to name but a few are:
* To enhance environmental awareness amongst young people
* To build capacity amongst the youth around issues of environment and sustainable development by engaging in debates.
* To provide a platform for youth to showcase to their peers their environmental attitudes and initiatives of best practices.
* To provide a platform for cultural diversity, exchange of ideas, strategies across cultural borders.
* To promote tourism
* To provide inputs to the status report for the United Nations on Agenda 21.
* Strengthen the existing fora for networking on a global scale amongst youth.
I am particularly fascinated by the theme of this conference - "Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Tourism".
Very topical, and relevant to the environmental conditions and times we live in and even more interesting, this theme has been divided into various sub-themes, which are:
* Sustainable Development, remember this involves the planet and the people. And if both these entities are in harmony, then we will have prosperity.
* Eco- tourism and Community Participation, We all come from beautiful countries, but how do we show the world this beauty and how do we involve the poorest of the poor, our communities in enjoying this beauty without need.
* Cultural Diversity and Heritage, Here in Pietermaritzburg you are at the melting pot of cultures, which makes it a colourful and vibrant destination. So what a perfect venue we are in to learn about our ways of life and were we come from.
* People and Parks, Here in South Africa and Particularly this province we have some of the most beautiful wildlife parks in the world. But what makes this country even more special is how the local people of the land live in harmony with these created parks.
* Waste management, in the next few days you will see how the local people make waste work for them and the clever ways in which they use waste to their advantage and to the survival of our environment.
Furthermore, you are going to see and understand that this conference links in perfectly with preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002.
Together, we will all discover more about this topic on the last day of this conference.
This summit, one of the most important human get-togethers, will also be held in South Africa, in Johannesburg next September.
So maybe we will see you there next year.
At this point, on behalf of my department, let me express our heartfelt gratitude to the Municipality of Pietermaritzburg for being such gracious host. Thank you for welcoming us to your amazing city.
So, my dear young friends, as you will see in the week to come, you are now in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Welcome to our paradise. May you enjoy a successful, and fruitful conference?
A wise man once said "We will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."
And it is conferences like this that ensures that we are taught well.
The last two decades have witnessed a remarkable public awaking. There has been a revolution in awareness and understanding of environmental issues, a growing sense of urgency, a knowledge that environmental protection is not the luxury of the rich, a realisation that we share one, finite earth and that all of us are responsible for what happens to it.
My department, the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, is committed to the development and participation of youth in sustaining the environment thereby preserving the Earth for future generations.
This brings to mind a famous African proverb, which I am sure many of you know quite well:
" Treat our earth well for it was not given to us by our parents, It is lent to us by our children."
Issued by Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
1 July 2001