Think globally, act locally, drive sustainability in South Africa.

By Maropene Ramokgopa
South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, the National Chairperson of the National Planning Commission

Over the past decade, South Africa has reasserted its position in the global arena as an
important player and partner in the global development discourse. Most importantly, South
Africa continues to leverage its power to advance developmental priorities that will ensure we
build a capable, ethical developmental state, and contribute to the shared prosperity of the
South African people.

Under the leadership of His Excellency President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, South Africa
has grown and asserted its influence and reach in the global multilateral fora, through its active
participation in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) Forum, Group of 20
(G20), the African Union (AU) and its Peace and Security Council, and the United Nations
(UN), amongst others. This has ensured that we cement ourselves as an emerging force in
the global system of governance. We have also contributed immensely to promoting the
interests of the Global South.

Historically, South Africa has utilized its diplomatic relations including through political
solidarity to address the stubborn challenges of colonialism and Apartheid. Our country’s
approach to international relations has always been on the premise of “There Shall Be Peace
And Friendship!” as stated in the 1955 Freedom Charter.

Our country’s democratic dispensation continues to mature while we address the legacy of
apartheid. Equally, we have matured in our approach to peace and friendship in the dynamic
global context. It is for this reason that one of the seven priorities of the sixth administration is
Building A better Africa and World. South Africa continues to prioritize regional integration
and multilateralism.

It is against this backdrop, that our participation at the upcoming UN Summit on the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a strategic imperative for advancing our national
interests and contributing to the global agenda for peace, development, prosperity, and
sustainability.

The SDGs Summit will take place from 18-19 September 2023 at the UN Headquarters in New
York on the margins of the 78th General Debate of the UN General Assembly. The Summit
marks the mid-point between the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
in 2015 and its 2030 deadline.

The South African delegation to the Summit will be led by President Ramaphosa and my
participation at this high-level political forum in support of the President will advance the
objectives to promote our national interests through our four key foreign policy pillars including,
(i) Mobilize support for our domestic objectives, as outlined in the National Development Plan
(NDP), (ii)Support the African Agenda and promote Africa’s sustainable development by
advocating for Africa’s priorities under the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, (iii) Influencing
the reform of the global multilateral architecture; and (iv) Advancing the agenda of the South
in the North-South Dialogue platform.

Equally, our participation in the SDG Summit carries a deep appreciation and consideration
that South Africa’s diagnostic report on the progress made on SDGs tells a story of great
triumphs, great defeats, and even greater resilience. We recognize that our participation
represents the voices of millions of people represented by different sectors consisting of both
qualitative and quantitative data.

In preparation for the upcoming Summit, the Ministry in the Presidency for Planning,
Monitoring and Evaluation and the UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa, His Excellency,
Mr. Nelson Muffuh convened the multi-stakeholders Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Dialogue in Pretoria, South Africa. The theme of the dialogue was; “Strategies for Accelerating
Sustainable Development Goals Achievement in South Africa”.

The multi-stakeholder dialogue attracted a diverse range of experts and panellists from
different sectors including government departments and institutions, the South African
business sector, members of the diplomatic corps, civil society organizations and activists,
development partners, and research institutions. At the core of the discussions was to find
strategies to strengthen partnerships and collaboration for development at a national, regional,
and international level to accelerate the achievement of SDGs and meet the domestic
imperatives of the country as envisioned in the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030
and the AU Agenda 2063 more broadly.

Whilst all the panellists and participants highlighted notable strides made and milestones
registered over the lifespan of our democracy, we must also face hard truths of challenges
and failures. Throughout the dialogue, the overarching theme in all contributions made was
that there are some reversals in the gains made over the years. This reality is particularly
harsh for women and girls in South Africa, who have become the face of poverty and
inequality.

The socioeconomic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increased frequency of natural
disasters, the 2021 July unrests, the increasing prevalence of Gender Based Violence and
Femicide (GBVF), and several other intersecting factors are contributing to a decreased
standard of living for our people, particularly the most vulnerable.

We must guard against the anti-progressive approach to development where short-term gains
have been favored over long-term benefits. The real developmental context is that the shortterm plans are vehicles to implement medium and long-term plans. Therefore, we must take
action and advocate for a paradigm shift in the understanding of development in the context
where there is marginal improvement in the SDGs. We must assert that if a program or
intervention is not sustainable, it is not developmental in nature.

We have the blueprints for transformation!

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing
for development, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Agreement
on climate change. The SDG Summit must energize efforts to implement these visionary
agreements and lay the path to development, transformation, and sustainability. We anticipate the Summit to adopt a concise, forward-looking, and action-oriented political
declaration as its outcome document with the aim of accelerating international action to
improve people’s lives.

Beyond the Summit, we will strengthen our efforts to work with other stakeholders including
our developmental partners to develop monitoring and evaluation systems that will assist
South Africa in making clear linkages between the SGDs, the AU Agenda 2063, our own
lodestar the NDP, the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), and the Integrated
Development Planning (IDPs) at a local government level to ensure there is synchronization
in planning, interventions and financing of these frameworks.

In order to translate our plans into action, we must be prepared to ask the tough questions
and lead decisively. I am still the woman with the plan for the development agenda of our country to implement back better, to revitalize the economy so that jobs can be created and incomes can increase
in households, to build human capabilities through education and skills revolution, innovation
and modernization for service delivery so that people can fend for themselves and improve
standards of living.

We shall all achieve this through concerted efforts to build the capacity and capability of South
Africa as an aspired developmental state that delivers for and changes the livelihoods of its
populace for the better.

Our achievement of the above will move us towards the attainment of the National Development targets, which will in turn be the successful implementation of the developmental aspirations in the Agenda 2063 and the goals set out in the SDG Agenda 2030.

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