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Mayor Ramokgopa’s opening speech at 2nd African Capital Cities’ Sustainability Forum

Jun 7, 2016

The City of Tshwane hosted the 2nd African Capital Cities’ Sustainability Forum last 31 May 2016. Below is the opening speech by Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa.

“Our gathering today and entire initiative of African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum constitute a re-incarnation and a living embodiment of the tribulations that authored the history of our continent.”

Executive Mayor: Kgosientso Ramokgopa
Address at the Opening Plenary of the 2nd African Capital Cities’ Sustainability Forum

31 May 2016
Salutations:

Mr Bene M’Poko, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Mr Andries Nel, Deputy Minister, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Cllr Parks Tau, Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg
Mr Hastings Chikoko, Regional Director for Africa, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
Kobie Brand, Director of ICLEI Africa –
Dr Cecilia Njenga, South African Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
Christophe Nuttall, Executive Director, R20 Regions of Climate Action
My Fellow Colleagues, Mayors from 24 African Capital Cities
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning
Buenos dias
Bon Maten

It’s an immense pleasure to have the distinct privilege of once more welcoming the esteemed representatives Capital Cities across the African continent to our shores on the occasion of the second convention of our African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum.

On behalf of the residents of Tshwane, the Capital City of the Republic of South Africa, we wish to warmly embrace your presence here in all your eminence and instantly point out that in you the prosperity yearning people of our continent are ably represented.

Our assembly here today and its various tributaries throughout the course of this week is in keeping with the various commitments we made at the inaugural gathering approximately a year ago.

That gathering was itself convened in recognition of the innumerable challenges thrown up by the dawn of the 21st century with respect to the social, economic, developmental and ecological imperatives facing cities as predominant forms of human settlements.

The initiative was an attempt to create a platform from which to cogitate and contemplate ways to effectively and efficiently position African Capital Cities at the fore front of continental efforts to make our societies more inclusive, just and equitable.

Programme director,
At the end of a series of intensive and insightful deliberations we adopted the Tshwane Declaration 2015, which amongst other imperatives noted that:
• The current global challenges threaten economic growth and development in our cities; especially those related to climate change, global economic slowdown, trade facilitation, connectivity, land degradation caused by mining activities and water shortages.
• The centrality of partnerships and collaborative efforts in the implementation of sustainability programmes in enabling capital cities to realise their unique role in providing leadership to other local authorities within our borders.
• The urgent need to design and implement sustainable urban development solutions to address and take advantage of the increasing rate of urbanisation in African Cities.

On the basis, we committed ourselves to convene annually to evaluate progress and processes towards the realisation of a series of developmental undertakings to place African Capital Cities at the vanguard of an upwardly irreversible developmental trajectory.

Programme director,
On the basis of our collective analysis of the sources and component parts of our developmental challenges, we undertook to lead in advancing amongst others the following sustainability priorities:
• Development of social and technical infrastructure in our Capital Cities to facilitate connectivity and ease of doing business;
• Collaboration with Green Building Councils on the continent to transform our built environment with a view to facilitate rapid response to disasters of various kinds and magnitude.
• Address head-on the developmental challenges posed by the Food – Water – Energy nexus;
• Jointly leverage sustainability financing to guarantee sustainable economic growth without compromising the carrying capacity of the planet’s systems and resources;
• Prioritise the reduction of informal settlements which are the most palpable manifestation of urban poverty by improving access to basic services like clean water, electricity, health services and urban food production programmes.
• To learn from each other in implementing both climate change mitigation and adaptation programmes to minimise the contributions of cities to climate change, whose effects are converging in dangerous ways.
• To transition our cities towards a green economy that will ensure the provision of basic services, secure local economic development while preserving natural resources, stimulating employment creation and industrial activity.
• Assume leadership in technological innovations to create waste management systems that encourage recycling as well as the development of energy from waste sites and gas extraction processes.
• Ensure enhanced advocacy and participation in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change as well as developing a coordinated approach towards the implementation of the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Programme director,
In putting our collective signatures next to this extensive list of undertakings we were by no means depreciating the difficulties lying ahead; but merely revealing with dispassionate attention the enormity of the mission to turn our continent into a kingdom of a better life for all its citizens.

We pledged our full loyalty to these programmatic commitments understanding perfectly well that between our current reality and their actual realisation lies a dark shadow of diverse obstacles to be traversed if a better life is to become a living reality to our people.

In all these endeavours, we are mightily guided by the Constitutive Act of the African Union, specifically its unambiguous reference to the centrality of the African people and their self-activity in the development of their own continent.
Such was giving effect to the recognition that the development of the potential and talents of each and every member of society is the collective and individual responsibility of all members of society.

It is this recognition that inspired President Thabo Mbeki, in his opening address to the South African Parliament on 25 June 1999, to declare that:
“Steadily, the dark clouds of despair are lifting, giving way to our season of hope … continuing … an evolving act of self-definition. At the dawn of a new life, our practical actions must ensure … we are a nation at work to build a better life… To the masses we owe the obligation to recommit the government … to the construction of a people-centred society… to build a caring society… [that] guarantee[s] the dignity of every citizen on the basis of a good quality of life for every woman, man and child, without regard to race, or colour or disability… “
In other words, without the cultivation of a critical civic culture all the sound plans we have will remain the province of a few people, with the majority remaining marginal to crucial issues impacting on their lives.

Programme director,
Given the nascent nature of our initiative, this being only its second year of existence, it becomes immediately obvious that our principal tasks will revolve around an assessment of where we are in relation to the formative processes of the African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum.

As the saying goes – the beginnings are always the most difficult and yet the most crucial as they constitute the foundational pillars upon which to erect a sound edifice for realising our collective goals and aspirations.

As we draw a balance sheet of our achievements and challenges in building our new initiative in the past twelve months or so, a critical, dispassionate and yet engaged disposition is going to become both virtue and necessity. This has become even so mandatory given the incessant and relentless vagaries that have become a permanent feature of social, economic and political life in the 21st century.

As we gather here today, the world is only just beginning to take tentative, albeit sluggish steps towards recovery from the devastating effects of the global economic meltdown also referred to as The Great Recession. Although the epicentre of this crisis was located elsewhere in the highly industrialised countries, the effects reverberated and came to be felt the most in those areas located in the margins of global economic activity.

The results have mostly seen the aggravation of an already precarious situation, with imploding levels of unemployment, inequalities and poverty the order of existence for the majority of the poor in the developing world.
The need to meet these challenges head on, without losing sight of the imperative to transform our cities to bring about equitable and egalitarian order, is what lies at the heart of our initiative.

We will only do a proper service to this historic responsibility and surmount the challenges ahead only if we are frank about the strengths and weaknesses; prospects and limits of our efforts.

As forewarned by insights from elsewhere in the progressive world – let us approach our tasks with the utmost degree of ‘Glasnost’!

Programme director,
Without formal and substantive cooperation we stand no chance of reaching the luminous summit of a human, just and equitable continent in which human worth is judged by precepts and standards that affirm the humanity of each and every person.

Such a spirit of cooperation is rooted within the African moral and ethical adage that teaches that ‘I am because we are’ and that our destinies are inextricably linked to each other.

It is the lessons drawn from such insights that have seen the continent strive and emerge through the crucible of struggles against colonialism, imperialism and racial segregation.

Our gathering today and entire initiative of African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum constitute a re-incarnation and a living embodiment of the tribulations that authored the history of our continent.

After all, the history of the African continent is a history of relentless struggles against foreign domination and dictatorships of various kinds.
It is a history of concerted struggles against poverty, hunger, starvation and all other social ills visited on our communities.

It is in the crucible of these struggles that we collectively created humanistic, egalitarian and solidaristic traditions that became critical in the realisation of freedom, reconstruction and development in the region.

It is these ideals of humanism, egalitarianism and solidarity that we are promoting through this initiative and it is in that context that cooperation becomes an almost inevitable feature of this Forum.

Programme director,
For all these various programmes and undertakings to materialise requires not just leadership in general, but a particular brand and style of leadership.
Their success calls for, as a matter of principle an inclusive, facilitative, accountable and synergistic leadership that elevates the finest talents and qualities embedded within our communities.

This can be characterised as leadership from below as distinct from leadership from above. The former recognises that the people should be enabled to author their own destiny and not be reduced to passive spectators in processes that shape their daily lives.

On our continent we have innumerable examples of this kind of leadership that is so indispensable to the overall success of our project.

The African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum, hosted in 2015 by the City of Tshwane, created a platform for African Capital Cities to identify and deliberate on commonalities and challenges faced by major cities in Africa while showcasing and sharing successful initiatives towards the emergence of truly African, original and appropriate solutions in addressing the sustainability imperative at the urban scale. We look forward to yet another successful outcome of this 2016 Forum which is being held so soon after the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a successful outcome of the 21st session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 21) held in Paris, December 2015.

For the process to be a genuine success in makeup and outcome, it has to itself constitute the mirror image of its intended product. In other words, if our project is to deliver to our people a just, democratic, equitable and humane social and economic order, it has to already embody these ideals in its daily exertions and not wait and promise to show such once it has reached its destination.

Programme director,
We have a clearer idea of what our challenges are and what it will take to significantly surmount them as a minimum condition to open the way towards a sustainable developmental trajectory on our continent.
Having aptly identified our mission in life, it is up to us to decide whether we discharge our duties loyally and dependably or simply undertake them casually without displaying any intrinsic attachment to the interests and desires of those we serve.

Yet, if the historical struggles of African people and their collective desires remain our principal guides, we have no choice but to see to it that we drive the programmatic commitments of this forum to their fullest.
Whether or not we succeed, and whether or not we give it our best effort will be attested to by the history that will unfold in the coming decades!
We welcome you to the second African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum and wish each and every one of you a fulfilling experience in the insightful deliberations that will take place in the next few days.

Thank You for Listening!
Gracias por escuchar!!
Di ou mesi pou koute!!
Merci de votre ecoute!!

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