Deputy Minister, State Forestry Authority, People’s Republic of China, his Excellency Mr Chen
Acting Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation Ms Skumsa Moncotywa,
Representatives of SANParks
Representatives of the academic fraternity,
Members of the media,
South Africa and China has a long historical relationship that was forged through the principled support the Chinese people gave to our people during our Liberation Struggle. After the attainment of democracy in South Africa, this relationship evolved into an even stronger partnership between our two countries based on our shared interest to promote the needs of developing countries.
Your Excellency, I am pleased to say that cooperation between our two countries at this particular juncture is on a firm foundation and will continue to evolve. Today’s event is further demonstration of how this cooperation between our two countries is evolving to encompass new areas of mutual concern, in this case environmental conservation.
The China South Africa youth forum is a unique opportunity for young people to exchange ideas on how conservation issues can be addressed by the youth of our two countries. The exchange is happening during a unique year in South Africa when we are engaged in a number of activities aimed at advancing the year of China in South Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, the preservation of the environment is one of many issues of mutual interest to the young people of China and South Africa. This is because the environment has such a huge impact on the quality of life of young people.
Young people constitute a large part of the world’s population and young people will have to live longer with the consequences of current environmental decisions than will their elders. Future generations will also be affected by these decisions and the extent to which they have addressed concerns such as the depletion of resources and biodiversity loss.
This forum is therefore very important in that it provides young people with a platform for engaging on a range of issues ranging from ecosystem management, climate change, species management and illegal trade. These issues are of strategic importance to both countries and the views of the young people will certainly be useful in shaping the larger discussions taking place on the global agenda.
In March 2013, South Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on co-operation in the fields of Wetland and Desert Ecosystems and Wildlife Ecosystems and Wildlife Conservation. The main objective of this MoU is to enhance cooperation between our two countries in the above areas through a variety of means including:
Exchanging information and literature in the fields of wetland, Desert Ecosystem and Wildlife Ecosystems and Wildlife Conservation;
Exchanging visits for policy dialogue and project negotiation;
Conducting exchange visits by researchers, experts and scholars, and jointly implementing research projects;
Organizing technical training, seminars or study tours on subjects of mutual interest; and jointly carrying out publicity and public education activities.
Programme Director, a key issue for South Africa is the deployment of demand management strategies for illegal wildlife trade. The Department is of the firm view that effective communication strategies that target the whole of society are an important component of demand management. The convening of this youth forum is therefore greatly appreciated because it provides an important platform to put critical messages out there for consumption by our communities. I am also pleased that it being hosted by Tshwane University of Technology, an institution of higher learning which will ensure that these critical messages become well integrated within our academic programme as well.
I am encouraged by the role young people are playing in raising awareness on the importance of conservation matters in addressing our sustainable development imperatives. Natural resources, which include our wildlife are part of the legacy we wish to pass onto future generations in the manner envisaged through section 24 of South Africa’s constitution.
In order to ensure that this happens, young people need to be given the necessary skills to harness these resources for their future development. These skills are critical if our young people are to rise up to the occasion and play their part in responding to environmental concerns. It will be up to the youth themselves to identify the skills they will need to effectively manage conservation in the future. Through this exchange, the youth from the two countries will discuss approaches in the respective countries and consider how these ideas can be incorporated into local systems to enhance the environmental deliverables. The critical skills required by the youth should also take into account exisiting indigenous knowledge systems to compliemnt existing interventions in the quest for better environmental management.
It is my hope that this exchange is the first of many such going forward. I would also like to encourage the young people to engage with an open mind on the extensive agenda in order to get the most out of this unique experience. I trust that the forum will contribute significantly in equipping the youth of both countries with knowledge and understanding of the local and international issues connected to environmental sustainability so that they might be able to put forth their ideas on how to tackle the challenges facing our world today.
I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to the organizers of this forum. In particular, South Africa National Parks, Chinese embassy, Tshwane University of Technology and the young people taking part in this forum.
In conclusion I wish you a successful conference characterized by robust debate, and I look forward to receiving the outcomes of this exchange.
I thank you.
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SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS