Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media.
In our briefing today, we will focus on the fifth Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit, which South Africa will host in March 2013, and a contribution of the South African government towards the relief of the situation of Palestinian refugees.
1. BRICS Summit
1.1. Summit deliverables
The Cabinet meeting held on 19 September 2012 approved the BRICS Strategy for South Africa. It also activated the structures that will oversee preparations for President Zuma’s hosting of the fifth BRICS Summit on 26 to 27 March 2013 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban, eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal, i.e.
BRICS Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) which held its first meeting on 2 October 2012;
BRICS Inter-Departmental Technical Senior Officials’ Team (IDTSOT); and
BRICS Inter-Departmental Logistics Team which is already holding weekly meetings since June 2012.
The purpose of the IMC according to the terms of reference is to provide policy guidance and recommendations to Cabinet on the hosting of the Fifth BRICS Summit and the execution thereof and to ensure the successful hosting of the Fifth BRICS Summit on 27 March 2013. There are 15 Cabinet Ministers serving on the IMC as well as the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal.
Key decisions emanating from the fourth BRICS Summit which was held in New Delhi in March 2012 will be pursued.
You would recall that we concluded a Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency under BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism. We now need to ensure that these agreements are fully activated in order to further enhance intra-BRICS trade.
The BRICS leaders tasked the Finance Ministers to prepare a feasibility study on the proposed new Development Bank by the fifth summit. The technical experts of the BRICS countries have already held a first meeting in this regard and a second meeting will take place in the near future to prepare this study. We agreed in New Delhi to focus on a general academic evaluation and future long-term strategy for BRICS.
South African Ministers are also participating in the various sectoral meetings under the auspices of the New Delhi Declaration’s Action Plan. Minister Nkoana-Mashabane recently chaired the annual meeting of BRICS Foreign/International Relations Ministers in New York on 26 September 2012.
The Ministers of Finance and Health have also met and meetings for the Ministers of Agriculture and BRICS High Representatives responsible for National Security have been proposed.
1.2. Summit logistics
As mentioned, our logistics team has already started with preparations at an early stage and are well advanced for hosting the summit and its side events. The meeting of BRICS Trade Ministers takes place on the day prior to the summit as well that of the BRICS Business Forum.
The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) will also host its partners in the BRICS Inter-Bank Cooperation Mechanism for their annual forum meeting on that day. Other events prior to the summit include a meeting of the BRICS Think Tank/Academic Forum and preparatory meetings of senior officials.
1.3. Summit stakeholder engagement
Extensive stakeholders’ consultations are underway on a regular basis in terms of our government structures. Our BRICS Sherpa, Ambassador Jerry Matjila, also meets with representatives from government and civil society on a regular basis to consult on relevant aspects.
2. Donation to UNRWA
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation is pleased to announce that a contribution of R2 million is being made towards the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
UNRWA, which began operations on 1 May 1950, is the largest and the only agency established and mandated by the United Nations (UN) to carry out direct relief and work programs for Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The mission of UNRWA is to help Palestine refugees achieve their full potential in human development under the difficult circumstances in which they live. The Agency fulfils this mission by providing a variety of essential services within the framework of international standards.
Today UNRWA is the main provider of services such as education, health, relief, social services, microfinance, community support, and emergency aid to over five million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East.
In addition to its regular budget, UNRWA depends mainly on the financial contributions made by United Nations (UN) Member States for emergency activities and special projects.
South Africa contributes annually to the Agency and other UN humanitarian agencies in accordance with its commitment to the alleviation of human suffering through international humanitarian assistance.
The South African Government’s current financial contribution to UNWRA is in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 64/89. This resolution encourages Member States to continue supporting the Agency in order for it to effectively carry out its mandate in addressing the plight of Palestine refugees.
In the absence of a durable solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2014.