United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

South Africa

Statement by the Head of the South African Delegation,
Dr Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs,
On the Occasion of the United Nations Conference to support the
implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and
sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable
development (Ocean Conference),
From 5-9 June 2017
at the United Nations Headquarters in NEW YORK
6 JUNE 2017:10:00-13:00
The theme of the Conference is "Our oceans, our future: partnering for
the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14".
The Sustainable Development Goal 14 commits world leaders to "conserve
and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable
development." The Conference theme is most relevant given the
responsibility inherent to achieve this goal. There is high accelerated
economic activity in and around oceans, increasing population moving
towards the oceans, increasing consumption of marine resources, as well as
a growing need for new resources, energy and minerals.
South Africa has earmarked the ocean to promote economic growth and to
boost job creation in line with the National Development Plan.
We have an ocean space that is greater than our land territory, with the land
size of 1.2 mil km2 and exclusive economic zone (EZZ) of 1.5 rail kin2, and
the extended continental shelf claim will double the size of this ocean
geographic extent. The implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14
is key in addressing these ever-increasing global environmental challenges of
our times and re-commits the international community to a strengthened
global partnership, given the necessary means of implementation, to secure a
sustainable future.
Who are we?
South Africa has an advantage by virtue of its geographical positioning. We
are bordered by the cold Benguela current in the west.
Along the East is the warm Agulhas current. Globally, the Agulhas Current
provides a key pathway of heat and salt from the Indian Ocean into the South
Atlantic, which is then transported equatorward. This distribution of heat and
salt in the oceans due to the thermohaline circulation, is what regulates our
climate, both locally and globally. Between the Agulhas and Benguela
current regions we have the Agulhas bank which is a diverse marine area
where these two currents meet and interacmeet indeed a unique
oceanographic position. This presents an excellent opportunity for marine
scientific research in the region.
These bases are serviced by our state-of-theart polar research and supply
vessel, SA Agulhas 2. Research undertaken from that vessel and from our
two bases, enables us to better understand among others, the process and
impacts of climate change, and thus to meet our obligation to protect and
conserve fauna and flora around the Prince Edward Islands, and provide
infrastructural support for South Africa's Antarctica treaty commitments.
Ocean Economy Programme:
The government of South Africa initiated the Operation Phakisa, which aims
to implement priority programmes better, faster and more effectively. The first
implementation of Operation Phakisa is led by the Department of
Environmental Affairs and focuses on unlocking the economic potential of
South Africa's oceans, which are estimated to have the potential to contribute
up to one hundred and seventy seven (R177) billion rand to GDP by 2033
compared to fifty four (R54) billion rand in 2010, and increase the number of
jobs from 316 000 to just over 1 million.
Operation Phakisa has brought together all stakeholders (Government, Stateowned
Companies, civil society, industry, labour and academia) to develop
detailed delivery plans in four focus areas. These are Marine Transport and
Manufacturing, Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Aquaculture and Marine
Protection Services and Ocean Governance, Small Harbours Development,
as well as Coastal and Marine Tourism.
In the short period of implementation, we have already seen some success.
The programme demonstrated that we have to work together as different
Government departments and all relevant stakeholders to realise the
aspirations of economic growth yet balance the economic opportunities which
our ocean space affords while maintaining securing its environmental
integrity. Maintaining this integrity means applying high environmental
standards to when undertaking activities like fishing and mineral exploration,
but also identifying and formally protecting key habitats to ensure ecosystem
Regional & Global partnership
South Africa ceded to the call by Agenda 2030 for mobilising regional and
global partnerships as means of implementation of the SGDs. We are party to
and is actively involved in the activities of these regional conventions
(Nairobi, Abidjan and Benguela Current as well as IOC-Africa) whose main
purpose is to advance the objectives of the SDG 14.
At global level, South Africa is a party to a number of multilateral
environmental instruments, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD), with their objectives in advancing the objective of the SDG 14.
Achievement & Commitment to implement SDG14
South Africa has put much effort in implementing the SDG14 under the lead
of the Department of Environmental Affairs, namely:
Reducing marine pollution
Considering the target on reducing marine pollution, we realized that tackling
land-based sources of marine pollution will require the challenging but
necessary collaboration with a variety of sectors and user groups including,
among others, sewage disposal entities, the agricultural sector, water
management authorities, urban developers, extractive industries such as
mining, port and harbour developments etc. In South Africa we have certainly
learnt that problems around coastal pollution and coastal water quality cannot
be solved by one government sector alone, and requires a willingness and
commitment to work across sectors in an integrated manner.
We have also optimized our efforts to handle this important matter through
our regional partnerships. The Western Indian Ocean region's efforts to
address land-based sources and activities, preparations are currently being
made by UNEP, to roll out the implementation of a project that seeks to
implement Western Indian Ocean Strategic Action Programme, with key
focus on the protection of the Western Indian Ocean from land-based
sources and activities, adopted under the Nairobi Convention. The key focus
areas of the WIO-SAP Project will be to:
1) Improve coastal water quality so that it meets international standards
by 2035; and
2) Ensure that rivers are sustainably managed, and that the management
of the coastal zone and river basins are fully integrated. This focus area will
include the building of technical capacity on, and the application of,
environmental flow assessment as a tool for wise river basin management.
Within the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem, shared by Angola,
Namibia and South Africa, and which covers South Africa's West coast and
part of our South coast, efforts are underway to identify hotspots of coastal
pollution, under the Benguela Current Convention. Coupled with this, a
regional monitoring programme is being developed to monitor water quality
trends at the identified hotspots. I believe that initiatives such as these are
worth mentioning because it will provide us with an indication of which landbased
areas and adjacent river basins need to be investigated as sources of
marine pollution.The Abidjan Convention is also currently finalizing protocols
providing regional direction on Coastal Zone Management, environmental
standards for the Oil and Gas Industry and the Protection of coastal
mangrove ecosystems.
Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal
We are negotiating interdepartmentally and with our stakeholders for Marine
Protected Areas (MPA's) that will bring our ocean protection within the South
African Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ) to at least 5% of this area. This is
being done in a representative and well-focussed manner, so that this
network of Marine Protected Areas covering 5% of our EEZ but will provide
some protection to over 90% of all habitat types. South Africa is also
developing a Marine Spatial Planning legislation which seeks to integrate all
sector activities, protecting sensitive areas, and achieving certainty for
South Africa has achieved this through its bilateral agreement with the
government of Norway and the technical support from German funded project
to develop the BCC Regional Marine Spatial Planning. To inform MSP from a
conservation perspective, South Africa is in the process of revising
descriptions for her "Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas" (EBSA's)
following the successful world-wide interventions undertaken by the CBD in
this regard from 2010-2015.
Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification
South Africa initiated a research programme to monitor, amongst other
parameters, long term changes in the levels and distribution of the pH mainly
along the west coast of South Africa.
Increase scientific knowledge
South Africa will be participating in the Second International Indian Ocean
Expedition under the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (lOt) of
UNESCO. We developed a National Science Plan, which will be implemented
during this current year through the environmental cruises by our research
vessels, the SA Agulhas II -and the RV Algoa. I will be launching this
expedition at national level, during the Council of Ministers of the Indian
Ocean Rim Association, which South Africa will be hosting in October this
I have no doubt that the data analysis from these cruises will close the
existing information gaps, particularly in the Indian Ocean and guide our
policy direction to improve our ocean health, and better understanding of
Global Climate.
South African Ocean region is globally recognized as unique and a hotspot of
biodiversity and has over 10 000 marine species. The region is at a unique
crossroads. The Atlantic, Southern and Indian Ocean's fishing grounds are
among the healthiest worldwide, and coastal tourism is among the biggest
income earners for many countries. Ports and other coastal infrastructure are
growing in importance and the region is crossed by some of the world's main
shipping lanes. Emerging prospects of oil and gas development offer
unprecedented opportunities for growth.
But the accompanying challenges are great, with high risk of environmental
and socio-economic impacts. Nevertheless, the prospect for a vibrant
sustainable blue economy is on our doorstep and the framing of the SDGs
provides both a vision and focused goals and targets for balancing economic,
social and environmental aims, to bring benefits for the people of the region.
South Africa has also Sub-Antarctic Island in the southern ocean which is
also a unique marine environment and also the only African country with its
presence in the Antarctic.
This presents opportunity for global partnerships in areas covered by Deep
Ocean; Southern Ocean & Antarctic Science Programmes. South Africa is
also at a point where we are open to new partnerships, as such calls for
mobilising global partnerships to advance the objectives of the SDG 14,