Statement by Dr Naledi Pandor, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, on the occasion of the General Debate of Summit of Heads of State and Government of the G77 + China, on the theme: “Current Development Challenges: The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation”, 16 September 2023
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to the government and people of Cuba, for the warm reception extended to me and my delegation and for the excellent arrangements made for our stay in this beautiful city, Havana.
As always it is a privilege to be in Cuba, a great country whose government and people sacrificed their lives to decisively advance our struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
We thank you for this immense contribution once more.
South Africa echoes the expressions of condolence to the governments and peoples of Morocco and Libya following the recent tragedies and loss of life.
The theme chosen for this summit is very relevant and appropriate for these challenging times. A focus on science technology innovation and digital access responds to the demands of the current times and our delegation hopes we as the South will agree to intensify our investment in RDI so they play a leading role in our future development.
The chair has initiated this important theme at a historic inflection point in which all of us are grappling for effective solutions. The struggle for the soul of the South and for unilateral global dominance has never been more intense and as the South, we must seize this historic moment to ensure we develop the ability to be free agents of a development agenda that will advance our battle against poverty inequality and unemployment.
Effective support for science research, innovation and digital technologies has the potential to advance these objectives but it must be buttressed by effective organisation, coordination and well-crafted G77 science diplomacy. South Africa confirmed the efficacy of science diplomacy in our collaboration in genomic sequencing research that assisted us in combatting covid 19. Increased attention must be given to ensuring we have a science and innovation ecosystem that can support our ambition.
Investment in research universities, increased graduation of science and technology researchers at PhD level, centres of excellence and the building of robust science councils, are necessary conditions for what we want to achieve.
Of course, as we implement these, attention must be given to ensuring equal access to science and innovation for women and girls. The SDG agenda of gender equality must be honoured in this refreshed focus of G77 plus China.
Since the achievement of freedom and democracy in 1994, South Africa has increased investment in research, development, and innovation. Funding to create ninety Centres of Excellence has been provided as well as support for thousands of young people to study for PhDs in science, engineering, economics, humanities, and technology. The support has included investment in young women scientists.
We have also funded over 200 Research Chairs and attracted local and international talent to these chairs.
This means the global South has to move beyond excellent progressive rhetoric to well-designed implementation. There is no doubt science technology and innovation are strategic levers for development, we can see their value in the advances recorded by the republic of Cuba even under the most inhumane cruel unilateral economic sanctions which must be ended through our activism as G77.
Rising from here we must form science partnerships between our researchers and our university systems. We must draw on the success of Cuba, China and India. Greater focus must be given to Africa expanding its science and innovation ecosystem and to using science to resolve our most intractable challenges.
It is vital for us to be aware that our ambition will not be a popular one as control of global innovation grants immense power over us to developed countries, thus it is not in their interest that we succeed. We saw this when we sought relaxation of the TRIPS regulations at the WTO and see it as we expand vaccine production capacity in Africa.
We see it in resistance to honouring climate finance commitments.
Mr President science and innovation will provide the means to grow a green economy in the South, to increase productive capacity and high value addition to our mineral wealth. Alongside pursuing this important agenda let us also reinforce our commitment to effective reform of the United Nations mechanisms, especially the Security Council and also actively jointly advance the fundamental reform of international development finance institutions.
Let us be United as never before on this important agenda, this is the time for the South. Unity will be critical as many so-called partners will strive to divert our attention and break our unity. Let us rise from the Havana Summit determined as never before to change our condition through the advantageous use of the value of science technology and innovation.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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