Statement by the UNDP Country Director in South Africa, Mr. Walid Badawi on behalf of Mr. Gana Fofang, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

Jun 9, 2015

‘Health, Gender and Capital Projects in Africa’:2nd Africa Technical Meeting

Centurion, South Africa.

 

Programme Director.

Ms. Geraldine Frazer Moleketi: Vice President and Special Envoy on Gender AfDB;

Mr. Kennedy Mbekeani, Director Southern Regional Resource Centre, AfDB

Dr. Anthony Nyong Okon, Manager, Compliance and Safeguards Division, AFDB;

Dr. Janet Byaruhanga  Social Affairs Division, AUC;

Ms. Tilly Sellers: Team Leader, HIV, Health and Development Team UNDP RSCA;

Distinguished delegates from Africa,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, let me apologize on behalf of Mr. Gana Fofang, UN RC/RR, who was not able to be here today and asked me to represent him on this occasion.

Let me also thank you for giving me this opportunity to make a few remarks during this important meeting and for which I am pleased and honoured to be joined here by some former and current UNDP colleagues, like Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, who I had the pleasure of working with in my previous life in NY as well as Ms. Tilly Sellers.

Secondly, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to South Africa – I hope you will enjoy your stay, despite the winter that is just setting in.

I would like to congratulate the African Development Bank and my own organization, UNDP, for having conceived this project and partnership at a very critical juncture in Africa’s growth and development trajectory.

As we are well aware, Africa is currently experiencing an unprecedented economic boom with increased foreign direct investment targeting commodities and mineral resources including oil and gas among other growth sectors. Demand has commensurately escalated for improved large capital projects such as railways, roads, hydro-electric dams, power stations, and other large infrastructure projects to service this growth. South Africa’s National Development Plan Vision 2030, for example, has prioritized infrastructure development; mainly large capital projects in sectors such as mining, transport, trade, energy and water to the tune of some $113 billion. 

Against this significant infrastructural expansion, in recent years, development practitioners have become increasingly aware of, not only the huge biophysical environmental impacts that the execution of large capital projects bring, but also their broader health impacts and public health implications which do not often attract the same attention. Activities associated with large capital projects impact on environmental, social, and institutional determinants of health and the resulting broader health impacts could include changes in diet, nutritional status, increased risk of infectious and non-communicable diseases, stress and mental health disorders, as well as substance abuse, alcoholism, violence, crime, conflict, and may cause various forms of accidents and injuries, to name but a few of these lesser analyzed implications.

I am glad to note, however, that through this project much awareness has been raised and greater knowledge and information has been generated around the continent on the health and gender-related impacts of the execution of large capital projects.

Environmental Assessments conducted in our countries present us all with an opportunity to influence the relevant policies to make sure that the health status of the thousands of construction workers who are often also migrant workers, are protected and indeed enhanced.

While notwithstanding other specific activities that are taking place all over the continent to address this challenge of linking health and infrastructure, at the regional level, it is my understanding that this meeting is a follow up to the first ever regional technical meeting on strengthening health (HIV) and gender issues in Environmental Assessments that was held in Tunis in 2013 and was jointly organized by the African Development Bank and UNDP’s Regional Service Centre for Africa. The recommendation from the meeting to create a continental platform to be used to generate and or synthesize knowledge, as well as share and discuss emerging trends, tools and topics necessary to improve the understanding of health and gender related impacts within EAs in Africa is thus a laudable one.

While the Tunis meeting provided the platform for a broader collaboration between AfDB, UNDP, the AUC and other development partners as well as different ministries within countries to explore ways of strengthening the integration of HIV and gender issues in Environmental Assessment processes, I am glad that this meeting is looking at broader health issues including Tuberculosis, Malaria, occupational health and safety as well as workplace rights among others.

The objectives of this 2nd Africa Technical Meeting on Health and capital projects here in Centurion, is thus appropriate and will help improve the practice and management of environmental assessments as a tool for expanding access to a critical segment of our societies including women and girls within project sites.

Grounded in this conviction, we in UNDP South Africa have taken this work forward in a number of ways:

·       Together with other partners, in 2013, UNDP conducted a mapping of all planned infrastructure projects at both national and provincial level.

·       Between 2012 and 2014 South Africa embarked on an awareness raising programme on the need to integrate HIV and gender related issues into EIAs as well as a capacity building Programme on how to use the Guidelines for integrating HIV into the EA process. The approach taken was to create awareness among a range of stakeholders, based on the National Strategic Plan that promotes a multi-sectoral response to HIV at all levels. In this regard, in 2012 a total of 36 officials from a range of relevant national and provincial government departments and tertiary education institutions were sensitized and trained. UNDP was pleased to support this process. We are pleased that as a result of this support, for example, Northwest University was able to integrate HIV and gender-related issues as a short course into their Centre for Environmental Management (CEM)

·       Recognizing the important role that Civil Society can play in this process, in 2014, UNDP in collaboration with the Department for Public Service and Administration and the Southern Africa Institute for Environmental Affairs, created awareness and trained the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Civil Society Sector on their role in the public consultation process, as well as their role in monitoring the implementation of the Environmental Management Plan. Following the training, civil society identified its role in EIA process as one that is largely centered around advocacy. With support from UNDP and other partners, civil society groups are planning to conduct a pilot project on ‘tracking’ the integration of HIV, gender and disabilities throughout the EIA process and into construction, and using lessons learnt, scale up this work to other capital projects at national and provincial levels.

 

Currently, UNDP South Africa is exploring the possibility of taking  this work forward with the Development Bank of Southern Africa as part of a possible longer term partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen,

 In conclusion, I would like to re-affirm UNDP’s continued commitment to maintaining existing partnerships with regional organizations like the AFDB and the AU and to strengthening newer ones with departments such as environment, health, public service and administration, SANAC and civil society and other partners such as DBSA in order to enhance the integration of health, gender and key cross cutting issues into the Environmental Assessment process.

With these few remarks, I would like to wish you a fruitful meeting and a pleasant stay in Centurion.

 

THANK YOU