National Framework for Sustainable Development




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Purpose of the Strategic Framework for Sustainable Development

The purpose of this Framework is to enunciate South Africa’s national vision for sustainable development and indicate strategic interventions to re-orientate South Africa’s development path in a more sustainable direction. It does not present detailed strategies or actions, but rather proposes a national vision, principles, trends, strategic priority areas and a set of implementation measures that will enable and guide the development of the national strategy and action plan.

It describes in broad terms how the existing activities of government and its social partners will be strengthened, refined and realigned in a phased manner to achieve inter-related sustainable development goals relating to the economy, society and the environment, and how governance systems will be capacitated to facilitate this process.

This Framework provides the basis for a long-term process of integrating sustainability as a key component of the development discourse and shows South Africa’s commitment to the principles developed at international summits and conferences in the economic, social and environmental fields, including the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

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How will the Framework be used?

The Framework will be used by all social partners and all organs of state within the national, provincial and municipal spheres to progressively refine and realign their policies and decision making systems in order to establish a coherent and mutually consistent national system aimed at promoting sustainable development.

This process will be facilitated by the development of a coherent set of sustainable development indicators; making investments in capacity building, research and development and information technology; and by the development of a national sustainable development strategy which identifies and prioritises specific government interventions.

Key components of the Framework

A national vision for sustainable development

The notion of “sustainable development” is often used in policy and strategy documents to refer to many different things, but it is rarely defined to mean anything specific. We are now obliged by our international commitments, constitutional principles and statutory laws to justify our national policies and development strategies in terms of sustainable development.

Our vision gives effect to the notion that sustainable development should be “an integrationof governance, multiple voices, processes and action in decision-making towards a common goal within set parameters and a common definition of policy choices for promoting a sustainable development agenda.

The national vision for sustainable development is as follows:

  • Vision

South Africa aspires to be a sustainable, economically prosperous and self-reliant nation state that safeguards its democracy by meeting the fundamental human needs of its people, by managing its limited ecological resources responsibly for current and future generations, and by advancing efficient and effective integrated planning and governance through national, regional and global collaboration.

Our vision is informed by the environmental, social and economic and other fundamental human rights enshrined in our Constitution, and the global and national priorities captured in the MDG, JPOI and the government’s macro socio-economic policies. It is a projection of our nation’s aspirations of achieving a better quality of life for all now and in future, through equitable access to resources and shared prosperity.

It places the nation on a developmental trajectory which of necessity must move society towards greater efficiency and innovation in resource use, and the integration of social, economic, ecological and governance systems. The national vision is underpinned by a set of principles that must guide all of us in all decisions and actions taken to achieve the vision. These principles are captured as:

  • The “first order” or fundamental principles relate to those fundamental human rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution, and underpin the very nature of our society and system of governance. These principles affirm the democratic values of:
    • Human dignity and social equity
    • Justice and fairness
    • Democratic governance
  • The “substantive principles” address the content or conditions that must be met in order to have a sustainable society and are based on principles already enshrined in legislation and policies. The principles underscore a cyclical and systems approach to achieving sustainable development and are as follows:
    • Efficient and sustainable use of natural resources
    • Socio-economic systems are embedded within, and dependent upon, eco-systems
    • Basic human needs must be met to ensure resources necessary for long-term survival are not destroyed for short term gain
  • The “process principles” establish a few clear principles that apply specifically to the implementation of the national strategic framework for sustainable development. The most important in this regard are:
    • Integration and innovation
    • Consultation and participation
    • Implementation in a phased manner
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The chapter highlights natural, social, economic, governance and critical cross-cutting global trends that will have an influence on sustainable development in South Africa. The underlying research for this chapter is set out in annexure 2.

Cross-cutting global trends that will have very specific impacts on our shorter-term social and economic policies include climate change, rising oil prices and globalisation. The next group of trends analysed are natural resource trends. The analysis of these trends clearly indicate that we need to take into account our supply of natural resources and status of our eco-system services as we pursue economic development via shared growth to eradicate poverty.

The analysis of economic trends that follows maps the main macro-economic trends and how we intend reaching a 6% growth rate via investments in infrastructure, human capacity development and social development. The analysis of social trends is based on the Macro-Social Report published by the Presidency which concludes that the quality of life of the majority of South African citizens has improved.

These social trends indicate that while we have made good progress on some fronts, we should take advantage of the current positive trends, and escalate and focus actions to achieve the MDGs. The examination of governance trends indicate that while governance is generally felt to be coherent, particular challenges for government relate to capacity and resource constraints at the local municipal level. There are positive private sector trends regarding building capacity for measuring the sustainability impacts of their businesses. Civil society formations need to be strengthened so that they can match and contest what is happening in the private sector.

Priority areas for strategic intervention

The identification of five priority areas for strategic intervention, and supporting priority recommendations, was based on the analysis of the natural resources, economic, social and governance trends. This chapter contextualises these priority areas against the backdrop of international and national policy goals and commitments in respect of sustainable development.

It highlights progress to date and illustrates that concerted efforts have been made to address the MDG and JPOI goals and meet regional objectives, targets and commitments in respect of sustainable development. South Africa has already taken numerous steps in responding to the global goals and targets. This has happened at the level of planning, by developing polices and strategies to establish priorities for action and expenditure, as well as the implementation level by rolling out programmes and projects.

These interventions have taken place in all sectors and across all spheres of government. This section lists some of the major strategies and plans put into place in response to specific MDG and JPOI goals and targets.

The chapter shows too that despite the considerable progress made, there are still gaps and various challenges to delivery on sustainable development objectives. The most important in this regard is bridging the gap between the first and second economies, eradicating poverty and improving the quality of life of poor South Africans. Another major challenge is changing human behaviour in a manner that promotes sustainable development and reduces unsustainable consumption and production patterns.

The five strategic priority areas for action and intervention that are necessary to reach the desired state of sustainable development described in the national vision reflect a systemic and integrative approach and seek to transcend traditional divisions and sectors. These priority areas, or “pathways” to achieving sustainable development are reflected as:

  • Enhancing systems for integrated planning and implementation
  • Sustaining our ecosystems and using natural resources efficiently
  • Economic development via investing in sustainable infrastructure
  • Creating sustainable human settlements
  • Responding appropriately to emerging human development, economic and environmental challenges
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Making it happen

The final chapter deals with implementation. Implementation calls for decision-making and action at various levels. In order to embark on our journey towards being “a sustainable, economically prosperous and self-reliant nation” we need certain things. The first is the identification of an existing institutional mechanism that can facilitate cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder coordination.

Secondly we need an action plan to make sense of the directions contained in the five priority areas. The action plan is our “roadmap”. To embark upon this journey we will have to ensure that everyone is on board and stays on board. For this we need ongoing communication andconsultation on achieving our national vision and strategy.

The chapter unpacks the manner in which the national vision and strategy is to be communicated, consulted and popularised, both within Government and society in general. Finally we need a “compass” to measure our progress and check that we are still headed in the correct direction. This requires that we strengthen appropriate monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems, including principles and a set of indicators, to monitor and evaluate performance in order to be able to determine success or failure and determine what corrective or adaptive measures are needed.

This chapter describes a three-phased road-map towards achieving the national vision for sustainable development. Phase I is the National Framework for Sustainable Development. It sets the framework for a common understanding and vision of sustainable development; describes the South African context, as well as key medium and long term economic, social, and environmental and governance trends that influence sustainable development; and defines 5 priority areas for strategic intervention. Phase II is about preparing and planning for action, and includes formalisation of an institutional framework for sustainable development, development of a detailed action plan and mobilising the necessary resources. Phase III is about roll-out, implementation, monitoring and review.

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To successfully implement this National Framework for Sustainable Development and achieve sustainable development objectives and targets, the nation as a whole must increasingly share in the common vision. All sectors, including all elements of the state plus civil society, organised labour and business, need to take part in the social contract to implement the NFSD and the emergent national strategy to follow.

We need to promote simple actions on a large scale. As understanding of sustainable development increases, and it becomes clear that this is the key mechanism for building capacity and governance to achieve human development based on sustainable production and consumptions systems, government and society across all spheres and all sectors will approach and address the issues identified in this strategy with the seriousness they deserve.

In deciding on resource allocation and in making policy choices, the Executive should seek to give effect to the vision of sustainability. Priorities and commitments should be clearly articulated. While sustainability concerns do impact on all facets of life, we should keep our focus on the identified five priority areas for strategic intervention and the importance of mainstreaming these into the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiatives (ASGISA) and related programmes. These priority areas should, over the coming three to five years, serve as catalysts for policy changes that will facilitate the achievement of the desired ideal state as articulated in the national vision for sustainable development.

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