Africities pledge to protect the poor from disasters

Africities pledge to protect the poor from disasters

Several African mayors, including Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau, and delegates at the seventh edition of Africities Summit yesterday (Monday November 30) signed a pledge to address sustainable development, human-induced climate change, extreme poverty, modern slavery and human trafficking challenges confronting them.

The pledge is part of the Declaration of the Mayors signed at the Pontifical Academies of Science at the Vatican on 21 July 2015.

It was signed at the end of the modern slavery, human trafficking and climate change session on the second day of the five-day summit, hosted by the City of Johannesburg at the Sandton Convention Centre.

“The poor and excluded face dire threats from climate disruptions, including the frequency of droughts, extreme storms, heat waves and rising sea levels,” the declaration reads in part.

“The world should take note that the COP21 Paris climate summit may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2°C.

“As mayors we commit ourselves to building, in our cities and urban settlements, the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters, which foster human trafficking and dangerous forced migration,” it says.

“At the same time, we can commit to ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and domestic servitude; and to develop national resettlement and reintegration programmes that avoid involuntary repatriation of trafficked persons. We want our cities and urban settlements to become ever more socially inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

"The mayors also called on developed countries to help finance the cost of climate change mitigation in poor countries."

The pledge was signed after Nadia, a 24-year-old Burundian, told the summit how she was trafficked, gang-raped and became a mother at the age of 15.

Anglican Bishop Thomas Seoka called on delegates to help put human trafficking and modern slavery to a stop.

“Spread the word about slavery. Continuously challenge our leaders about this … they don’t know [what’s going on on the ground because] they live in ivory towers,” he said.

Mayor Tau said partnerships and collaborations would help build links between cities and the people and encourage debate on the issues. He said the summit would help build momentum around slavery and human trafficking.

“Slavery didn’t end at abolition. It exists in our cities and debate around this is important. South Africa and Africa have the appetite to tackle these challenges. African cities must assume responsibility and place slavery on the agenda.”

He said Ghana, where NGO Challenging Heights was fighting child slavery, was the best case study. Dr Kate Danvers said about 190 000 people were trapped in forced labour and exploitation in Ghana, with more than 21 000 children engaged in “hazardous labour”.