Masimba Tafirenyika, Director of United Nations Information Center in Pretoria, South Africa, gave the keynote address to the Johannesburg Model United Nations XVI. Mr Tafirenyika challenged us to play a part in the development of Africa, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“These goals will transcend all cultures in Africa,” he said. The UN is working to strengthen the collective economy. This time, the UN does not want development to come at a cost - Africa’s galaxy of unique cultures, traditions, and resources should not be compromised.
When he walked on stage, Mr. Tafirenyika saw hundreds of people, each with a different expression, and each with a different background but all united in their desire to promote change in the world. Despite the youth of the majority of his audience, Mr. Tafirenyika was confident that each and every one of them has the capacity to make a positive difference. He pointed out that the Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework in which we can all act.
Mr. Tafirenyika acknowledged the impediments in communicating SDGs to regular people. He states that other UN agencies have already begun implementing the development goals, but his focus is to first ensure public understanding of them.
“There is a lot of ignorance of what SDGs are. What we are trying to do is distill them… Most of our work is with NGOs, labor unions, schools, students, private sectors… We have outreach programs that actually go out in local communities, for example, here in townships,” he said. Mr. Tafirenyika works to find new ways to inform the public about sustainable development and how it can be achieved.
‘You don’t have to wait for the government to implement SDGs,” he said. Communities are what the people make them - a regular person can contribute to change. The question is simply: how?
Adversities will always arise when solutions are being sought. Mr. Tafirenyika discussed the issues of climate change during the interview. Sustainable Development was formulated on the basis of environmental preservation. While contemporary technology allows for this, much of these resources are costly in the initial implementation. Countries like the Netherlands or the United States of America have the economic assets to administer such alterations; however, countries such as South Africa do not.
The mining industry generates income of paramount importance in South African yet simultaneously is detrimental to our environment. While there have been several external attempts of intervention in the South African industry, Mr. Tafirenyika explained how some argue that the income mining provides is vital to South Africa’s development and the damage is justifiable collateral.
This controversy remains. Most developed countries attained their financial means to protect the environment, only through damaging it in the first place. These contemporary challenges were debated by JoMUN delegates in committees such as Environmental Commission and Economic and Social Council during the weekend.
But Mr. Tafirenyika challenges everyone to establish understandings of the SDGs’ core values with everyone from friends and family, to large organizations.
We can each act. In fact, the there is an app where users can register and record their SDG related tasks and receive awards through an accumulation of points. For example, to get tickets to the Global Citizens Festival where Beyonce, Jay-Z, and many more are performing, one can “earn their tickets” using this app.
“The actions listed are simple,” Mr. Tafirenyika explained, “like using alternatives to single-use plastic, or restraining ourselves from throwing garbage in places other than their respective bins.” JoMUN attendees, and everyone else, can make a difference.
The delegates at JoMUN XVI exhibited great determination to learn, grow, and improve the world. It doesn’t stop there. Each choice made, and every action taken can make a difference.
As Mr. Tafirenyika said, “Development goals are not just for the government or the United Nations. They are for you.”
Sonali Malik. Year 12 AISJ