United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
South Africa joined UNESCO on 12 December 1994 and is an active participant in key UNESCO governance structures such as the General Conference and the World Heritage Committee. The country currently serves as a member of the organization’s Executive Board for the term 2021 – 2025. Through its participation in UNESCO meetings and conferences, including those of the World Heritage Committee (WHC), South Africa utilizes UNESCO to advance its socio-economic development and to contribute towards building peace through international cooperation in the field of education, science (human, natural and social), culture, communication and information.
South Africa also contributes to the organization’s programme of work and budget allocations and ensures that Africa and gender equality remain the key priorities for UNESCO. South Africa acceded to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (December 2003) and the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (May 2015).
Since South Africa ratified the World Heritage Convention on 10 July 1997, UNESCO has inscribed several sites in the country as world heritage sites, namely the:
- Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa (1999);
- Robben Island Museum (1999);
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park (1999);
- Maloti-Drakensberg Park (2000);
- Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (2003);
- Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (2004);
- Vredefort Dome (2005);
- Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (2007);
- Khomani Cultural Landscape (2017); and
- Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains (2018).
After joining the UNESCO in 1994, South Africa established the National Commission for UNESCO in 1998 – a structure through which the country interacts with the UNESCO and coordinates the organization’s various areas of work. The NATCOM’s secretariat is hosted by the Department of Basic Education.
In 2021/22 South Africa participated in the:
- UNESCO 41st General Conference: during the conference, held in November 2021, South Africa was elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO for the period 2021 to 2025, and the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme of UNESCO. South Africa uses its membership on the Executive Board to pursue the country’s national interests and that of the continent in the Medium-Term Strategy, in particular Priority Africa and Gender Equality; UNESCO’s new MTSF for 2022 to 2029. The emerging deliverables are contained in the programme and budget for 2022 to 2025; amongst other key items – the landmark normative instruments namely, Ethics of Artificial Intelligence; and Open Science; the Futures of Education, including the critical role of the International Bureau of Education in curriculum development globally, and in the developing countries in line with the SDGs and the AU Agenda 2063.
- Extended 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC): the committee convened virtually from Fuzhou, China from 16 to 31 July 2022. Key agenda items included the examination of the state of conservation reports; establishment of the World Heritage List (WHL) and the List of World Heritage in Danger; global strategy for a representative balanced and credible WHL and the consideration of periodic reports. Major outcomes included the inscription of 34 new properties on the WHC list, including two from Africa. This calls for more work on the Priority Africa Program and the deliverables of the African World Heritage Fund. South Africa used its membership of the WHC to advocate for the inscription of South African and African sites on the World Heritage List, and to support the effective conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage of outstanding universal value in Africa. The session also elected the Bureau for the 45th Session of the WHC, with South Africa nominated as the African representative, mandated from the end of the 44th session until the end of the 45th session of the committee. South Africa will continue to engage key countries to support the African World Heritage Fund and to advance Priority Africa.
Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
The OECD serves as a catalyst to generate discussions on the global economy, the international financial architecture, financial regulatory reform and global economic governance – with the aim of creating a strong platform for influencing global economic policy. Although South Africa is not a member of the OECD, it is one of five countries that have “Key Partner” status with the OECD – alongside Brazil, China, Indonesia and India. Engagement with the OECD has the potential to relate directly to three over-arching development objectives: ensuring that inclusive economic growth is a critical condition for addressing South Africa’s triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality; sustaining a skilled and capable workforce in order to support the delivery of the NDP targets and advancing the African Agenda.
South Africa’s relationship with the OECD is governed by the South Africa-OECD Engagement Framework (2017 - 2021), which was approved in 2017. In 2020, both parties concluded negotiations for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Cooperative Activities which sets out a Joint Work Programme for collaboration, over a period of five years, in:
- inclusive growth and competitiveness;
- the development of small, micro and medium enterprises;
- trade investment;
- skills development and a capable workforce; and
- stronger institutions, fiscal matters and good governance.
The MoU was signed in 2023.
South Africa participates in the following OECD committees:
- Working Party on Private Pensions,
- Regional Development Policy Committee,
- Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions,
- Mutual Acceptance of Data,
- Base Erosion and Profit Shifting,
- Development Centre,
- Competition Committee,
- Steel Committee,
- Tourism Committee,
- Joint Meeting of the Chemicals Committee and Working Party on Chemicals, Pesticides and Biotechnology,
- Public Governance Committee,
- Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy
- Committee for Agriculture,
- Committee on Digital Economy Policy, and
- Local Economic and Employment Development
Source: South African Yearbook 2021-2022 https://www.gcis.gov.za/