Strategic Dilemmas and Policy Resolution

Cape Town, South Africa | 8 & 9 November 2023

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Rémy Rioux

Chief Executive Officer
AFD - Agence française de développement | France

A few weeks before COP28, this international research conference, organized with South African and European partners, will be an opportunity to discuss how we can shape strong sustainability trajectories and provide common responses to the global challenges we face.

Jutta Urpilainen

European Commissioner for International Partnerships
European Commission

As Commissioner for International Partnerships, I am putting the fight against inequalities at the heart of our international cooperation.
We must tackle inequalities by making them a crosscutting objective.
We must address economic, social and environmental inequalities working closely with countries and international partners.

H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa

President of the Republic of South Africa

We must summon the necessary will and resolve to regain the momentum towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. This means that we must address the fundamental development challenges that have long characterised our unequal world.

Murray Leibbrandt

African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research – ACEIR | University of Cape Town – UCT

The reduction of inequality is crucial to tackling climate change. But we need to recognise that a different kind of growth is needed to reduce inequalities – and that must be intertwined with the actions to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.


If insufficient action is taken to limit and adapt to climate change, the environmental impact of climate change will exacerbate inequalities and undermine progress in eradicating poverty. There is an inextricable link between inequality and climate change: it is always the most vulnerable who pay the highest price for climate disaster. Responding to the climate emergency requires profound changes in economies and labour markets if we are to achieve the goal of a net-zero emissions society. Ambitious mitigation policies must be developed and implemented to rapidly and profoundly transform our production and consumption patterns. This shift to a sustainable and inclusive economy makes the response to climate change integral to social transformation.


This conference is part of the research partnership between AFD and the European Union. Between 2017 and 2021, the first phase of the EU-AFD Research Facility on Inequalities developed more than 20 policy-oriented research projects in over 30 countries aiming to identify drivers, trends and policy levers for addressing inequality. In its second phase, it is focusing on four countries – South Africa, Colombia, Indonesia and Mexico – to study the interactions between inequality, environmental change and sustainability, with the aim of supporting governments in designing policy actions to meet these inter-dependent challenges.

Click here to learn more about the Facility.


South Africa remains one of the countries in the world most seriously affected by the effects of climate change (extreme weather events, stress on water and food security, etc.) At the same time, its coal-based energy sector makes it a major emitter of CO². Aware of this situation, South Africa is firmly committed to reducing its emissions and switching to cleaner energy sources, in line with its ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs). South Africa is also one of the most unequal societies in the world. Its energy transition must take account of the socio-economic precarity of the country. Hence, the presidency established a multi-stakeholder Presidential Climate Commission to define a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society that will also be ‘just’.

Through the Extension of the EU-AFD Research Facility on Inequalities, AFD works in close collaboration with the SA Government and local research centres to provide relevant research insights on how to support the reduction of socio-economic inequalities while addressing the challenges of the low carbon transition.

In addition, since 2021, France, as well as the EU and Germany, have been members of the Just Energy Transition Partnership, an initiative launched at COP26 to accelerate the decarbonisation of South Africa’s economy. France’s commitment will be implemented by AFD.


This conference is a collaboration between the South African Presidency, the EU, AFD and the African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research that is hosted by the University of Cape Town. It will bring together the political, academic and international development spheres to discuss how the trade-offs between inequality and environmental change are shaping each of the four country’s development pathways, focusing on how to build consensus and make progress on the political front.

DAY 1 of the conference showcases research on the strategic dilemmas that appear when designing long-term development trajectories that are both ecologically and socially sustainable.

DAY 2 engages high-level government officials and practitioners from especially the Global South to deliberate on specific and meaningful concessions aimed at shaping policy solutions.