Vice Chancellor of the University
University Management and Staff
Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen
Your attendance of this Public Lecture pleases me because it gives us an opportunity to have a detailed discussion on South Africa’s foreign policy endeavours. We have agreed with the University Management and the organisers to base our interaction on the theme “Fostering Democracy and Development through International Cooperation”. The intention thereof is to have a focused discussion on the key elements contained in this theme and to broadly reflect on our international engagements in pursuit of democracy and development across the globe.
From the onset I must state that linkages between democracy and development with important aspects such as good governance, peace and stability cannot be avoided. As for the International Cooperation element of our theme, we seek to demonstrate our foreign policy orientation, which is predicated on the principles of cooperation of international competition between international actors, particularly nation-states.
Ladies and gentlemen
Cooperation for democracy and development can only be achieved within the spirit of mutual respect and friendship within an environment that promotes peaceful coexistence in the world. It should never be forced or imposed. Furthermore, as an African country, cooperation between ourselves, Africa and the world should be based on these values. Our pathfinders were not mistaken when 61 years ago, through the Freedom Charter, they made the call:
“The right of all the peoples of Africa to independence and self-government shall be recognised, and shall be the basis of close co-operation”.
This call was made at a time when we were a pariah state within the international system due to colonial rule and apartheid. At this juncture and at various points of our history visionary leaders understood the importance of international cooperation in the pursuit of a democratic and an inclusive developmental South Africa.
I will not take too much time reflecting on history. However I would like to emphasise that the Freedom Charter formed the basis of our Constitution. This year marks 20 years since the signing into law of our Constitution which states in its preamble that our people adopt this supreme law so as to, among others:
“Build a United and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nation”.
Since the dawn of democracy we have continued to rebuild the country while working towards the realisation of the aspirations of our fellow brothers and sisters in Africa, the global South and the impoverished masses in the world. Achieving our own unity and development as a constitutional democracy required us to contribute towards the stabilisation of the Southern African region. There is general consensus that colonialism and apartheid had destructive effects to the entire Southern region.
In this regard, we could not have succeeded in reconstructing our country without the reconstruction of the entire region in order to achieve sustainable development. This position was clearly articulated in the country’s Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) that sought to develop a balanced southern Africa regional economy in pursuit of shared prosperity.
Against this background, we remain committed to the advancement of the regional integration and development agenda. We seek to achieve this undertaking through the implementation of the Southern African Development Community strategies and mechanisms such as the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).
As you may be aware, the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) which covered the period 2005 to 2020 underwent review and the revised document was adopted by the SADC Summit in April, 2015. In appreciation of the changing global political and economic environment, we deemed it necessary to review progress and refine our regional development strategy for implementation from 2015 to 2020.
The African continent
As a matter of principle, the African Agenda remains a cornerstone of our foreign policy. As earlier mentioned we understand unequivocally that our own development is predicated on the development of our continent. It is for this reasons that we pursue an African Agenda which places significant importance on the entrenchment of democracy, peace and security, and acceleration of economic growth not just for South Africa but for the betterment of all Africans. In essence, this commitment encapsulates our Pan Africanist foreign policy configuration.
In implementing these ideals we continue to utilise our own experience of a peaceful democratic transition to collaborate with fellow Africans in the pursuit of peace and stability on the continent.
We have significantly contributed in peace-making efforts through our special envoys in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Lesotho.
Furthermore, our Post Conflict and Reconstruction Development Programmes underscore the primacy of our long term investment in the Continent for its continued peaceful and prosperous development. Additionally, our continued support of democratic process such as elections and assisting in the building of institutions in the countries I earlier mentioned is yet another mechanism we use to imbed democratic principles on our continent.
We are also working closely with the African Union to implement its Agenda 2063 vision, which aims to change the developmental trajectory of the continent. Further, following the adoption of this vision, the first ten-year implementation plan has been developed and adopted. This plan is the vehicle which will aide in yielding the tangible benefits of Agenda 2063. For us it is important that we continue working towards strengthening the AU structures for effective implementation of its decisions as well as the aspirations of Agenda 2063.
However, it is equally imperative that the people of African descent across the globe continue to actively participate in the development of their motherland.
In this regard we believe that the African Diaspora can assist us in our endeavours aimed at promoting peace, stability, democracy and sustainable growth and development in Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is central in the pursuit of the aspirations of Agenda 2063. Thus, this continental economic blue print serves as a frame of reference for our development cooperation. Through NEPAD, we are able to cooperate with the outside world.
We therefore enter into strategic cooperative partnerships to implement the NEPAD priority projects. These bankable projects are anchored and implemented by Regional Economic Communities which are building blocks towards Africa’s integration.
Implementation of the global agenda
With regard to multilateral relations, since our re-admission to the United Nations our efforts have been focused on the interests and aspirations of the African Continent and the Global South.
Our two stints in the UN Security Council are also testament to this fact. We worked tirelessly in strengthening the relationship between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council to work towards respect of the regional organization’s intervention on issues affecting their regions.
This has yielded significant gains. For example, you now have a hybrid mission such as UNAMID, as well as greater cooperation between the two Councils. Further, we piloted resolutions which will further strengthen this cooperation.
As some of you are students of political studies students or enthusiasts, you will know that the programme of work of the UN Security Council is predominantly based on African issues. However, the configuration of the UN Security Council is such that Africans have a limited say in the management of their affairs.
We believe that an effective and collective global system of governance remains a critical tool in addressing the challenges faced by humanity across the globe. Thus we remain steadfast in our belief that it has to represent the geographical realities of the world. In its current formation, the global system of governance continues to marginalise developing countries. This is exacerbated by unilateral actions by global powers in pursuit of narrow national interests which continue to weaken the UN.
Consequently, we will continue our efforts in pushing for a reformed global governance system based on collective decision making and implementation.
It is worrisome that the gains registered in synergising the work of the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council (UNSC) to prevent and manage conflicts in Africa are being reversed.
We therefore believe that this is contrary to the spirit and provisions of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter on the relationship between the UN and regional organisations.
Last year was an important year, as the world adopted the UN sustainable development goals in September 2015. It’s particularly important for South Africa, as we were the chair of the Group of 77 and China, the largest negotiating block in the UN. It afforded us an opportunity to lead and forge consensus amongst the countries of the global south at a critical juncture, which led to a great deal of concerns of the South being incorporated in the new agenda. The unity of the Group was key in delivering these fundamental goals.
However, this is the critical phase where our efforts and resources shall be directed to the implementation of programmes that thrust us towards realisation of these goals. Suffice to underscore that these goals are synced with our own National Development Plan (NDP).
South- South solidarity and cooperation
Our membership of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) to influence political decision making in other broader multilateral fora such as the UN remains important. In fact our principals are going to Venezuela this weekend from 17-18 September for the NAM Summit.
It is an important meeting which will adopt the NAM positions and will also hand over chairmanship from Iran to Venezuela.
In the same vein, our participation in the Group of 77+China which is aimed at advancing the collective developmental aspirations of developing countries is also entering another critical phase as we are now working on implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This will prove difficult as you know.
We are all at different levels of development and our priorities tend to differ, and finding consensus is not always easy. We continue to utilise the Africa group as a negotiating block to further propel the needs of the continent.
We are satisfied with the benefits that South Africa derives from its membership of other formations comprising countries of the global South such as IBSA and BRICS.
Our participation in these forums is undoubtedly beneficial to the continent as well. Thus at continental level, we will continue to collectively advance Africa’s interests through participation in the AU Strategic Partnerships, such as the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and the New Africa Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP), amongst others.
Mutual beneficial relations with countries of the North
Our cooperative relations with the developed countries of the north is based on our shared commitment to build mutual beneficial partnerships with a view to address the needs and aspirations of African people, the people of the global South and the marginalised. We therefore cooperate at both bilateral and multilateral engagements. It is our continued endeavour to leverage the opportunities presented by these relations in an effort to close the widening gap between the prosperous North and the deprived developing South.
To complement our bilateral cooperation with countries of the North, we will continue to prioritise consolidating the Strategic partnership with the European Union (EU). This strategic partnership is an important platform through which we promote Africa’s socio-economic development agenda within the framework of NEPAD.
In conclusion, let me emphasise that we are guided by our National Development Plan (NDP) vision 2030 that calls for the building of a resilient economy and enjoins us to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. In essence, our foreign policy is informed and guided by our domestic imperatives.
We are confident that our resolve to deepen existing bilateral economic relations and to explore more trade and investment opportunities will contribute towards increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This is particularly important at a time when the general economic climate is very constricted. Further, global reconfigurations such as Brexit, require more recalibrations from our front in order to meet our developmental aspirations and grow the economy.
I thank you!!
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road