Address by Deputy Minister Pahad to the Heads of Missions Conference, 18 January 1999

Dear Colleagues,

At the Heads of Mission meeting in September 1995, Minister Nzo said: "Our operational environment has changed dramatically. The end of the cold war has created a new global situation in which our young democracy must find its feet. The New World Order is fraught with uncertainties and insecurities. The ground beneath our feet is not firm: it is volatile and unpredictable. Yet, it is our primary task to secure and promote the sovereign integrity of the South African state, as well as the security and welfare of the civilians, of its citizens. All the Department’s activities should be geared to create a better life for South Africa’s people."


At that same gathering, the Deputy President said: "A distinguishing feature of South Africa is the sustained interest of the rest of the world in the future of South Africa. The depth of this interest is not only confined to government but includes ordinary people. They have not disengaged from South Africa. The strength and persistence of the international focus on South Africa puts the South African government under pressure to contribute positively and constructively to the global community."


He continued to say: "The Southern African region expects a positive contribution from South Africa in terms of their own development. They expect that we interact with them as a partner and ally, not as a regional superpower, so that what we achieve in terms of political, security and economic relations is ¼ mutually beneficial.


There are also expectations from Africa that South Africa should make a significant contribution towards peace and development on the continent".


He concluded: " It remains a challenge to achieve higher rates of trade and investment in South Africa. It is a major challenge for the Department of Foreign Affairs to engage the international community in South Africa and increase their involvement. Embassies should advise the Department on what government needs to do to remove obstacles at the international level with a view to sustained growth and development."


Trevor Manuel reaffirmed this general theme: "Missions have a special role in ensuring that foreign investors are better informed about opportunities in South Africa".


Incentives for foreign investment, and measures to create an investor friendly climate, are accorded key priority by the government. This must be the focus of embassies. There is a range of opportunities for foreign investors in South Africa’s Reconstruction and Development Programme. Missions have a special role to play to bring this to the attention of foreign investors and development assistance donor governments.


So, clearly the scenarios outlined at that time, continue to remain our broad perspectives. Today, we endorsed the general principles outlined at that time. However, it is important to recall that Minister Nzo warned that South Africa lacks the capacity and experience to operate at all levels and in all spheres, and said that it would be important for us to prioritise our activities in order to enable us to make the greatest contribution in the context of our limitations. And it was clear as well, that, as we grapple to meet the new challenges posed to us by the leadership, we are faced with the reality of a fundamentally transformed World Order. This, inter alia, was characterised by the end of the Cold War, the globalisation of the world economy - as we have discussed, growing importance of multilaterism, regional and continental cooperation, focus on good governance, Human Rights and democratisation, and the redefining of security issues (i.e. acceptance that security issues extend much further than defense matters and that it falls within the field of foreign policy and international relations.) Clearly, security related issues such as drug trafficking, illegal arms trading, migration and refugees, HIV and other contagious health matters, are important elements of our foreign policy perspectives.


We are now all conscious that as we attempt to meet our challenges, we are acutely aware that we have just emerged from isolation spanning over 40 years. We had to carry out the complex and difficult tasks of the transformation of our Department and the creation of one entity from the many entities. We also had to contend with the reality of a lack of experience, human resources and expertise.


As we approach the second democratic elections and the beginning of the new millennium, it was very important that we, who have all gathered at the banks of the Vaal River, openly, frankly and critically assess our activities of the last four years. Based on our past experience, and not just on theoretical concepts, we can concretely chart our path into the future.


We are all conscious that the environment within which we are now functioning, is more complex than even the one that we talked about in 1995. The whole issue of globalisation that we refer to, has manifested in many serious challenges. The Asian Crisis of a few months ago and now the Brazilian crisis, impacts on all our economies. It has brought into sharp focus the importance of globalisation and the importance of participating in it, and working together with others to ensure that it is not a process that leads to the benefit of only a few and the deprivation of the majority. We cannot ignore the fact that today 5 companies control more than 50% of the global market in branches such as the automotive industry, aerospace, electricity and electronics. Five corporations, control more than 40% of the global market in oil, personal computers and the media. A UNDP report reveals that fifteen countries kept growing fast, while more than a 100 countries have become poorer than they were 10 –15 years ago.


It is again a fact that the 350 largest corporations now account for 40% of global trade. Total global income has increased six-fold since 1960, but more than half of the world’s population, an estimated three billion people, have to support themselves on less than $2 a day.


Clearly, in our strategising for the way forward, we have to take into context how we deal with this reality. It is also obvious that while we cannot stop or ignore the process of globalisation, we cannot take for granted the views of those who claim that the market determines everything and that a totally unregulated global market is in the interest of sustainable growth and development.


The Midrand Declaration of UNCTAD, as well as the NAM Conference, articulated decisions which I believe give us an excellent basis on which we can lead both UNCTAD and NAM to become the instruments for us to ensure that the new globalisation that is emerging, is not one rampant capitilism that does not take into consideration the need of the poor and weak. So this is the challenge we discussed and I was happy that it was being reflected.


I want to also say that the thematic approach is a very important one, because if we want to move into the new millennium, assessing past trends and our weaknesses. It will then be important, as I said earlier, to move to have an approach that will enable us to achieve these objectives. And in this sense the thematic approach, I think, is a new innovation which is very important for our future perspectives. I want to also say that the new draft document that was discussed this morning, is a testimony to our capacity as a department to rise to the occasion, concretely assess our situation and more sharply seek to identify the broad objectives that we want to achieve.


It is also important for me to say, as has been said before, that the process that we have established under the new Director-General has to be commended for its participatory aspect. Indeed, as we have shown over the last few days, our ability to believe that nothing that is written, is cast in stone. As experienced members of our Department, we do consider it our right to change and to make suggestions for changes as we think in terms of our own understanding of what has to be done. Again, I believe that the experience of the last few days have showed us that our Department is able to differ on matters, but not to see this as antagonistic differences and to consider, as I said, that nothing is cast in stone and everything can be transformed. I believe that the regional group discussions on the thematic documents will undoubtedly further enrich the document and will enable us to go forward to the next stage.


I want to say again, that as we seek to implement our foreign policy objectives, we are all conscious that there are many other line-function departments whose activities impact on our foreign policy. We are aware that these departments have produced White Papers on their perspectives and programmes, and I hope it is true that all of us are acquainting ourselves with these documents. I strongly believe that the Department of Foreign Affairs has a crucial role to play in helping these Departments achieve their objectives. I believe that without our participation, their programmes will not see fruition.


We do not want to take over other Departments’ tasks, but we want to be a Department that helps them, as I said, to succeed in their objectives. We are also conscious that some Departments’ have representation abroad and others do not have any. Where there is no representation, we, in reality, should become such representatives. Where they have representatives, we can play a very important role in helping them achieve their objectives. Where departments are not functioning effectively at Head Office, it is our duty and task to take initiatives to motivate and activate them.


In the final analysis, as the Minister said in 1995, and I quote: "Foreign Affairs will have to play a coordinating and facilitating role to further that single most basic goal of helping to create a better life for South Africa’s people."


So, as we discuss our strategic objectives and the thematic approach, we do it fully understanding that while we are not competing with other Departments, we strongly believe we can make a contribution to their work and the activities of the reconstruction and development of our country. Let me quickly give a few examples: We are aware that the Department of Trade and Industry has got its butterfly concept, and, we appreciate the butterfly concept. We are also conscious that the Presidential Review Committee has recommended that the aspect of foreign trade and investment should be transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs. It makes sense. But in the mean time, there is much that we can do to make the DTI perspectives become a reality. Who is better equipped to enable our private sector, and indeed our trade representatives, to make contact with leading politicians and private sector elements in the respective countries? It can only be the Department of Foreign Affairs and Heads of Mission. Who is better placed than the Department of Foreign Affairs, through our missions, to be able to identify greater opportunities for trade and investments?


I do not believe any other department has that capacity and they expect us to do it for them. I am happy that the discussion this morning tried to isolate tourism from the other aspects. The Government has identified tourism as a priority for job creation and for the development of SMME’s. If we, as a Department, do not concentrate on assisting the Minister of Tourism, I do not believe that the very good-sounding policies will have the maximum success in ensuring that tourism takes its rightful place in the economic perspectives and development of our country. It is also the Department of Foreign Affairs, and nobody else, who can ensure that the negative reports that impact on tourism, such as crime are countered through our daily activities. You take issues like Human Resource Development and Science and Technology. The relevant Departments have signed many agreements on this. However, it is my personal view that we have not fully exploited what we can get out of those agreements. It is also my view that left to themselves, the relevant departments do not understand what opportunities exist abroad for scholarships and for the transfer of science and technology both ways. Again it is only the Department of Foreign Affairs that can exploit this potential and therefore empower the relevant departments to achieve the envisaged objectives. There are many possibilities. I have always wondered why missions in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have not fully exploited the wealth of brainpower that exists in those countries, to get brainpower from them, rather than going to the more developed countries and paying substantially more money.


So these are challenges that Heads of Missions must deal with. I was quite amazed to find out that only a few months ago we have discovered that India has got a major information technology centre and that a vast majority of American software is coming from the Silicon Valley of India. The mission has to go tell this to the relevant departments – they don’t know, they are sitting in Pretoria and cannot identify exactly what is going on abroad.


I am happy, that in the thematic programme we have talked about, development assistance to and from South Africa are becoming part of the department’s objectives and the department’s tasks. I have always found it strange that development assistance to South Africa is handled by the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance, as we have said previously, can oversee the spending, but who else knows what opportunities are available, what we can do to get more than the normal that is given to us, other than the Heads of Missions.


Finally, let me say, I do not know what other department is able to be on top of the information available from all countries, and the expertise available on many issues such as housing, privatisation, the combating of HIV/Aids, international terrorism and the drug cartels than our missions, our Department and Ministry. The actual expertise and the relevant information can only come from the missions. So I believe that the missions, as the Minister said in 1995, have got in terms of our thematic approach, a fundamental role to play to enable us to achieve the objectives of all the problems of the South African Government.


The Thematic Review is a sort of broad brush. I hope that after the regional discussions, it will go to the Desks so that we can unpack the broad principles and concretely identify specific aspects. I think that this is an ongoing task. Let me give you an example of unpacking: when we say we need to interface with SADC, the relevant Desk will say that in view of our Chairmanship of SADC, what has happened with the restructuring of SADC, what has happened with the Organ, that has been established to deal with conflict. Only if we unpack it in that way, will we give concrete expression to some of the very good suggestions that have been made.


It is clear that the new diplomats are not the diplomats of the old. Diplomacy has changed and I am glad that we once again focus on the economic aspects of our diplomacy, which cannot be separated, but is vital in terms of our duties. It is also clear that in the way we are working out our own prioritisation at Head Office. Our utilisation of resources that was indicated today, would have to be reassessed in order for us to make an input, as we believe we can in this very, very difficult international climate we are finding ourselves in.


So let me reassure you that while there are some skeptics that say because of the modern telecommunication on CNN and BBC, diplomats have become an endangered species, I believe that our discussions over the last few days, and the continuing discussions, will convince everybody that irrespective of what CNN and the BBC super-highway says, we as diplomats are relevant and will continue to be relevant.


Thank you.

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