Address at the Uruguayan Diplomatic Institute

Your Excellencies

Honourable Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of my delegation and the South African government, may I take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diplomatic Academy for the invitation extended to me to address this gathering.

On the eve of the UN Millennium Summit we are called upon to urgently address the myriad of problems facing the nations of the South and the world in general. I refer here especially, to those issues related to the globalising nature of our world such as sustainable development, poverty eradication, debt relief, transfer of technology, HIV/AIDS, the reform of the UN system and many others. These issues are not just catch-phrases or tired clichés, but issues of survival for our continents and many in the third world. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations so eloquently notes in his report to the Millennium Summit, this Summit affords a powerful opportunity to the world to reflect on the achievements of the United Nations and its subsidiary organs. It is both a time to celebrate humanity’s achievements over the last millennium and also to strategies and to make amends where the system has been lacking.

The Millennium Summit is therefore especially a time for the countries of the South to seek revival and take stock of the many ills that affect our societies. Many of our countries remain conflict ridden. While we seek to urgently resolve them and prevent others from developing, it is imperative that we understand that the sources of these conflicts are not only shabby governance, ethnic and religious strife, but are the products of centuries of a colonial system that left behind poverty, poor education and infrastructure, a lack of democratic traditions as well as artificial borders that did not exist on their arrival, and that eventually only served to further divide people.

While there is a growing recognition of the fact that democratic, clean and accountable governance is fundamental to the prevention of further conflicts, it is perhaps more important to note that poverty eradication and sustainable development are the permanent answers to these seemingly endless conflicts. On the other hand it is exactly the continuance of these conflicts, the endless violence against innocent civilians, the inhumane nature of landmines and the continuous destruction of infrastructure and the reaping of natural resources to fund parties to these conflicts, which in essence prevents these developing countries to rise from their colonial legacy of poverty and underdevelopment.

On the African continent these issues are of particular concern as far more people have been killed in civil wars and acts of genocide. These wars in many instances have been fuelled by weapons widely available and supported by natural resources such as diamonds and oil etc. It is these and other concerns which have partly given rise to the philosophy of an African Renaissance.

The vision espoused by the former President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, of an African Renaissance is currently being resuscitated by many African leaders including our own President, Thabo Mbeki. Historically, and especially in the post-colonial period, African leaders spoke of Africa’s contributions to the very evolution of human life and also of ancient times when Africa was a leading centre of learning, technology and culture. They were referring to the discovery of evidence, which points to Africa’s primacy in the historical evolution of human kind. Those leaders called for an African re-awakening to restore this legacy.

The concept of the African Renaissance, therefore, encompasses the repositioning of the African continent in the international fold. It envisages a continent whose people’s are finally freed from want, poverty, violence and disease; a region with a culture of human rights, good governance and respect for the rule of law; an area with investment flows and trade that sustain economic growth and development to such levels that Africa becomes an equal partner within the community of nations.

As part of our own government’s commitment to the African Renaissance we have tried to play a constructive role in the resolution of various conflicts in the sub-region, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a peace accord was eventually signed. We made this a priority area, as the conflict not only involved various guerrilla groups, but also involved five other countries of the sub-region, with the potential to involve even more.

It became clear, however, that a more concerted international effort, under the auspices of the United Nations, was needed to keep the peace, and proceed to a national convention wherein the people of the Congo would decide their destiny. We are all aware today, that the United Nations did not send in its peacekeeping troops, and that, as we speak, serious conflict has broken out again. This is evidently an enormous setback for the region, which cries out for peace and development, and not more conflict.

As a continent we have a clear realisation of what is needed to address the issue of poverty and economic prosperity. Issues that have already been alluded to and that need a concerted effort includes education, health, creating greater equality, preventing conflict and addressing the issue of debt.

A global commitment to poverty reduction is of vital importance to Africa. It is the region of the greatest suffering. Growth in per capita income averaged from 1.5 percent in the 1960s to –1.2 percent in the 1980s. In the 1990s the region grew more slowly than any other middle or low income country. Per capita income is a mere $500 a year.

Capital investment to Africa is a tiny fraction of global investment while capital flight is another serious problem.

An inclusive global market is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. When the poor are denied opportunities to make a living, the entire world is impoverished. The rich countries need to open their markets, provide debt relief and focus on better development assistance than in the past.

The world’s commitment to poverty eradication must be seen as a moral imperative as well as a common interest. While each country must take responsibility for its own economic growth and poverty eradication, it is a global challenge to all countries.

However, a bright light in Africa is Mozambique. It topped the world’s GDP growth in 1999. Botswana and several other countries have performed well economically for several years. The HIPC initiative, however, needs further attention. To date only 4 countries have qualified under the initiative with Mozambique the only African country to do so.

Other issues that also need to be addressed are the enormous divide between the countries of the North and the South, in terms of technological advances, investment flows and economic development. The development of technology has had a severe impact on the world, as we knew it. It has created a new economy previously unknown. Capital is increasingly intellectual. The digital revolution has transformed and enhanced our activities.

In this new globalised world we must guard against the trend where technological advances and economic prosperity benefit a shrinking percentage of the world population, where the gap between the rich and poor has reached abysmal levels. Of people living in Africa south of the Sahara, the majority still live on less than one US Dollar a day, and most are today just as poor as they were 20 years ago.

This is exactly the argument labelled against the effects of globalisation. Globalisation is not opposed per se. The protest against globalisation as was manifested during the Seattle round of the WTO, is against the resultant disparities. The benefits and opportunities are concentrated and unevenly spread amongst a few countries only. Globalisation it seems, despite its advantages, unleashes forces which result in economic instability and social dislocation as was seen with the Asian financial crisis. Globalisation must mean more than creating bigger markets. It must also include the social and political spheres of life. Revolutionary global communications have created expectations that human suffering will be erased and that fundamental rights will be addressed. It is clear that this has not happened.

Another inhibiting factor to the development of many countries, is the burden of debt which in effect limits their ability to spend their scarce resources where they are needed most: on the development and care of their people. Total outstanding debt exceeds GNP and debt servicing 25% of export revenue earned. An indication of the importance of this issue lies in the mandate from the OAU to

the Presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria to engage with the industrialised and creditor nations on debt alleviation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The problems we have referred to are common to many of our countries. They have, consequently, become part of what some call the "South Agenda". It is towards their fruition that the issue of South–South co-operation becomes imperative. Only our united action can help restore the dignity of our peoples.

The Southern African region is engrossed in negotiations to establish a Free Trade Area between member-States of the Southern African Development Community. This agreement has the potential to increase trade and investment in a region that is, indeed, one of the world’s richest in mineral resources. While we have not advanced as fast as we would all have liked, we are nevertheless making progress in this endeavour.

Similarly the envisaged trade agreement between South Africa and Mercosur will bring even greater benefit to both of our regions. The need for co-operation between the countries of the South however need to be extended beyond mere trade. We need to utilise the resources and expertise that we possess amongst ourselves. Also our countries are called upon to increase their role in international relations, if we are to adequately address the challenges that face us as countries of the South. South Africa for its part, is engaged in numerous structures and initiatives in this regard, of which I will mention only a few. We are currently Chairperson of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and plays an active role in The United Nations HR Commission, SADC, the G77 and China, etc.

To the countries of the South and global community, it is clear that we cannot and should not address these issues alone. As President Mbeki rightly put it, humanity owes it to itself to seek the resolution of these problems. North–South co-operation is therefore essential, not only because of the transfer of resources involved, but because it is a morally correct imperative.

It is for this reason that South Africa and her partners in the South should engage the countries of the North in constructive negotiations that will lead to the resolution of these issues.

I am pleased to say that there are good relations between Uruguay and South Africa. However we need to increase levels of trade and investment, and co-operation in multilateral and other fora. In this context, we are happy to be negotiating a free trade agreement with Mercosur, which has the potential of unleashing of our economic potential, thereby bringing increased prosperity to our peoples. I look forward to our two countries forging closer ties in the future.

Thank you.

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