Address at the Uruguayan Diplomatic
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 humanitys 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
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
Africas 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 Africas 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 peoples 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
As part of our own governments 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
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
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 worlds 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 worlds 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 SouthSouth
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 worlds
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.
NorthSouth 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.