Address by the Deputy President Zuma, to the Plenary Session of the African Development Forum III

Issued by: Office of the Presidency
8 March 2002

The Honourable Prime Minister of Ethiopia
Ministers present,
Secretary General of the OAU
Executive Secretary of the ECA
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honoured to be part of this occasion to share thoughts about how to achieve sustainable development and prosperity in our continent.

Chairperson, I would like to commend the organisers for the choice of the theme for this session. Regional integration is an essential building block towards a strong African Union, with a strong economic foundation. The ideas being shared here contribute enormously towards forging unity and stability.

Let me, from the onset, say that the difficulties and challenges we are experiencing are not peculiar to Africa. Development countries went through similar problems but with time and effort they were able to find solutions.

In dealing with our challenges, it is imperative that we search for new ways of doing things. This means that we have to change our attitudes and manner of operating, and take drastic measures to turn the situation around.

Colleagues, it is important to stress that as Africans we are not raising the importance of democracy, democratic practices, peace and stability to please others. We are doing this because we want to take ourselves out of the difficulties we have been experiencing as a continent.

We have seen, and must accept, that with some of our current leadership in the continent a new culture of addressing our challenges has emerged. This new culture has made a remarkable impact within, and beyond, the continent.

This generation of leadership has, in a compelling way, brought many key and fundamental issues to the fore that provoked defensive reactions in the past. Some of those very same issues, like democracy, good governance and peer review, among others, are the ones we are debating in this conference.

For instance, in the past leaders were hesitant to speak about peer review mechanisms because there was not a culture of addressing issues in an open and rank manner.

But today we hear African leaders themselves say that we seriously need to contribute to the development and implementation of workable peer review and problem solving mechanisms in the regional structures and other levels.

For it to be successful and acceptable, the peer review mechanism needs to be, in the main, politically driven, and be seen to be so, with political leaders taking the responsibility. The credibility and integrity of the process will largely depend on the attitudes and actions of political leaders.

Also important and linked to the peer review mechanism is the need to discuss the principle of non-interference in the light of working towards peace and stability in the region.

We are moving away from paying lip-service to this issue, because we are reaching a point where we realise that there is a need to take decisive action to guarantee lasting peace and stability for ourselves. The decision of the OAU not to recognize those who come to power through military means shows that the continent is serious about charting a new way of doing things.

An important development is also the current transformation of the OAU into a dynamic new structure, the African Union, which is being shaped in such a way that it would be better able to meet the current challenges imposed by the new global conditions.

This is because of the realisation that the OAU, in its old form, is not able to operate, and do things in this new way.

As part of a new way of doing things, Heads of State have become actively involved in driving the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) to put Africa on a new, stronger footing to meet the challenges of the day.

The challenges include:-

Globalisation and its effects on poor countries,
Ongoing under-development, poverty and disease,
Conflict situation in some areas.
This commitment to do things differently clearly shows the new character of the leadership, which effectively cuts out the bureaucracy and gives practical effect to the requirements of Nepad.

It is important that all organs of civil society provides support and appreciates the new direction being undertaken by the leaders in the continent. This poses a challenge to them to participate in issues of development, bring their vast expertise into the continental processes and contribute in the new way of doing things. Partnerships between our governments and all organs of civil society are key to the levels of success we require.

Colleagues, coupled with our guest for peace and stability, we are also faced with the challenge of securing sustainable development in this continent.

It is for this reason that we would like to see governments, business communities, the intelligentsia and civil society organs from all over the continent attend and participate in the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in August 2002, in South Africa.

This Summit is a strategic opportunity for us to emphasise that poverty and inequality are the greatest threat to sustainable global development in the twenty first century. We must use this opportunity to ensure that the developed world joins us in our new way of doing things.

For the first time in our history the developed world is ready to listen to us. We need to make the most of this opportunity to advance our development agenda.

This is the moment for us as Africans to turn our rich linguistic, religious and cultural diversity into our biggest strength.

It is appropriate that we, as part of doing things in a new way, begin to define our local and regional identities within the broader African context.

It is also appropriate that we, in doing things differently, become peace-loving brothers and sisters to each other, regardless of where in the continent we were born.

We must do this not for ourselves, but for the millions of Africans who have placed their faith in us to lead them out of the quagmire of desperation, deprivation and denigration, and into a future of hope and promise.

I thank you.

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