Address by Deputy President Zuma to the Opening Session of the African Caribbean pacific (ACP) - European Union (EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly

Issued by: Office of the Presidency
18 March 2002

Presiding Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Assembly,
Presiding Officers of the South African Parliament,
Ministers present,
European Union Commissioner,
Presidents in the Offices of the ACP and EU Councils,
Co-Secretary Generals of the ACP and EU Secretariats,
Chairperson of the Committee of Ambassadors,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of Parliament,

Allow me to begin by adding to the warm South African welcome that our visitors have already received. We are indeed happy to have you in our country, and trust that you are enjoying our hospitality.

Colleagues, I am truly privileged for the opportunity to address you as you begin your important deliberations on issues that affect the peoples of the North and South, the developed and developing worlds.

Your gathering is an important one, as it confirms the view that addressing poverty, underdevelopment and instability is the responsibility of all of us, regardless of whether we live in the North or South.

Your meeting here, in this important partnership of parliamentarians, affirms the fact that we have to work together to tackle the legacies of underdevelopment, colonialism and apartheid. It is important for us to discuss these issues, and also to ensure that whatever we do, we do it in a manner that will enhance and consolidate the sound economic and political relations that we have established.

Our approach must continue to be informed by the imperative of promoting sustainable development, particularly in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

The maintenance of constructive North-South dialogue is of particular importance to all of us. It allows us the platforms on which to discuss issues such as globalisation, debt relief, trade and foreign direct investment as well as improved infrastructure, especially information and communication technologies.

We must note, ladies and gentlemen, that this session, is taking place during the week in which the Financing for Development Conference is being held in Mexico.

As part of the developing world, we trust that the conference will deliver, among other things, an improvement in the financial relations between North and South, and especially a global financial architecture that protects developing economies from ravages of currency speculation. The issue of the need for the restructuring of the financial architecture is indeed critical point in the relationship between the North and South.

Honourable Members, we are happy that your meeting is taking place on African soil. The African continent has for many years been seen by some as a continent of doom. We believe Africa should now be seen as a continent of hope, and with good reason. The continent is moving in the right direction, towards creating enabling mechanisms for sustainable development, peace, stability, democracy and good governance and culture of respect for human rights.

Many will agree with us that sweeping changes are taking place in Africa. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), has introduced a new beginning and has become a blueprint for removing the continent away from economic and development stagnation.

Nepad brings with it a new way of doing things, and a new culture of managing the affairs of the continent. This new way of doing things includes the fact that for the first time, we see Heads of States and Governments actively involved in driving Nepad, and becoming involved in all processes regarding its conceptualization and implementation.

In addition, political leaders themselves are now raising issues that they would have felt uncomfortable to discuss in the past. These are issues such as the need for good economic and political governance, the necessity of working towards lasting peace and stability, and also the need for instituting peer review mechanisms, to ensure compliance with principles that would be agreed upon.

The decision of the OAU not to recognise leaders who come to power through military means is but one example of the determination of African leaders to do things differently.

Honourable members, I must stress that we take the issue of resolving conflicts in the continent quite seriously. Related to this question, a debate has begun about the need to review the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other states. While respecting the sovereignty of all nation states, it is also a fact that conflicts spill over into neighbouring states and become the problem of more than one country.

The resolution of conflicts will create the right environment for creating strong states, and will also prepare the continent for sustainable development.

Honourable Members, you would also be aware that the inaugural meeting of the African Union will take place in July this year, in South Africa. The AU is being structured to enable it to meet the challenges imposed by the new global conditions, and for it to be able to operate and execute its mandate in the new environment and new way of doing things in the continent.

Given these developments, we would therefore value the contribution of parliamentarians in promoting this new culture and new way of doing things, and in improving the quality of life of all in the developing world, especially in our continent.

It is for this reason as well that we are heartened by the kind of relations that the ACP and EU have managed to foster, nurture and sustain. This will assist in creating long lasting partnerships in the fight against poverty and underdevelopment.

Having said all the above, colleagues, I think we should appreciate the enormous responsibility that we face as parliamentarians. One of the challenges is how do we execute our oversight role effectively, for the benefit of the people we represent, given the changing circumstances in the world.

For example in Africa, you now have leaders who are committing themselves to a number of important principles and policies, such as peace, stability, democracy, good governance and respect for human rights.

How then do African parliamentarians ensure that they use their positions to ensure that governments implement programmes they have undertaken to implement? The same applies to any other part of the globe. The question we need to answer is how do we as parliamentarians execute our tasks in a manner that protects the citizens who voted us into office.

Colleagues, before I conclude, allow me to remind you of the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg in August this year. The Summit provides an invaluable opportunity to emphasise the importance of tackling the challenges that poverty and inequality pose.

Colleagues, I trust that as ACP and EU parliamentarians, we will play our role in infusing a stronger development thrust to the North-South dialogue, at the Summit, and other forums.

Let us also use forums such as this one to further strengthen dialogue, and work towards a new world order that is just, equitable and peaceful.

I wish you well in your deliberations, and I hope our visitors will enjoy their stay in our beautiful country.

I thank you.

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