Statement by Minister Dlamini Zuma delivered on behalf of President Thabo Mbeki at teh AASROC, Indonesia, 29 July 2003

Your Excellency, The President of the Republic of Indonesia

Honourable Ministers

Your Excellencies

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a pleasure for me as Co-Chair to welcome you all to this historic Conference. It is indeed an honour for South Africa to have been invited by President Megawati Soekarnoputri to act as co-host of the Asian-African Sub-Regional Organisations Conference (AASROC), which will lead to the 2005 celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Asian-African Conference (AAC) that was held in Bandung in 1955.

In his address to the 8th Summit of ASEAN in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 5 November 2002, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, from whom I bring you warm greetings, called for a rekindling of the Spirit of Bandung. The President recalled the close cooperation between Africa and Asia that resulted from the Bandung Conference and the fact that it also led, in 1961, to the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement NAM), an organisation which finally gave a voice to the marginalised masses of the world.

In the intervening years, NAM has become one of the most important voices on the world stage. There could not have been many people in 1955 that foresaw the unparalleled scope and success of the Asian-African Conference and its offspring, the NAM. While most of the nations of Asia and Africa are still confronted with the difficulties they faced in 1955, it is interesting, and even uplifting, to contrast the situation of Asian and African countries in 1955 with their situation in the world today.

Most of the Asian countries had only recently emerged from colonial rule, and many African countries were still engaged in a desperate struggle for freedom. Today, almost all the countries of Africa and Asia are independent and are able to occupy their rightful place as sovereign nations in the global community. The enormity of this achievement should not be under-estimated. The cooperation amongst countries of Africa and Asia in working together towards overcoming the forces of colonialism and oppression fostered a feeling of common destiny and purpose.

In 1955, the principles of racial equality and the right of self-determination of all nations were anything but universally accepted. It was Bandung that brought these principles to the world's attention. Through the fearless and unshakeable cooperation of Africa and Asia in international fora such as the UN, the nations of Africa and Asia achieved political and moral victory over their former oppressors. It is only in retrospect, therefore, that one can truly appreciate the vision and foresight of the pioneers of Bandung.

South Africa was the last of the oppressed to finally achieve liberation and democracy and to savour the sweet taste of freedom. Two of the foremost leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), Moses Kotane and Maulvi I. A. Cachalia, were present at the Bandung Conference to bring to the attention of the International Community the plight of the suffering majority in South Africa. Bandung responded to this call by condemning apartheid as a violation of human rights and embraced the cause for the liberation of South Africa. In this regard Bandung was far ahead of its time.

Thanks to this dedicated support, South Africa will soon celebrate 10 years of democracy. Since 1994, the country's international relations have expanded and grown in many areas - including trade, investment, tourism, political cooperation and culture. The South African government places heavy emphasis on South-South cooperation - inter alia, through active participation in NAM. This Movement has always stood for the principles of active peaceful coexistence and the maintenance and consolidation of peace and security, as well as for the economic advancement of developing nations.

Despite the end of the Cold War, it is clear that there are new security and economic challenges shaping the global political stage. For both Asia and Africa multilateralism is critical. It therefore becomes incumbent on us to strengthen multilateralism and not allow it to be weakened and undermined.

One of the major scourges undermining international peace and security is the growth of terrorism. We need to pool our resources in fighting terrorism globally through the United Nations.

Our joint commitment in creating a peaceful and stable international environment makes it imperative for us to support efforts in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict leading to the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state living side-by side in peace with Israel.

Both Asia and Africa must collaborate closely in addressing the imbalances in the world trade architecture. In particular, we should pool our efforts in order to break the current logjam being experienced in the WTO- Doha round of negotiations in Geneva, to ensure a successful outcome of the Cancun WTO Ministerial Meeting later this year.

Economically, many of our countries are still struggling to focus on development, upliftment and the eradication of poverty. Many developing nations still feel marginalized and excluded from the benefits of globalisation and the digital age.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for the countries of Asia and Africa to reactivate the Spirit of Bandung. It was a goal of that Conference to address issues of common concern and to "discuss ways and means by which all peoples could achieve fuller economic, cultural and political cooperation". As we strive to re-kindle the Spirit of Bandung, we should not lose sight of this goal of continued close cooperation between Asia and Africa.

As the countries of Asia and Africa face the growing and multifaceted challenges of globalisation and the changing geopolitical situation in the world, it is imperative that they strengthen their collaboration in the areas of global peace and security, the establishment of an equitable international economic order, more equitable trade relations, the promotion and expansion of investments, ODA reform, the eradication of poverty, the easing of the oppressive and debilitating debt burden of developing countries, the alleviation of the negative effects of globalisation and the establishment of a global partnership for sustainable development and social justice.

For the countries of Asia and Africa to succeed in their quest to overcome the imbalance between developed and developing countries, we have to act in solidarity in all areas, using our combined strength to take our destiny in our own hands, to work for the benefit of our peoples and to ensure an equitable and responsive international environment.

In order to create a better life for all, and to ensure that we are the architects of our own destiny, we in the African continent have established the African Union and adopted the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as the socio-economic development programme of the new Union. We understand that Africa's people share a common destiny and that the development and success of each of our countries depends on the success and development of the rest of our continent.

Equally, as developing countries, we have a duty to determine what we ourselves must do to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. We are determined to redefine our relationship with developed countries as one of partnership and not of dependence. We must construct a new partnership paradigm based on mutual respect, commitments, interests and benefits.

NEPAD is a partnership among governments, the private sector, labour unions and civil society in Africa, as well as between Africa and the global community. It represents a commitment to use our own resources to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment and it focuses on many issues that are equally relevant to most Asian countries. Therefore it serves as a sound basis for cooperation and collaboration between Africa and Asia.

The common destiny that the people of Asia and Africa share makes it incumbent upon us to revitalise and re-energise the unity that our leaders spoke of in 1955. In working together in partnership, our two continents, which are the harbingers of world culture and civilisation, must pool their resources and expertise to forge a new path to becoming the powerful force in global affairs that we are capable of and to the benefit of all our peoples.

In conclusion Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank President Soekarnoputri and the Indonesian government on behalf of President Mbeki for taking the initiative in organising this Conference, which, we trust, will signal a renewed spirit of constructive cooperation, partnership and friendship between Asia and Africa.

I Thank You.

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