Opening Remarks by H.E. Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of South Africa on the Occasion of the Asian-African Sub-Regional Organisations Conference (AASROC) Joint Ministerial Working Group Meeting, Durban, 24 March 2004.

Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to participate in this Ministerial Working Group meeting of the Asian-African Sub-regional Organisations Conference (AASROC) here in Durban, South Africa.

We meet today to re-commit ourselves to inter-continental cooperation and to ensure that our vision becomes a living reality for the peoples of Asia and Africa through concrete and tangible plans that will translate into action and real implementation.

The formation of AASROC is based on a vision of solidarity and cooperation among the developing countries of the world that takes its cue from that grand vision first espoused in Bandung (1955).

A great South African leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and President of the African National Congress from 1952 to 1960, Chief Albert Luthuli, who also supported the developments in Bandung, in his 1961 Nobel acceptance speech, spoke of the important role that Africa should play, together with other countries, in the shaping of a new world reality. He said the following:

"In a strife-torn world, tottering on the brink of complete destruction by man-made weapons, a free and independent Africa is in the making, in answer to the injunction and challenge of history: "Arise and shine for thy light is come."

"Acting in concert with other nations, she … is qualified to demand of the great powers to "turn the swords into plough-shares" because two-thirds of mankind is hungry and illiterate; to engage human energy, human skill and human talent in the service of peace, for the alternative is unthinkable - war, destruction and desolation; and to build a world community which will stand as a lasting monument to the millions of men and women… who have given their lives that we may live in happiness and peace.

These inspiring words should be seen in conjunction with the profound insights of President Sukarno of Indonesia at the Opening of the Bandung Conference in April 1955. His words are worth recalling. He said that:

"This twentieth century has been a period of terrific dynamism…. Man [sic] has learned to control many of the scourges which once threatened him."

"But has man's political skill marched hand-in-hand with his technical and scientific skill? The answer is No! The political skill of man has been far outstripped by technical skill."

He goes on to say:

"What can we do? We can do much! We can inject the voice of reason into world affairs. We can mobilise all the spiritual, all the moral, all the political strength of Asia and Africa on the side of peace. Yes, we! We, the peoples of Asia and Africa, can mobilise what I have called the Moral Violence of Nations in favour of peace."

The challenges facing both our continents and the world in general are still similar although the current processes of globalisation have widened the gap between the rich and the poor of the world.

Today we in the developing world are faced with a multitude of additional challenges, which call on us to constantly develop new and innovative means to address these emerging issues. AASROC is one such initiative, a creative inter-continental forum, which seeks to strengthen, in the first instance, economic interaction and to enhance trade, investment and tourism opportunities. The untapped potential that exists in these areas needs to be fully explored. We need to gain a better understanding of each others strengths and comparative advantages in order to leverage these enormous opportunities.

We need to put our collective energies into making AASROC a dynamic initiative between our two continents that can establish and enhance vital links between our peoples. We cannot but stress that the valuable exchanging of experience and best practice at this meeting is what will result in positive outcomes and ensure that dynamism is constantly brought about within the organisation. We need to bring our various stakeholders together in the realm of people to people contact, particularly our business sectors.

One of the most remarkable developments in our time has been the information revolution made possible through advances in communications technology. Yet many people on our continents are excluded from the global village as a result of imbalances in acquiring the latest knowledge and skills brought about through progress in science and its applications.

A number of exciting initiatives have emerged over the recent past including TICAD, the Sino-Africa Process, the India-Africa Fund, and the Langkawi International Dialogue, among others, which must eventually be aligned in order to derive maximum opportunities from the individual and collective advantages that they offer. These programmes will serve to strengthen progress towards enhancing AASROC.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet my African colleagues to review progress with respect to initiatives that have been identified in terms of the AASROC framework. As you are aware the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) has been developed as a programme of the AU to bolster the rejuvenation of the African continent. To that effect, AASROC has been identified as a very important supportive initiative in the true spirit of mutually beneficial partnerships.

We in Africa have always looked to our colleagues in Asia as a source of inspiration and as important partners. International solidarity between continents especially in the political, economic and social spheres, as well as through cultural exchange and understanding, are what will also strengthen our voices in the world.

We must ensure that the bedrock of this New Strategic Partnership between Asia and Africa is one that is based on strengthening and enhancing the economic interaction between Asia and Africa. We recognise that the vast potential that exists in the economic arena is virtually untapped and it is therefore incumbent upon us to find practical means to unlock this potential. In this regard our sub-regional organisations have to play a creative and critical role to ensure that we grow substantially our trade and investment potential by interacting and co-operating with each other.

We also recognise that the private sector has a crucial role to play in enhancing the economic vision of AASROC. While we create the enabling environment for interaction we believe it is necessary for them to interact vigorously amongst themselves to leverage the opportunities for the mutual benefit of all.

We will therefore endeavour to map out programmes and projects to ensure that our countries are better equipped to deal with the myriad challenges we seek to address through the channel of AASROC as we prepare to lay the platform for AASROC II later on in the year.

While we advance the economic agenda, we are mindful of the global political challenges that we have to jointly confront to create an equitable environment conducive to economic growth and development.

Let us once more, even in the 21st Century be inspired by the words of Luthuli when he said: "Arise and Shine for Thy Light is come." Let the message of Sukarno be remembered in our discussions and take us to even greater heights when he declares: "We can do much! We can inject the voice of reason into world affairs. We can mobilise all the spiritual, all the moral, all the political strength of Asia and Africa on the side of peace."

We look forward to a vibrant and constructive meeting, which will enable us to consolidate the partnership between our two continents.

Thank you for your kind attention and I wish you well in your deliberations.

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