Remarks by President Thabo Mbeki at
the Consultative Meeting of African Governors on Voice
and Participation of Developing and Transition Countries
in the Bretton Woods Institutions: Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg, 12 March 2004
Chairperson of the Africa Caucus, Minister Jean Baptiste
Chairperson of the Development Committee, Minister Trevor
Ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to thank the organisers of this important
meeting and take this opportunity to welcome all our
visitors to South Africa. I hope you would find time,
in your busy schedule, to enjoy and know better our
The topic that this conference will be discussing today
is very important to all of us from the developing and
transition countries because, although we constitute
the majority of the global population, we nevertheless
represent the minority voice on all major international
Our world, our lives, the pace and direction of our
development, have for a long time and to a large degree,
been shaped and influenced by the few in the world.
This has been made easier by the pervasive global form
of the socio-economic process - globalisation - whose
grip on the world has shaken many social, political,
economic and cultural institutions at local, national
and trans-national levels.
Because of its unequal impact, this process has, in
its wake and within the metaphorical global village,
simultaneously created wealth and induced poverty, brought
about a better life to parts of humanity and hardship
to the rest, ensured that some in our shared world have
hope while others live in despair.
It is in this context of an unequal distribution of
political, economic and military power, that we should
discuss the Voice and Participation of developing and
countries in transition in the Bretton-Woods Institutions.
We need to identify better ways in which the better
part of humankind, which is poor, alienated and marginalised
can use its unified voice to determine its destiny.
Clearly, ensuring that the voice of the poor is heard,
and bringing about proper and fair representation in
the global multilateral organisations would be the first
and important step to ensure that there is equal participation
between the developing and developed countries.
In recent times, the annual debates of the United Nations
have been dominated by calls, from leaders across the
world, for the reform of the global institutions. At
the 58th UN General Assembly, the Secretary General,
Kofi Annan, in his address on 23rd September 2003, pointed
out the challenges and made concrete suggestions about
the process of reform of the UN, including the Security
Council and other international institutions.
Among other things he said that the founding fathers
of the United Nations "...saw that the human race
had only one world to live in, and that unless it managed
its affairs prudently, all human beings may perish.
"So they drew up rules to govern international
behaviour, and founded a network of institutions, with
the United Nations at its centre, in which peoples of
the world could work together for the common good."
He then continued that: "Now we must decide whether
it is possible to continue on the basis agreed then,
or whether radical changes are needed."
In this regard, there has emerged a general consensus,
among the nations of the world that the multilateral
institutions need radical reform.
Although we agree that there are already processes
towards reforming these multilateral institutions, many
of us are understandably impatient with the fact that
these have largely been at protracted discussion levels.
Accordingly, we are faced with a challenge to ensure
that the urgent need for radical reform is translated
into a concrete and tangible programme underpinned by
effective participation, especially by the developing
As world leaders acknowledged in Monterrey, Mexico in
2002, the reform of the international financial architecture
is particularly critical as this holds the promise to
promote international financial stability, while, simultaneously,
assisting countries to take advantage of the high degree
of capital mobility that currently characterises the
international capital and financial markets.
Further, concerning the global development architecture,
world leaders stressed the need for multilateral financial
institutions to work on the basis of sound, nationally-owned
paths of development that take into account the needs
of the poor and pay due regard to the special implementing
capacities of developing countries and countries with
economies in transition.
The launch of the Doha Round of multilateral trade
negotiations was another milestone for developing countries
because of promising negotiations in key areas, particularly
on the matters of market access for agricultural products,
the phasing out of subsidies, and a compromise on access
to affordable pharmaceuticals products.
Yet, the question is whether we are capable of using
our unified strength to ensure that, in reality, our
collective voice can make our partners in the developed
world to proceed with these processes in good faith.
Again, we will recall that at the World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD), held here in Johannesburg, everybody
recognised the reality that for sustainable development
to succeed, we need effective, democratic and accountable
international and multilateral institutions.
We have a duty together to help find ways of accelerating
the critical processes that would strengthen our voice
and ensure that our participation in multilateral institutions
is not merely a matter of diplomatic courtesy.
Good governance, transparency and democratic participation
at both national and international levels are essential
for economic growth, poverty eradication and sustainable
To nurture the independence and legitimacy of nationally
owned policies, governance in the global multilateral
institutions needs to be democratised and strengthened.
Clearly, broadening the base for decision-making on
issues of global development requires that all of us
should ensure that global multilateral organisations
are at all times strong.
Through the African Union's development programme,
the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD),
we have clearly illustrated that through our collective
voice, developing countries can be heard. We embarked
on this programme because among other things, we realised
that few, if any of our developing partners listen to
our voice when we speak as individual countries.
We know that significantly faster growth will be needed
to reduce poverty and meet the Millennium Development
Goals set out in the UN Millennium Declaration. This
requires stronger policy frameworks and institutions,
improved capital flows, and better market access.
Notwithstanding the goodwill that may exist, we as
Africans, must take the lead in Africa's struggle of
renewal and rebirth, and ensure that NEPAD succeeds.
One month ago, 16 Heads of State of countries participating
in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) successfully
launched the APRM.
As such, we have now embarked on a path of peer learning
and capacity building towards a collective goal of ensuring
that we emulate African success stories and correct
one another as we improve the lives of all our people.
The APRM is a process voluntarily acceded to by members
of the African Union as an African self-assessment mechanism
that provides a platform for African policy-makers and
practitioners to identify and learn from best practice
and share experiences as we pull our countries, individually
and collectively, out of the morass of poverty and underdevelopment,
placing them on an irreversible development path.
Mauritius, Kenya, Ghana, and Rwanda will be the first
to be reviewed by the APRM. South Africa, Nigeria and
Senegal will be reviewed in 2005.
As we have explained in the past, the Peer Review Mechanism
is not an instrument for punishment or exclusion, but
rather a mechanism to identify strong and positive programmes
and processes, share them and rectify our individual
weaknesses. It is designed to be open, participatory
and to include all stakeholders, including civil society
organisations, in particular women, youth, trade unions
and the private sector.
Chairperson, we all have a responsibility to be part
of this titanic struggle to make our voice strong and
ensure that we are all agents of the renewal and rebirth
of our Continent. This is a struggle that will undoubtedly
bring about a developed, peaceful and prosperous Africa.
This consultative meeting of African Governors offers
a unique opportunity for all of us collectively and
critically to assess our possibilities for enhancing
the voice and representation of developing countries
and countries with economies in transition in the Bretton-Woods
Clearly, a stronger voice of developing countries in
the Bretton-Woods Institutions cannot be separated from
our efforts to ensure that Africans do, themselves,
speak with a unified voice on all the challenges that
face our continent.
I wish you success in your important deliberations.
For more information please call David Hlabane on
082 561 9428, Dumisani Nkwamba on 082 451 5583 or Bheki
Khumalo on 083 256 9133
Issued by The Presidency
Private Bag X1000