Address by the Honourable Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
of South Africa, Ms Sue van der Merwe, to Senior Students at Fuller Hall, University
of Cape Town, Cape Town, 11 August 2005
Thank you for inviting me to share my thought with you. As
the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am sure you might also be interested
in what it takes to have a career in international relations and the kind of path
one needs to take in order to accomplish this goal. I am sure that some of you
might also be interested in the challenges that a woman faces in a leadership
I am not entirely sure that what I have to say will give you
greater clarity into this subject. So I have decided to steer slightly away from
addressing this topic in a direct manner - what I really wish to focus on is what
is the kind of leadership that is needed in our contemporary world - in the confines
of South Africa and also beyond in the rest of the African continent and indeed
in the wider world. And in answering this question, my own situation and my own
views will insinuate itself into the discussion, but mainly I wish to pose to
you some of the challenges that exist and what we can and should do to make the
world a better place through our leadership approach, style and content. In taking
this approach, my theme really is: how should we do things differently from before.
heart of the matter is" How do we lead differently? You may ask the question:
differently from what? Much has been said about the imposition of a Washington
consensus on all and sundry, on the way the world works and who has rights to
rule the world and who has the right to make them- but more of that later. For
those of you who are not familiar with the Washington Consensus it is based on
two central notions: first the not of dependence on the so-called "free market"
to solve all economic problems; and second, the notion of the minimal state that
works to protect the best conditions for the private accumulation of wealth.
is my belief and that of our government that our task is to change ourselves and
the world and to do so for the sake of developing countries and for the poor of
the world, to work towards a more humane and inclusive approach to the world which
really encompasses global governance in the spheres of world politics, economics
. A more egalitarian society.
Our mission -as it were -
is also about the right to be different, to embrace unity-in-diversity, to accept
the myriad of cultures within our own country and within the world at large as
a tremendous resource with vast potential.
A few weeks ago, speaking at
a lecture series held in Pretoria entitled The Meaning of Mandela, (in order to
mark our former President, Nelson Mandela's birthday), Wole Soyinka, the great
Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate, in a sense complimented South Africa in giving
progressive content to the idea of a rainbow nation. He spoke of the vast cultural
palette from which we draw and how difference did not become subsumed or dictated
upon in the desire for a monolithic and unilateral oneness. Rather, in celebrating
our diversity, we could provide space for dialogue between one culture and another,
between one political or ethnic grouping and another, between different forms
of alliances and allow everyone to participate in the making of something new.
This is what determines our multilateral and all-inclusive approach to world affairs.
Part of this new conversation that we have embarked upon as a new South
African country since 1994 has been the inclusion of women in all spheres and
to encourage those who have felt silenced and marginalised to speak and to give
meaning to their lives and how we ought to build this country together through
each individual act and through collective participation.
For some, this
may seem like an ideal world, not the one which we inhabit, but in the last decade
we have seen the beginning of this new reality coming into being and starting
to transform the world we once knew into a world that we want it to be. And we
have been blessed with the quality of leadership that can lead in this way as
part of a social movement bringing about progressive change in the world.
the Minister of Foreign Affairs said in 2003 at her Budget Vote,
who want us to depart from the Principles of the [UN] Charter want us to believe
that the powerful, the rich and the technologically advanced should rule the world
using their economic, political and military might. They want us to build a world
where the rich and powerful can impose their will on the poor and weak. They want
us to build a world where the powerful and the rich can change regimes at will.
A world where the lives of the innocent and weak are not protected. A world of
the survival of the fittest. This will lead to a new world order outside the framework
of the UN.
We believe the multilateral system of global governance must
remain our only response to all challenges facing humanity today. We must have
common rules shared and applied equally by all, without fear or favour.
Okri, the great African writer, in his work Way of Being Free writes; "They
tell me that nature is the survival of the fittest. And yet look at how many wondrous
gold and yellow fishes prosper amongst silent stones of the ocean beds, while
sharks eternally prowl the waters in their impossible dreams of oceanic domination
and while whales become extinct;
how many butterflies and iguanas thrive,
while elephants turn into endangered species, and while even lions growl in their
dwindling solitude. There is no such thing as a powerless people. There are only
those who have not seen and have not used their power and will. It would seem
a miraculous feat but it is possible for the undervalued ones to help create a
beautiful new era in human history. New vision should come from those who suffer
most and who live life the most."
I think that part of our task as
those among the leadership is to defend the fishes, the butterflies and iguanas
among us who constitute the vast majority of the world, those "who suffer
most and live life the most", those whose poverty has deepened as a result
of globalisation and international turmoil, those who merely eke out an existence
as a result of unilateral acts.
Our task has been to try to stem the tide
of unilateralism and to defend internationalism and multilateralism, to recognise
- as has been pointed out in Monterrey at the International Financing for Development
Conference, in Johannesburg at the World Summit for Sustainable Development and
in Doha (at the WTO negotiations) that globalisation and liberalisation cannot
be left to market forces and private financial flows if they are to be truly progressive
in the long term.
At a political level, it is clear from our vantage point
on the Southern tip of the African continent that the current configuration of
the global system, structures and institutions have provided developed countries
with the ways and means to pursue their own interests to the detriment of the
interests of developing countries. Our struggle thus ought to be for the restructuring
of the world system and for the advancement of the development agenda as well
as ensuring that the United Nations and its structures become truly democratic
fora. We need structures that can help to inculcate a culture of peace and stability
in the world and a democratic world culture. As a leadership, we also need to
understand that leadership comes not from government alone, but from civil society.
There is a growing role that the ordinary people can play in international
public opinion, and their impact on the formulation of policy must therefore be
taken into serious consideration as we attempt to strengthen the position of the
As George Monbiot explains in his important book, The Age of Consent:
A Manifesto for a New World Order,
"Globalization has increased the
complexity of political issues and, by revolving their resolution to levels at
which there is no democratic control, exacerbated people's sense of helplessness.
The global justice movement has become, for many of those alienated from national
politics, an enfranchisement movement.
By lifting their sights from the
national sphere to the global or international sphere, they have discovered that
the potential for political engagement has not disappeared, but merely shifted
to another realm
. By demonstrating that we have the means of both democratising
and transforming global politics. We can turn this movement - which is already
the biggest global federation ever convened - into a force so numerous and so
effective that it becomes irresistible."
As the Foreign Affairs Ministry,
we have been working on our responses to a number of international reports that
can reform the UN and change the way the world works and we have done this in
the context of the African Union.
Among these reports have been:
Cardoso Report - focusing on the improvement of relations and more meaningful
interaction between the UN and Civil Society.
- The High-Level Panel's Report
on Threats, Challenges and Change, which identifies the threats and challenges
of the new Millennium and proposes comprehensive United Nations reforms to effectively
meet these challenges.
- The Millennium Project Report "Investing in
Development" (the Jeffrey Sachs Report) that assessing progress on the promises
of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals.
UN Secretary-General then issued his own Report, "In Larger Freedom, Towards
Development, Security, and Human Rights for All" on 21 March 2005. This consisted
of a package of proposed reforms "for decision by Heads of State and Government"
at the UN Summit in September.
Part of our work has been to prepare
for this forthcoming summit in New York from 14-16 September 2005 to review progress
on the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and to undertake the broadest reforms
of the organisation in its sixty-year history.
We have also bee pre-occupied
with the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the African
Union's socio-economic development project.
If this is what we are working
towards then the question is what kind of qualities and skills one needs in order
to bring about this better, more people-centred world in which there is peace
and harmony and global prosperity.
- I think that one has to be tough
but the kind of toughness that comes from understanding that power is better and
stronger when it is shared, that an all-inclusive approach to democracy is what
we need, that every voice counts and every contribution needs to be accounted
for, assessed, incorporated or bookmarked for future use or further contemplation.
This is not easy when what we have been accustomed to was a top-down approach
to leadership, governance and policies of deliberate and systematic exclusion.
In a way, we all have to learn to live and work again without fear or favour,
embracing democratic traditions that have thrived despite decades of destruction
of progressive forces under apartheid rule.
- One's contribution has to
be rules based. The truth is that we all lead our lives according to certain rules
- you have to be a leader as well if you are a mother or father or caregiver or
you run an office or run for President. In other words, one has to know the rules
and play by the rules even if you seek to change them for the betterment of the
- Thirdly, in this world of rapid globalisation, one has to be knowledgeable
and worldly enough to think on one's feet. This means that in a foreign policy
environment, one needs to be able to generate policies, to implement them and
also have the guts to go back to the drawing board and re-invent if you do not
get very far. After all, this is the world of international diplomacy. As long
as your principles are in tact and you do not violate them. But those with a keen
sense of strategic vision, scenario planning, and a genuine concern about people's
lives and future, a passion for your country, will be able to succeed in this
- Fourth, I would argue that women have to be tougher than
men because the reality is that there will be attempts to sideline you for doing
things differently, but you have to forge ahead and the toughness you ought to
display in your daily dealings with people ought to be the kind that enhances
democracy and does not destroy it. And in doing it differently, you will begin
to invent new traditions that others can emulate and enhance in the future.
South Africa is a country - which the world is watching. It could be a wariness
that we have a more progressive agenda than most and that we are not beholden
to others. Or it could be that we are genuinely admired for our ability to transcend
our painful past and are seen as capable of building a world, which President
Mbeki has described as "wholly beautiful and new."
of you who may wish to enter this world in the future, your task would be to bring
about a better and more beautiful world where the elephant and iguana, the fishes
and the lions can co-exist, interact and thrive.
This is your task irrespective
of whether you are assisting in work around peace-keeping in Burundi or post conflict
reconstruction in the Congo or working on strengthening south-south relations
with India and Brazil or trying to bring Palestinians and Israelis alike to accept
that the Road Map, or engaging the African Diaspora on matters of Africa's development,
or furthering trade relations with extended EU countries.
And the world
does matter. It must matter that we give our contribution to those who have given
us so much, that we make our contribution to guarantee the world's future and
those of future generations. For as different as we are, there is only one globe
and one world. And the kind of strengths we bring as leaders in government, as
civil society, can truly help to shape the world.
The next few months will
see the world frantically at work, as reform is high on the agenda. In the coming
years, we shall be able to see the fruits of this labour.
As young women
and men, you ought to be part of these processes that in reality determine the
course of your lives.
I thank you.