Address by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, Ms Sue van der Merwe on the Occasion of the Budget Vote of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Cape Town, 29 May 2006

Deputy Chairperson
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Earlier this year, speaking at the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the New Constitution, President Mbeki pointed to the growing importance of internationalism. He said:

"As we mark the 10th Anniversary of the adoption of our Constitution, we must, once again, recall and pay tribute to the sustained act of solidarity by the people of Africa and the world which made such a decisive contribution to the victory we celebrate today.
That act of solidarity underlined the responsibility of liberated South Africa to position itself among the forces in Africa and the world which work consistently, regardless of the scale and complexity of the challenge, to help build a better and just world order which respects and promotes the rights of all nations."

Indeed, as a result of that act of solidarity, we have made significant progress as a country and as a nation and in our efforts in the international arena, we are working hard to ensure that tomorrow will surely be a better and brighter day than today especially for the people of Africa and of the developing world.

Much has happened since we last addressed this house on the occasion of our budget vote in April last year. On that occasion, we spoke of our foreign policy perspective on what was described by the President then as a "confluence of encouraging possibilities". Galvanised by such optimism, we set about the task of implementing our foreign policy agenda with greater vigour. The Minister has already articulated many of our achievements during this period.

We remain convinced that only through constructive dialogue will be able to bring about the kind of world we envisage. Therefore, we remain committed to promoting our domestic interests abroad, through dialogue and engagement. Dialogue has always been our strength and we shall not give in to the temptation to use our relative strength in other areas to pursue narrow self-interests.

Our agenda is to promote our interests through dialogue, through conflict resolution and negotiations, through post conflict reconstruction and through a permanent peace reinforced with sustained economic and social development.

It remains our belief that a better world can only come about through improving the quality of life of all the world's people. In this regard, we support the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, bringing an end to poverty in particular and nurturing the conditions for economic development.

South Africa has noted with concern that current projections indicate that the Millennium Development Goals as the Minister has already said, will not be reached, especially by many African countries, partly because there are inadequate resources available. Even if the promised increase in Overseas Development Assistance by a number of developed countries is realised, this will not be enough to bridge the funding gap by the 2015 target date.

South Africa has therefore decided, to join a group of countries who are looking at raising additional funding from innovative sources in order to give impetus to achieving these goals.

The President of France hosted a meeting of these countries in Paris in March this year, and the Leading Group on Solidarity Funding was launched. The Minister of Foreign Affairs attended, and announced that South Africa would be joining the Group. France is providing a secretariat for the Leading Group, based in Paris, while Brazil is chairing the group for the first six months.

In addition, South Africa is supporting a UK initiative led by the UK's Finance Minister, Gordon Brown, called the International Financing Facility (IFF). A pilot project for funding immunisation in developing countries has already been launched.

The scope of South Africa's relations has deepened continuously in both the context of high-level political consultations and growth in terms of economic relations and development co-operation. The establishment of a constructive North-South dialogue is also of particular importance to South Africa.

In this regard South Africa's relations with the European Union have improved and expanded significantly in recent years. The EU remains South Africa's largest trading partner, main source of FDI and tourism as well as the world's leading provider of development assistance.

The SA-EU Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement (TDCA) that governs South Africa's relations with the EU is currently under its 1st five year review.
Multilateral interaction with the EU is taking place on issues such as economic globalisation, market access, debt relief, reform of the UN Security Council, security and peace issues, disarmament and human rights.

Africa-EU relations are steadily increasing. At a multilateral level, the EU co-operates with African countries through the ACP (African Caribbean Pacific grouping of countries) and through the African Union (AU).

In December last year, the Council of the European Union adopted its EU Strategy for Africa, entitled "The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership". The Strategy aims to facilitate closer co-operation between the African continent and the EU and builds on the Cairo Summit Declaration aimed at enhancing political dialogue between the EU and Africa and support towards African initiatives aimed at socio-economic development as well as the holding of a 2nd EU-Africa Summit.

In the last year we also continued to advance our positions through participation in African Group meetings at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and WTO and as a G20 member in the WTO.

These interactions play an important role in promoting South-South co-operation for increased market access, trade and investment amongst developing countries. We also increased our efforts to strengthen relations with all members of the G77 and China. Since our assumption of that portfolio we have actively used our chairpersonship of the G77 and China as a platform to advance the agenda of the South.

We also continued to promote our development agenda through engagement with our partners in the North including the G8, OECD, WEF and other relevant North-South fora. In this regard, a lot of effort was put in preparation for our participation in the Group of Eight plus five (G-8 +5) and the African Partnership Forum (APF).

We will use those strengths and advantages that we enjoy in certain areas for the greater benefit of all our partners, particularly countries on the continent. For us, this forward movement will see increased levels of economic diplomacy closely supported by political diplomacy. We will continue to use the political goodwill that we enjoy to leverage more foreign trade, external investments, financial flows, aid, bilateral and multilateral economic negotiations, tourism promotion and technology exchanges. In collaboration with all concerned domestic partners, we will continue to promote brand South Africa and contribute to building our country's image abroad.

We will also continue to engage other partners such as the International Marketing Council on creating a positive and united image and the South African Tourism in marketing our country. Already in some of our missions, this work already happens through the posting of skilled personnel or ad hoc support.

Deputy Chairperson, Honourable members,

During this financial year, we will continue to develop more economic analysis capability. Our Policy, Research and Annalysis Unit is supporting in this regard to ensure that we develop the necessary capacity to perform this function. This will enable our diplomats to gain more insight about the principal elements of the economy's of the host countries and how we can use this knowledge to effectively implement the economic agreements we sign.

The growing demand of our foreign policy has also meant that as a department, we continue to assess whether our structures are functioning effectively and optimally and are capable of meeting the needs of the present. As the Minister has already mentioned, the finalisation of our building where we can have everybody under one roof will go a long way towards assisting in achievin gour objectives. We have already seen the concept designs and are very excited about these.

A skills audit has been completed assessing skill challenges that we need to enhance within our own environment in line with our foreign policy objectives. As such, we have rolled out a series of training programmes aimed at empowering our employees to better address the needs of the Department.

Great effort has been made to reposition the Foreign Service Institute in order to ensure that our training is in line with international benchmarking standards and comparable with similar training institutes worldwide. This includes leadership programmes for our managers. The training of foreign languages, particularly the French language, remains a priority.

Not only are we training our own officials, but the FSI has also been active in supporting the training of diplomats from Sudan and the DRC.

I am pleased to inform this House that in this year in which we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the women's march to Pretoria, the department has been progressively promoting the interests of women to reach gender parity within the organisation. The representation of women has increased at all levels. It is important for me to mention that we have made great progress particularly at senior and middle management levels.

Madame Speaker

Part of our responsibility is towards the safety of our citizens wherever in the world they may be, and to continue to safeguard those of our citizens who may live abroad. Our intention is to have greater interactions with our citizens so as to ensure their wellbeing.

As we strive to meet the growing challenges and expectations that face all countries and governments following upon the recent spate of natural disasters like the tsunami, earthquakes, and so forth, we would like to announce that we are at present finalizing highly improved, technologically advanced and more people-friendly consular services for all South Africans that travel, work, study and live abroad.

These include:

· The Development of a unique Emergency Management System
The system will allow us to better manage our ability to provide support to our citizens following a catastrophe abroad.

· Registration of South African citizens abroad (ROSA).
This system will allow our citizens to register with the department when they travel outside our borders. In this way, we will have a more accurate estimate of how many of our citizens are abroad and where they may be. This will be most helpful during times of emergency making it easier to contact our people.

As we expand our global reach with the view to promoting political relations, rendering consular services and building trade relations, I am pleased to announce the opening of the missions in the following cities during the 2006/07 financial year: Bucharest, Rumania; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Ougoadougo, Burkina Faso; and Cotonou, Benin.

Honourable Members,

When Pixley ka Seme, former President of the ANC delared in 1906 "I am an African" his statement was a profound act of intra-African solidarity as he addressed not only the plight of South Africa, but also of the entire African Continent.

Our economic diplomacy reinforces our political diplomacy as we continue, in the words of Seme, to build "a new life embracing the diverse phases of a higher, complex existence".

Today we walk along the road of multilateralism in principle, and international solidarity in action, and are part of a continental struggle for social and economic advancement.

As South Africa we do not seek to promote our national interests alone, but because, as our history of struggle and building the foundations of a new democracy has taught us - our internationalism strengthens our patriotism.

I thank you.

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