Opening Remarks by Minister ZST Skweyiya, acting on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), International Convention Centre, Durban

Ambassador Primo Alvi Joelianto, Co-Chair of the NAASP SOM and Head of the Indonesian delegation
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Co-Chair of the NAASP SOM and Head of the South African delegation
Your Excellencies, Heads of delegation and delegates of the NAASP SOM
Your Excellency Dr Alzubedi, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and gentleman

It gives me great joy to welcome all delegates and representatives of continental bodies to Durban and to this New Asian-African Strategic Partnership Senior Officials Meeting. Some delegates will already be familiar with this beautiful coastal city that has hosted many international conferences and summits over the last 12 years, including the Asian-African Sub-Regional Organisations Ministerial Conference (AASROC II) in August 2004.

The NAASP SOM reflects our common determination to take our destiny into our own hands. Afro-Asian solidarity is highly cognisant of the need for our peoples to improve their lives and determine their place within the global community of nations. Political will and determination to forget the New Strategic Partnership between Asia and Africa is clearly visible. From the onset, we need to reiterate that participation of countries in the NAASP, while completely voluntary, reaffirms historical links and commitments made by the people of the two continents. This makes NAASP an invigorating and fresh initiative towards Asian and African development. I would like to acknowledge, appreciate and commend the excellent work that has been undertaken by the Republic of Indonesia to enhance this process.

As Asian and African countries, we have had a long tradition of working and living together. We recognise in each other a common humanity and common destiny. We have suffered the same afflictions and humiliations imposed by colonialism and we face similar challenges in a changing world order, characterised by inequalities, poverty and underdevelopment.

The purpose of our meeting is to concretise the New Strategic Partnership that aims to enhance and improve the quality of life for our peoples. Our collective effort is borne of the necessity and the reality that our people continue to struggle and suffer on a daily basis.

Our two regions of the world constitute some of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. This is however not reflected in our positions on the global, economic and political stage. Co-operation is required regarding the sharing of resources, expertise and experiences. South-South co-operation constitutes a central factor in the construction of an equitable world order.

Just over fifty years ago, leaders from Asia and Africa participated in the historic Asia-Africa Conference held in Bandung in 1955. At this conference, leaders forged the path of co-operation between Asia and Africa and outlined a vision of a world of independence, peace, justice and common prosperity, as encapsulated in what is referred to as the Ten Principles of Bandung. If one examines the principles, we truly see how visionary they were and how relevant their vision still is today. Briefly, these guiding principles have focussed on:

  • respect for fundamental human rights
  • respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations
  • equality of all races and nations
  • non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries
  • respect for the right of nations to defend themselves singly and collectively
  • abstaining from exerting pressure on other countries
  • refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country
  • settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means
  • promotion of mutual interests and co-operation
  • respect for justice and international obligations.

When the historic gathering in Bandung in 1955 projected the vision I have described, it did not count on the benevolence of others to realise this outcome. It was confident that acting in unity, the peoples of Africa and Asia had the strength to create a new world order. This resulted ultimately in their liberation and their ability to be the makers of their history.

At the time, most Asian countries had emerged from the shackles of colonialism. Africa on the other hand was still waging wars of liberation and asserting its right to self-determination and independence. We were still striving for a rightful place in the international arena. The historic gathering in Bandung was a celebration of the dawning of liberty of those who had been oppressed. The Bandung conference propelled the mindset for a free Asia and a free Africa.

In 1955, the principles of racial equality and the rights to self determination of all nations were not yet universally accepted. The Bandung spirit changed this. Self-determination was projected as a core feature in the quest to achieve political and moral victory over oppressors. Our leaders sought to foster closer unity and solidarity between the peoples of the vast continents of Africa and Asia. The Bandung conference led, in 1961, to the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ? an organisation that gave a voice to the marginalised masses of the world. It also gave impetus to numerous national liberation movements. This signalled the importance of the Bandung conference as a turning point in the way countries of the south were viewed internationally.

In 1955, our leaders fully understood the impact that their discussions would have on multilateralism in present day world politics. Therefore, there is an urgent need for countries to revitalise the spirit of Bandung aimed at fuller economic, social, cultural and political co-operation. NAASP provides the mechanism to translate the Bandung vision and the objectives of NAM into reality.

Due to the policy of apartheid, South Africa could not participate in the Bandung conference as a sovereign state. We recall the Government of India issuing passports to the South African delegates to attend this important gathering. As a result of this, two leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), Moses Kotane and Maulvi Cachalia attended the Bandung conference. Their purpose was to bring to the attention of the international community the plight of the majority of South Africans fighting the evils of apartheid.

The conference declared, in reaction to the appeal by the South African delegation, that:

"The Asian-African conference deplored the policies of racial segregation and discrimination which form the basis of government and human relations in large regions of Africa and in other parts of the world. Such conduct is not only a gross violation of human rights but also a denial of the fundamental values of civilisation and the dignity of man.

The conference extended its warm sympathy and support for the courageous stand taken by the victims of racial discrimination, especially by the peoples of African, Indian and Pakistani origin in South Africa; applauded all those who sustained their cause, reaffirmed the determination of Asian-African peoples to eradicate any trace of racialism that might exist in their own countries; and pledged to use its full moral influence against the danger of falling victim to the same evil in the struggle to eradicate it."

The Bandung conference was well ahead of its time. The Conference laid a solid foundation of solidarity and support for all the colonial, oppressed and racially discriminated peoples of the world. This solidarity has continued decades after the Bandung conference, until the present day. There is no doubt that we can report to our peoples that we are today stronger than we were 50 years ago. Today, most of us enjoy our rightful places as sovereign nations in the global community. We should not underestimate the success of the long and sometimes treacherous road we have had to take to choose our own destinies.

Our gathering here today marks the first meeting of NAASP since its inception at the Asia-Africa Summit of last year. The Strategic Partnership will seek to further entrench collaboration. This will concretise relations by building on solid bilateral ties and collaborative efforts so as to enhance the core features of multilateralism. To counter unilateralism, it is vital for us to reinforce and underscore our efforts at greater Afro-Asian co-operation and solidarity. Furthermore, in an age of globalisation and interdependency, working in isolation is no longer feasible. We have much to contribute towards Asian and African continental development so as to ensure mutual benefit. Collaboration has to reach its full potential and the NAASP should be viewed as a structured framework to implement the Bandung Spirit.

We have come a long way since 1955 and we have much work to do to ensure that the vision of our compatriots is fulfilled. The hopes of today's and future generations should be brought to full fruition. In particular, let us finalise the excellent work we have undertaken since AASROC I, held in Bandung during July 2003, AASROC II held in Durban during August 2004, and the Asian-African Summit held in Jakarta during April 2005.

NAASP is a voluntary solidarity movement. It centres on Asian and African ownership based on a common vision, an equal partnership, mutual respect and benefit. We have agreed that our co-operation should be practical and based on comparative advantage and mutual strength. It should focus on political solidarity, increased economic interaction and socio-cultural relations. The NAASP will be a powerful vehicle that can help to stem the tide of marginalisation of our peoples and regions in the global socio-economic and political architecture.

NAASP can empower us to transform our reality through the sharing of knowledge, exchange of experiences and best practice. We need to identify new opportunities for trade and investment, people to people engagement and for promoting and cementing social and cultural relations. A common view and collective action is required to ensure the equitable sharing of the benefits of globalisation and to further promote an enabling environment.

Closer collaboration among regional and sub-regional organisations of Africa and Asia is vital for sustainable economic development. Economically, many countries are still struggling to focus on development, upliftment and the eradication of poverty. Many developing countries are marginalised and excluded from the benefits of globalisation. In addition, the ever expanding digital divide requires attention.

NAASP ensures that we share our common interest to change political and socio-economic conditions in our favour. Together we must collaborate to ensure that we change the structures of global governance as well as the structure of the global economy in order to achieve equity, fairness as well as sustained and sustainable development.

We should understand that the NAASP rests on the basic premise that the Asian and African development agenda needs to be in our hands and that, as was stated in Bandung, we must, in the first instance, act on the basis of self reliance.

A good number of our countries have made important strides towards building modern economies capable of achieving better lives for the billions of people we represent. Let us continue in this fashion and co-operate within the realms of our strategic partnership.

We have made significant strides towards giving real content to the critical objective of South-South co-operation. This co-operation was visualised by our leaders who met in Bandung in 1955 - which we now seek to radically expand through the establishment of NAASP.

Despite all this progress we continue to face daunting challenges to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment. We must not duplicate initiatives that already exist, but rather seek to establish linkages and synergies.

South-South co-operation should take place in the areas of global peace and security, the establishment of a just international economic order, fairer and more equitable trade relations, promotion of viable investment climates, increased flows of Official Development Assistance (ODA), the eradication of poverty, debt relief, dealing with the impacts of globalisation and the establishment of an effective global partnership for sustainable development. In light of this, we support the activities of the Non-Aligned Centre based in Jakarta. This centre will further our NAASP objectives and goals based on solidarity, collaboration, co-operation, capacity building and the exchange of knowledge.

Multi-regional co-operation among the peoples of the South will increase not only the volume of our collective voice, but also the quality of our voice, adding weight to our demand for a just and equitable world order.

In conclusion, for African and Asian countries to succeed in their quest, it is imperative that we act in solidarity in the three areas of engagement of the NAASP ? namely, political solidarity, economic co-operation and socio-cultural relations. We have to use our combined strengths to take our destiny into our own hands. We need to work for the benefit of our peoples in order to ensure an equitable and responsive international environment. As developing countries we have to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. Our relationship with the developed world should be one of a partnership and not one of dependence. This new partnership paradigm must be constructed.

I trust that we will all emerge out of this NAASP SOM with a common resolve to intensify interaction to advance our common agenda for greater South-South co-operation. We look forward to meeting again at the NAM Summit in Cuba during September 2006. Furthermore, our deliberations from this meeting will also assist in preparation for the NAASP Ministerial Meeting in 2007.

We need to advance the cause pioneered by some of the greatest sons and daughters of Asia and Africa. We need to act in solidarity in all areas using our combined strength to make our voices heard. In the spirit of accountability and transparency, we owe it to our people to ensure that the responsibility placed on us to create a better life for all is reflected in the outcomes of our deliberations and in our collective actions.

I make a firm undertaking that the Government and the people of South Africa remain ready to embark on this journey of co-operation, friendship and solidarity among our people and regions.

Thank you.

Issued by: Department of Foreign Affairs
1 September 2006

 

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