Statement by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad at the General Debate during the 7th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC), Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 7 March 2007

Honourable Chair
Distinguished Delegates and Dialogue Partners
Ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of the South African delegation I wish to congratulate our host, the Islamic Republic of Iran for the good organisation and the hospitality given to us.

You have been able to do so despite the fact that we meet at a time when the region is going through a very serious crisis, which threatens regional stability and international peace and security. We remain strong in our conviction that it is in humanity's interests to prevent any new military action in this region. We should therefore intensify our efforts to find a peaceful negotiated solution to the crisis around Iran's nuclear programme.

Chairperson

Fifty years ago Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African country to lower the British flag and hoist the new Ghanaian flag. This was the beginning of the setting of the sun on the British Empire in Africa.

Yesterday as we celebrated this happy occasion we were acutely conscious that while colonialism, new-colonialism and apartheid were defeated we had inherited distorted economic structures with a legacy of poverty and underdevelopment. Today, despite all our efforts the vast majority of our peoples still live below the poverty data line. The positive impact of globalisation has still not materialised in many of our countries.

This is why we give such importance to the IOR-ARC initiative. We see it as an important mechanism to achieve our developmental agenda. For us the success of the IOR-ARC is a matter of life and death.

At the end of the twentieth century a new generation of African leaders proclaimed that the twenty-first century must be the African century and adopted an African programme for African development, viz the new partnership for African development. We were conscious that while we had our own responsibilities to succeed we had to mobilise support from the international community especially from the countries of the South.

It was in this context that in 1995 President Mandela stated

"the natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic cooperation and other peaceful endeavours"

Chairperson

Ten years ago in March 1997 we formally launched our Association in Mauritius. Despite our economic, political, cultural and social diversities we came together not only because of an ocean but because we had a vision. Today, we need to constructively, critically and frankly assess what we have concretely achieved in the last 10 years.

The IOR-ARC was formed because we believed that it could be a mechanism for enhancing economic interaction in the region and that the IOR-ARC would be a key to unlock the potential of the India Ocean Rim, in particular enhancing trade and investment flows, trade liberalisation as well as the sustainable exploitation of the vast tourism potential of our Association's members.

Have we succeeded to achieve this vision?

A Secretariat non-paper calls on us to discuss clear and concrete proposals to re-energise the organisation and prevent it from dying a natural death. We do not have the luxury of allowing our Association to die naturally or unnaturally.

The non-paper identifies some problems

1. A Core Group of Heads of Missions (Mauritius, Iran, Singapore, India and UAE) was tasked to conceptualise the Format of Economic Summit. To date there has been no correspondence on the constitution of the Core Group or on the proposals.

2. The paper also expresses its disappointment on the activities of the WGHM. It states that it seems that the WGHM has lost interest.

3. Regional meetings are not being held on schedule and sometimes cancelled or postponed.

4. The IOR-ARC Secretariat is experiencing difficulties to keep up with the dynamic global economic conditions.

5. The lack of Technical Staff at the Secretariat is severely affecting the performances of the Secretariat and the Organisation at large.

The question is what is to be done?


The Chairperson's report and the Senior Officials proposals can serve as a foundation to build on.

I am sure that we all agree that the IOR-ARC should be more than a platform for sharing ideas but must serve as a vehicle towards producing tangible results that have a qualitative impact on our developmental agenda. An important element of making this a reality is the strengthening of the necessary institutional capacity. In this regard, South Africa has seconded an official to Mauritius to augment the capacity of the Secretariat. Other member states should also consider assisting the Secretariat logistically and financially to seriously make an impact on strengthening the operations of our Association. I say this conscious of the fact that structures, how ever strong, will not be effective if we don't have a prioritised realistic programme of action.

The time has come to ensure that the decisions taken at this 7TH Meeting will facilitate and encourage in concrete terms a mutually beneficial socio-economic co-operation and other peaceful endeavours between all member countries

This meeting should also creatively determine how the IOR-ARC can be an effective mechanism to enhance our capacity to ensuring that concrete programmes of other institutions such the New Asia Africa Strategic Partnership, ASEAN, the Chinese Africa partnership, the Japanese TICAD, and the NEPAD initiative and can be meaningful utilised in our common interests.

We are all concerned about the future of the IOR-ARC. We need to elaborate further on our vision of our organisation to answer the question - where do we want to take/lead the IOR-ARC in the next ten years. Part of this work will entail that we resolve at our planning process with the view to at least construct a 3 - 4 year plan that will establish a continuation from the present Chair to those who will lead us in the next two to four years.

South Africa also believes that after ten years plus of continuous dialogue with partners and observers we need to resolve here that we indeed welcome their active participation in projects identified by the Association. This contribution may be financial, technical or other means. Our resolution can then be translated into agreeable modalities of co-operation. A further mechanism for contact could also be constructed around the Executive Director based in Mauritius.

South Africa looks forward to constructive discussions regarding the future direction of the IOR-ARC. The objective conditions many of our countries face demands that our deliberations must be based on concrete realities and it must be targeted and outcome orientated.

We must express our appreciation to India, Oman and Iran for their contribution to the Special Fund. The Special Fund should empower us to concretely implement priority projects. We should look at how all of us can also contribute to the Special Fund, and determine how best this Fund can be utilised to enable us to achieve our common objectives.

In conclusion may I once again reiterate our appreciation to the Islamic Republic of Iran for hosting this event in these very challenging times. . Thank you also for the hospitalities extended to us since our arrival in Tehran.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

7 March 2007


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