Keynote Address by Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim at Diplomatic Academy Graduation Ceremony, 15 June 2009

Director-General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, and
Senior management of the Department
Graduating Class of 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour for me to address you this evening, and to share a very special occasion with you all in recognition of the accomplishments of the graduating Class of 2008.

As we focus this evening on the accomplishments of the Youth of this Department, we acknowledge the historical contribution of past generations in contributing to the creation of a free and democratic South Africa, where all its citizens have the right to liberty, equality and dignity.

With the official launch by the Minister in The Presidency, Collins Chabane of June as Youth Month, we will forever be reminded of the unforgettable deeds of heroism and bravery of our Youth over the past three decades and longer.

Therefore, as the new generation of officials and future diplomats of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, you will be tasked with building on the achievements of past generations of Youth in support of the developmental priorities of the Government and the South African nation.

As future South African representatives you stand at the forefront of this immense challenge.

As such, your graduation from the Diplomatic Academy places you at a historical juncture in the evolution of our foreign policy.  In this regard, I wish to underscore the importance of the message by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the State of the Nation Address on 3 June 2009, in which he outlined the Government’s domestic priorities over the next five years, as the creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods; education; health; crime; and rural development.

What this means for the renamed Department of International Relations and Co-operation was clearly explained by Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane , when she addressed the senior members of this Department and the diplomatic corps on 20 May 2009, as the domesticization of South Africa’s foreign policy.

This challenge, coupled to the Government’s reaffirmation of the Vision of working towards the creation of a better Africa and a better World, takes place against an exacting and complex global environment, shaped by the financial economic crisis and subsequent global economic down-turn.

This situation will present both challenges and opportunities for the continent and the developing world in general, particularly as we strive to ensure that the socio-economic gains of the past several years are not eroded in the context of the 2015 UN Millennium Goals.

Our commitment to Africa will require of us a reinvigoration of our commitment to work in close partnership with the Southern Africa region, towards strengthening regional institutions within the framework of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) to guide regional integration efforts.

Equally, we will need to redouble our efforts towards strengthening the African Union (AU) and its capacity to effectively implement its socio-economic development programmes within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and in leveraging global resources to this end. 

For South Africa, it will require of our diplomats to respond to this new global environment in a departure from the traditional methods associated with diplomatic practice.

Clearly, the focus will be on Economic Diplomacy and an in-depth knowledge of the global financial architecture and systems, if we are to successfully work towards a transformed global financial system as well as navigating the complexities of growing global protectionism.

Equally, this will require of the new generation of South African diplomats to embody in their arsenal, the values espoused by President Zuma, if as a Department we are to make a meaningful contribution to improving the lives of South Africans and in eradicating poverty and economic marginalisation, which is still a daily reality for the large majority of South Africans.

These values are dedication; commitment; integrity; discipline; hard work; and passion.
It is my understanding that as the second group of Cadets to have successfully graduated from the Diplomatic Academy you have been well prepared for the challenges and opportunities that await you.

You have graduated with a post-graduate diploma in diplomacy that has been accorded South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) accreditation. The further value attached to this academically recognised Diploma is the very unique dimension focusing in great detail on the practical aspects of diplomacy.

This innovative approach by the Academy, towards preparing a new generation of aspiring young diplomats standing at the entry point of their careers at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, is to be commended.

Half-way through South Africa’s Second Decade of Freedom, as representatives of our country, we all stand at the forefront of tremendous challenges and opportunities arising from our domestic imperatives and priorities.

These all have a direct impact on the work we will do in the next five years of our international relations and co-operation engagements, both here at Head Office and in our Missions abroad.

Indeed, a review of the past fifteen years of our foreign policy and international engagement has served to highlight the many significant achievements of this Department in support of South Africa’s national interests and values.

In 1994, as a country emerging from the dark days of apartheid challenged to move beyond the restrictions of isolation and protectionism, despite our re-entry to the international community of nations and the euphoria that followed, we were confronted by a complex global post-Cold War environment for which we were perhaps ill prepared.

Against this background, and in the space of a mere fifteen years, South Africa succeeded in carving a unique niche for itself as a bridge-builder between the industrialised North and the developing South, as well as an influential voice in advocating the interests of the continent and the developing world.

 We also worked tirelessly and in partnership with like-minded countries to regain universal acceptance of the primacy of the multilateral system of governance as the only means to address the many daunting challenges affecting all of mankind in the 21stCentury today.   

As the new generation of South African diplomats, you shall continuously be reminded that in the execution of your duties, you bear the hopes, dreams and aspirations of your Government and peoples of this country, and the broader continent on your shoulders.

Always be reminded that you will be viewed by the outside world as a mirror image of South Africa, which in turn, will also be judged by the conduct and quality of its diplomats and foreign representatives both internally and abroad.    

I am confident that your time spent at the Diplomatic Academy has equipped you to cope and indeed excel in representing your country, by transferring the necessary skills and competencies required by modern diplomacy and in operating effectively in the complex, dynamic and interrelated global political and economic environments that characterise the world today.

In so doing, I am equally confident that the Diplomatic Academy in concert with your respective line Branches, have prepared you well in reflecting the dynamic, professional and modern face of this exciting Department to the outside world.

Let this be consistent with our vision of a Department driven by excellence and a strong commitment to improving the lives of all South Africans for the better.                                                          

There is no greater honour than to serve your country and its people. In this regard, always be guided by the powerful vision and motivating force of striving towards “A Better South Africa, A Better Africa and A Better World! “

Congratulations once more on your stellar achievements!

I wish each and every one of you a successful and long career in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, as we work in partnership to achieve the objectives that have been set for the Department over the next five years.

I thank you.

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