Budget Vote Speech of the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Honourable Ebrahim Ebrahim, to the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Wednesday 25 April, 2012

Chairperson;
Honourable Chair of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation;
Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee of International Relations and Cooperation;
Your Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Representatives of International Organizations;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Fellow South Africans; and
Comrades and Friends,

Our foreign policy decisions are guided by our principles, foremost amongst which is the desire for a more just, humane and equitable world.  In the conduct of our international relations, we attach the utmost importance to the promotion of human rights, democracy, justice and international law. Inspired by our history and ethos, we believe that it is both in our national interest and our moral duty to champion human rights struggles around the world. We remain convinced that our goal should not merely be to condemn human rights violations but to do something concrete to address them. We take pride in following a uniform and principled approach to human-rights and conflict resolution that respects the universality of the rights of victims.

Honourable Chairperson

It is now more than a year since the first stirrings in Tunisia ushered in the much belated Arab Awakening, spilling over into Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and further afield. These popular uprisings have fundamentally challenged the whole Arab order, giving renewed hope and energy to people of the region and beyond for liberty, democracy and a better life. South Africa welcomes the positive changes that have been taking place in the MENA region.  We have availed ourselves to post-uprising states to share our experience of successful political transition as they lay the foundations for their new systems of government.

We commend the good progress being made in the unfolding democratic transition in Tunisia. We have noted with great satisfaction the election of a National Constituent Assembly in October 2011, including the far-sighted decision to establish a coalition government which consists of three major political parties.  

South Africa is closely following developments in the transitional process in Egypt. Our country continues to interact with the role-players to identify possible areas of cooperation in the drafting of the new constitution. We welcome the decision by Egypt to give renewed priority to Africa in its foreign relations and remain committed to the deepening of our bilateral relationship.

Honourable Members,

Since 1994 South Africa has chosen to defend those whose rights have been trampled upon, including the right to self determination. We remain deeply concerned about the state of affairs in the Western Sahara, the only outstanding decolonisation issue on the agenda of the African Union. We continue to reiterate the need for UN Resolutions to be implemented and the right of self-determination of the Western Sahara to be respected in terms of international law. South Africa firmly believes that there can be no lasting solution if the international community stands idle while the people of Western Sahara continue to suffer. We continue to emphasise that the UNSC should add a Human Rights monitoring component to the mandate of MINURSO, a glaring anomaly which creates the impression that some powers do not give priority to the human rights of the people of Western Sahara.

South Africa has re-established full bilateral relations with the new governing authority in Libya. We wish to see the new authorities make a success of establishing a successful, democratic post-conflict state. To this end, we have begun a process to assist Libya in constitution-making, national reconciliation, the integration of the various brigades into a national defense force, and economic development.

Honourable Members,

War and violence severely undermine human rights, ripping apart lives and livelihoods. An important contribution that South Africa has made to the protection of human rights is our investment in peace mediation efforts, in Burundi, the DRC, Sudan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Libya, Madagascar and elsewhere. We believe strongly that the key to the lasting solution of conflicts is through inclusive processes of dialogue and reconciliation that address the underlying causes of disputes and reconstruct viable polities. Military intervention and regime-change solutions are almost always counterproductive, exacerbating conflicts and prolonging the killing.

We are pleased that our approach has been validated in Yemen, where mounting domestic and international pressure finally ended the 33 year rule of President Saleh and led to the formation of an inclusive government under former Vice President Hadi.  We are convinced that the patient mediation effort that the international community employed in Yemen is the model for solving other crises in the region, not the aggressive intervention that we witnessed in Libya.

South Africa remains deeply concerned by the situation in Syria. We welcome the news that the advanced team of observers has been able to visit key hotspots, including Homs, and that they have observed a marked decrease in violence. The deployment of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria will be important to ensure that the 6-point proposal of the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, is implemented, and will likewise play a crucial role towards the goal of promoting an all-inclusive process of peaceful dialogue leading to a political outcome that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. It is extremely important that all members of the international community give the Annan plan a chance to succeed, and uphold and respect the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

Honourable Chairperson

The Arab Spring has demonstrated clearly that people cannot in the end be denied their legitimate rights, that their aspirations cannot be reduced to a security problem to be managed. After six decades of war and agony, Palestinians must be given their due.  South Africa remains disappointed that no progress has been made in the latest round of talks under the auspices of Jordan, because of the Israeli failure to submit proposals on borders and security as required by the Quartet. Instead, the Israeli Government continues its acts of aggression, such as home demolitions, restricting the access and movement of the Palestinian people, the continued siege of Gaza, and above all, the relentless expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land including East Jerusalem.  

We call on Israel to end its Apartheid policies of repression and accept the hand of peace that has been extended by the Palestinians and the Arab world. An independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, would be an enormous boon to Israel, leading to its full acceptance in the region, and providing by far the best assurance of its long term security and prosperity.

Honourable Members,

We have taken note of the withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, but remain concerned at the ongoing terror attacks which continue to kill or injure a significant number of innocent Iraqi civilians. We continue to hope that the US troop withdrawal will provide the impetus for the peaceful resolution of remaining sectarian disputes within the democratic framework so painfully established in Iraq since the demise of the Saddam Hussein regime nine years ago.  

We congratulate Myanmar on the successful parliamentary by-elections that took place on 1 April, which resulted in the election Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and a number of her colleagues from the National League for Democracy. South Africa shares the general view that the way in which the parliamentary by-elections were conducted is indicative of a commitment on the part of the Government of Myanmar to continue down the road of political reform. We hope that the spirit of optimism which prevailed during elections will continue to be sustained.

We have urged the Sri Lankan Government to grasp the opportunity to finally settle the conflict in Sri Lanka, including the speedy implementation of the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report, as well as the setting up of an impartial, inclusive and transparent mechanism to hold those people responsible for human rights violations to account. We stand ready to assist and share with the government and people of Sri Lanka our experiences on reconciliation and nation-building.

Honourable Members

Our diplomacy of Ubuntu recognises not only our moral interconnectedness, but that in an interdependent world, it is ultimately in our national interest to promote and support the positive development of others. As a trustee of our common values and humanity, DIRCO will continue to work as effectively as we can to advance all categories of human rights during the 2012/13 budget year and beyond.

I thank you

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