Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim at The Presidency Budget Vote on South Africa’s Role in creating a better Africa and a better World, 30 May 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are living on the threshold of a new international order, in the midst of an epochal upheaval in world politics. The economic crisis and implosion of western financial markets has eroded the authority and leadership of the established powers, sharply accelerating the trend towards a multipolar world. Wealth and power is rapidly moving from the North and West to the East and South. After more than two hundred years of Western predominance, the ‘rest’ are now making their return. This is the fast-changing context within which South Africa has to locate itself as we try to build a better Africa and a better world.
We have made Africa our top foreign policy priority. Over the past three years this administration has continued to play an important role, both bilaterally and through the African Union, in promoting peace, good governance, integration and other public goods that are prerequisites for development. Through our collective efforts we have managed to energise the continent. At close to six per cent, Africa’s economies are consistently growing faster than almost any other region. In its latest report released just a few weeks ago, the Africa Progress Panel, chaired by Kofi Annan, noted that ‘for the first time in a generation, the number of people living in poverty has actually fallen – and many countries have witnessed strong progress towards the MDGs.’ As President Zuma pointed out in a speech recently, over the past decade, Africa has gone from being the ‘hopeless Continent’ to being a rising star, the next major growth pole in the world economy.
The key to sustaining this momentum is strengthening continental institutions so that they have the capacity to drive forward the African Agenda. It is with this in mind that we accepted with humility the request of SADC to field Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for the position of the Chairperson of the Commission of the AU, as we are of the view that the Commission has the potential to play a much more dynamic role as the motor of the Union.
It has been calculated that if the continent continues to address its infrastructure backlog, economic growth will receive a boost of perhaps as much as 2 percentage points a year. In view of this, the AU has set up the Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, a committee of eight NEPAD Heads of State, which President Zuma was asked to chair, to drive infrastructure projects forward. Our President is also responsible for championing the North-South Road and Rail Corridor project.
The SADC region is making good progress, as evidenced by the successful elections recently in Seychelles, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and, just this weekend, Lesotho.
We are pleased that the recently adopted African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) Roadmap on Sudan and South Sudan has produced positive results. We have noted that South Sudan completed the withdrawal of its forces from Abyei and that Sudan has started the process of withdrawing its forces from the contested area. We are also pleased that negotiations between the two sides resumed on 29 May 2012 in Addis Ababa and will cover the outstanding post-secession issues.
You will recall that South Africa recently signed an agreement to establish Diplomatic Relations with Somalia and that we have pledged R100 million towards assisting Somalis with governance, nation-building and reconciliation. In follow-up to this undertaking, my Department led a multi-sectoral visit to Mogadishu in late-April 2012 to determine the best way to assist the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
As a rising state, South Africa is assuming an increasingly important role in the emerging global political order, as part of IBSA, the BRICS, as the only African country in the G20, and as a non-permanent member of UNSC.
South Africa’s South-South cooperation strategy is anchored on the BRICS partnership mechanism with China, India, Brazil and Russia. Our membership of BRICS has three objectives: to boost job creation and the domestic economy; to support African infrastructure development and industrialisation; and to partner with key players of the South on issues related to global governance and its reform. As the host of the next BRICS Summit in early 2013, we have a contribution to make to the realisation of the objective of establishing the BRICS Development Bank.
South Africa believes firmly in multilateralism and that our institutions of global governance, which are mostly relics of the post-World War II era, must be updated and renewed, to make them more representative and responsive to the needs of developing countries. We seek to use our membership of the G20 to promote the reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions to strengthen the position of Africa and of the South and to ensure that they reinforce the capacities of national governments to achieve development goals. Our non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2011 to 2012 continues to provide a unique opportunity to contribute constructively to international peace and security. South Africa has taken a consistent and principled position against the use of the Council as an instrument of power politics, and in favour of the safeguarding of civilian life through finding non-violent, negotiated solutions to conflicts. We served as the President of the Security Council for the month of January 2012 during which we convened a High Level debate on strengthening the relationship between the UN and regional organizations, in particular the AU, in the maintenance of international peace and security. President Jacob Zuma presided over this debate whose conclusion unanimously adopted resolution 2033 (2012).
South Africa is playing a leading role in managing the global commons. At the historic COP17 in December last year, not only did we secure the 2nd Commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a key outcome for Africa, but we also made history with the unanimous adoption of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. In addition to this, we managed to achieve the establishment of the Green Climate Fund; the Adaptation Committee and the Technology Mechanism.
I said that we are at the threshold of a new world order. But humankind has a long way to travel to achieve peace, harmony and development. The fight against poverty and hunger is a difficult fight. The recent massacre in Houla, the bombing of six children in Afghanistan this weekend, the senseless killing in Somalia, the fight for freedom in Palestine and Western Sahara and the recent events in Mali all suggest that the road to peace and freedom is a very long road. Therefore we need to place the question of peace, security, freedom and human rights at the top of our agenda. South Africa has a crucial role to play in this respect in its interaction on the Continent and its involvement in all multilateral fora.
The President is correct when he states that South Africa is a respected member of the international community. This is because of the sound leadership of our President and our independent, Ubuntu-led foreign policy which places emphasis on humane values of peace, the interconnectedness of people, human rights and freedom. We will always speak for the poor, the dispossessed and the oppressed of the world.
I thank you.