Media Statement by the Minister of International Relations, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on international relations developments, OR Tambo Building, 08 October 2013

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media. In our briefing today, we will:

  1. report back on the outcomes of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly,
  2. reflect on South Africa’s first six months as Chair of the BRICS,
  3. State Visit by President Zuma to the Republic of Senegal, and
  4. provide an overview on the upcoming State Visit to South Africa by the President of the French Republic.

1. The 68TH Session of the UN General Assembly

President Zuma led the South African delegation to the General Debate of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly and addressed the Session on 24 September 2013.

Under the theme, “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage”, the General Debate this year focused on the rapidly approaching target date for achieving the MDGs by 2015 and the international deliberations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  President Zuma therefore utilised the opportunity to outline South Africa’s priorities on these important developments, specifically:

  • The urgent need to accelerate action towards the fulfilment of the MDG targets by 2015,
  • The need for the Post-2015 development agenda to build on existing international commitments and outcomes, such as Agenda 21, the MDGs, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Rio+20 outcome,
  • The need for any development agenda beyond 2015 to be based on the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities in order to equalise the international playing field, and
  • That the shaping of the Post-2015 development agenda should not be used to introduce new issues as prerequisites for development and partnerships.

Another major theme that permeated South Africa’s engagement during the high-level week at UNGA68 is the urgent need for the reform of the UN Security Council. 

In this regard, South Africa challenges the UN Membership to: “celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations in 2015, with a reformed, more inclusive, democratic and representative UN Security Council.”

Our concern with the lack of progress on this matter is that the UN Security Council still remains undemocratic, unrepresentative and unfair to developing nations and small States, which disenfranchises the majority of the Member States of the United Nations. 

In addition to the General Debate, we also participated in the following High-Level side events at UNGA68:

  • Meeting of the High-Level Committee on Africa’s Common Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, hosted by President Sirleaf Johnston of Liberia;

  • Meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security And Cooperation Framework on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, chaired by the Secretary-General of the UN;

  • High-level Breakfast Meeting on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on Genuine and Durable Partnerships in Support of SIDS Sustainable Development, hosted by the Prime Minister of Samoa;

  • Special event to follow up efforts made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, chaired by the President of the General Assembly;

  • Anniversary High-Level Event on Global Education First Initiative, hosted by the Secretary-General

2. South Africa’s first six months as Chair of the BRICS

South Africa assumed the Chairpersonship (presidency) of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) inter-governmental grouping on the occasion of the Fifth BRICS Summit, which President Jacob Zuma hosted from 26-27 March 2013 in Durban, eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal.

The key outcomes that we projected for the Summit were successfully achieved, i.e. the agreement to establish the New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement; the launch of the BRICS Business Council and BRICS Think Tanks Council as well as the first BRICS dialogue with another region, i.e. the BRICS Leaders-Africa Dialogue Forum;.

The Summit outcome documents were the eThekwini Declaration and the eThekwini Action Plan. The implementation of the eThekwini Declaration and eThekwini Action Plan has been met with great enthusiasm among our BRICS partners. South Africa has proposed meetings for all existing sectorial cooperation mechanisms as contained in the Action Plan.

In addition, we have developed proposals for the majority of newly identified areas for cooperation, i.e.

  • BRICS Public Diplomacy Forum
  • BRICS Anti-Corruption Cooperation
  • BRICS State Owned Companies/State Owned Enterprises
  • National Agencies Responsible for Drug Control
  • BRICS Virtual Secretariat
  • BRICS Youth Policy Dialogue
  • Tourism
  • Energy
  • Sports and Mega Sporting Events

Additionally, we have also proposed to host a first meeting of BRICS Ministers responsible for Education on the margins of the UNESCO General Conference, also considering our shared challenges pertaining to skills development and unemployment.

In terms of the high-level meetings that have taken place, we can report as follows:

President Zuma chaired the meeting of BRICS Leaders on the margins of the G20 Summit that took place in St Petersburg on 05 September 2013.

The BRICS Leaders considered progress reports on the establishment of the new Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement and expressed their satisfaction with the good progress achieved. They announced that the subscribed capital of the Bank would be 50 billion US Dollars from BRICS countries.

The inaugural meeting of the BRICS Think Tanks Council will take place from 11-13 November in Cape Town.

You might have also noticed that BRICS is attracting increasing global attention. BRICS analyses are becoming a new study field. This is indicative of the influence of the BRICS amplified voice that this dialogue and cooperation platform brings to addressing global issues of mutual interest.

We are witnessing a changing global order and the past year has seen positive developments in the context of peace and development where the international community is starting to reap the benefits of BRICS’s insistence in upholding the integrity of the United Nations Charter in respect of security and development.

3. Senegal State visit

We have just returned from a very successful historic state visit to Senegal, the first by a South African head of state to that country.

South Africa and Senegal have enjoyed close and historical ties of solidarity dating back to the period of our struggles for freedom and independence.

The visit took relations between the two countries to a higher level and a lot was accomplished within the auspices of the South Africa-Senegal Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC).

Two agreements were concluded, namely;

  • The Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture;
  • An Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Arts and Culture.

The two agreements demonstrate that both people-to-people relations, as well as agro-industrial partnership for development are important to our relationship.

We also agreed on the need to unlock the economic potential between our two countries through economic co-operation that includes industrial and technological partnership, and the transfer of skills.

The creation of tourism, infrastructure, food security, retail, communication and energy investment projects, just to mention a few sectors, will ensure that impetus for the growth and development we need.

We also believe that there is considerable scope for bilateral cooperation in the following areas of mutual interest: trade and economic development, energy, security (defence capacity building), environment, mining and mining beneficiation, agriculture, water purification as well as employment or job creation.

The South Africa-Senegal Business Forum also met to find many areas of economic cooperation in investments in the two economies.

The two countries also highlighted the importance of investing in infrastructure development in the continent so that we can better promote regional economic integration, intra-Africa trade and tourism.

Our two countries have a history of promoting Africa’s development having worked together to promote the New Partnership for Africa’s Development since its inception.

Our two countries also share strong democratic traditions and will continue to cooperate in promoting democracy, good governance and human rights in our continent and the world at large.

4. State Visit by the President of the French Republic

President Zuma will, on 14 and 15 October host, President François Hollande on a State Visit to South Africa. President Hollande will be accompanied a high profile Ministerial and business delegation.

Since his election, President Hollande has met with President Zuma on several occasions on the margins of multilateral meetings; and exchanged telephone calls reflecting on pertinent bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual concern.

France is South Africa’s strategic partner. Bilateral relations are coordinated through the annual Forum for Political Dialogue (FPD). The last session of the FPD took place on 26 June 2013 in Paris and reflected on bilateral, regional and global developments.

Cooperation between the two countries cuts across a broad spectrum of areas. There is on-going and deepening collaboration in such areas as defence, development cooperation, science and technology, arts and culture, energy and agriculture. France is a key development partner for South Africa. During President Zuma’s State Visit to France in March 2011, the New Framework Partnership Agreement 2011–2013, was signed to the value of R10 billion.

France is South Africa’s third largest trading and investment partner within the European Union. A number of French public and private companies have made significant investments in South Africa. Between the period 2004-2012 investments worth R15 billion by French companies were recorded, creating significant job opportunities.  A highlight of the visit is the South Africa-France Business Forum that will afford the respective business communities an opportunity to take advantage of the growing bilateral economic relations and to explore further opportunities.

Tourism flows from France to South Africa continue to grow. In 2012, 122 000 French tourists visited South Africa, representing a 16% increase compared to the previous year’s figure. The South Africa–France Seasons of Culture, which is currently on-going in France present further prospects for growth in the tourism sector.

The Seasons of Culture project is aimed at strengthening the political, cultural and economic ties between the two countries that covers a wide range of fields, including culture, trade and investment, science and technology, and tourism. The French Season was held in South Africa from June to November 2012. The South African Season in France was launched in May 2013 in Paris and ends in December 2013.

During the course of the Visit, a number of agreements and declarations of intent will be signed in different areas of cooperation, signalling expansion in the bilateral relationship. The signing of these agreements will spur cooperation in such areas energy, maritime, agriculture, transport infrastructure.

I thank you.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, 082 884 5974.


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