05 February 2018
Opening Remarks Mr KE Mahoai Director-General: Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Your Excellencies, BRICS Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my sincere honour to welcome you to South Africa for this, the First BRICS Sherpas Meeting under the auspices of South Africa’s Chairship. This city that we fondly call the ‘Mother City’ is steeped in the history of our country. Not far from here is the famous Robben Island, where our great leader Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for eighteen years out of twenty-seven years of incarceration.
The people and government of South Africa have asked the world to join us this year as we mark the centenary anniversary of our beloved Tata Nelson Mandela and, in so doing, to collectively honour the life and legacy of this icon.
Writing in 1993 on the future prospects of South Africa’s foreign relations, the late President Mandela reflected on his time on Robben Island, noting, and I quote:
As the 1980s drew to a close I could not see much of the world from my prison cell, but I knew it was changing. There was little doubt in my mind that this would have a profound impact on my country, on the southern African region and the continent of which I am proud to be a citizen. Although this process of global change is far from complete, it is clear that all nations will have boldly to recast their nets if they are to reap any benefit from international affairs in the post-Cold War era.
Today, the BRICS Forum constitutes one of the cornerstones of South Africa’s foreign policy, the underpinnings of which were envisioned by President Mandela all those years ago. Moreover, this august institution marks its own notable anniversary this year, as we commemorate the milestone tenth anniversary of BRICS Summitry at the highest diplomatic level and initiate the second cycle of BRICS cooperation.
In the past decade, this Forum has evolved and expanded its mandate beyond the initial economic focus that brought us together, to include political, security, social and other relevant matters. We have established our own viable, credible and internationally comparable financial institutions, namely the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, the New Development Bank and its Africa Regional Centre. In fact, it was here in South Africa in 2013 that our Leaders first deliberated and endorsed these key institutions. I am pleased to hear that representatives from both the NDB and the ARC will be joining you during your deliberations and will give their respective, but complementary views and organisational plans for the further contributions of these institutions.
Through our engagement in BRICS we have worked not only to generate ideas, projects and programmes that are innovative and responsive to the realities that our countries and citizens face; but we have equally focused our efforts on the practical implementation of our ambitions. We have done so in a way that has yielded tangible results.
Despite this, however, we remain conscious that we cannot rest in the comfort of our gains, because there is always more work to be done. Nelson Mandela reminded us of this when he said:
“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.
It is with this sentiment in mind that we make concerted efforts to pursue peace and sustainable development on our continent and indeed for the countries of the Global South.
The main pillar in our foreign policy is Africa. From Sanya to Xiamen, we have sought to carry Africa into our BRICS engagements and have found place and resonance for the African Agenda in the BRICS Agenda and, in so doing, we have meaningfully honoured the mandate given to President Zuma by his fellow African Leaders when we initially joined BRICS.
As you would be aware, 2017 saw the launch of the ARC of the NDB in Johannesburg. This institution is a tangible attestation of the manner in which our international partnerships and collaborations can yield solutions that are primed to assist us on the Continent in unlocking our industrial development potential.
We intend to further engender a meaningful and productive interaction between BRICS and our African partners, whilst attempting to contribute to the BRICS institution-building agenda, through the two proposals we have put forward, namely the establishment of a Working Group on Peacekeeping and the Virtual Vaccine Research Platform. We will also, as in 2013, incorporate a Leaders Outreach session that includes our African partners.
Our assimilation into the BRICS Forum in 2011 was made easier by the fact that we had a shared outlook on the need to advance the interests and practical development of the Global South. We have successfully championed these mutual issues on multiple international platforms and have provided an amplified voice for the Global South on issues of concern, including the reform of the global political and financial architecture.
South Africa’s intention from the onset has been to make meaningful and qualitative contributions to the operations and institutions of BRICS. This is reflected in the key proposals that we have put forward for our tenure as BRICS Chair in 2018. We trust that we will receive the full support of our partners, firstly to strengthen these proposals, and secondly to bring these to fruition. Our sector experts will expand on these ideas in further technical detail and provide some of the modalities that are required.
As we jointly forge our way forward, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the work which you, our trusted Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas, perform in the context of our Forum. It goes without saying that this is the engine of BRICS. Your vital engagement is a microcosm of the discussions amongst our Leaders and is an essential consensus-oriented foundation for the decisions that our Ministers and Leaders endorse. The Xiamen Declaration noted that, our cooperation since 2006 has fostered the BRICS spirit featuring mutual respect and understanding, equality, solidarity, openness, inclusiveness and mutually beneficial cooperation, which is our valuable asset and an inexhaustible source of strength for BRICS cooperation.
This sentiment must resonate at all levels of BRICS interaction and I urge you, our Sherpas, to move in unison and in this spirit through your deliberations. I wish you well.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road