Address at Raisina Dialogue, India by South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, 16 January 2020: ‘Education as a foundation for democracies, development and Multilateralism’

Dr Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation,
Excellencies,
Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen

I wish to thank the foundation for inviting me to speak at and attend the Raisina Dialogues, a critical forum for the exchange of ideas and reflection on innovative solutions to the complex challenges that all leaders are required to respond to.

In the first decade of this century it has become increasingly obvious that citizens all over the world are feeling a growing impatience and irritation at our inability to respond speedily and impactfully on the many socio-economic and other problems that confront them.

For many years the availability of charismatic leaders who could sway the public mood was sufficient to quell dissent, and in many instances oppressive authoritarian practices held resistance back, but it is becoming less and less easy to persuade citizens that all will get better and they should be patient. It is therefore probable that the 21st century could be the beginning of an age of new ideas, new leaders, new progressive philosophies. Dr Saran and team have suggested the notion of the Alpha century. The concept alpha does not have positive connotations for gender activists. It implies male, aggressive and excluding. Let us accept for a moment that the intended meaning is the highest peaks of excellence and the aspiration is that this will be achieved by all the people of the globe in the 21st century.

This is an ambition none of us would reject. South Africa is one of the key emerging economies of the South. It is a country determined to succeed in creating a durable democracy based on our constitution and the African aspirations of Agenda 2063 – the Africa we want.

This year South Africa will celebrate 26 years of freedom and will assume the chairship of the African Union. Our country is a strong believer in multilateralism and the development of international collaboration to advance the good of all humanity.

The world is experiencing regional conflicts that may appear minimal in global terms, yet they are global proxy wars affecting millions of people, affecting poor communities, infrastructure and the prospect of future peace. South Africa believes that the international community should devote much more attention to developing a common agenda for peace.

There are many leaders who believe peace will be achieved through increased aggression, larger defence architecture or economic dominance. All of these exist but they have not achieved peace. Instead they have created new enemies through increased human tragedy in conflict and failure to develop support for and promotion of human dignity and respect for diversity. It is our view that such values and principles should be advanced through the UN.

These ideals are fundamental principles in the constitution of post-apartheid South Africa. The ambition to create a nation united in diversity, non-racial and non-sexist is very difficult for a people emerging from one of the most deliberating experiences of racially oppressive social engineering.

We extracted these progressive values from our experience of international solidarity in the struggle for freedom. It was multilateralism and a common United Nations position that resulted in the freedom of Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa. While we do believe the UN must be modernised and fundamentally reformed (especially the UNSC), we do not agree with current efforts to diminish the global role and structure of the United Nations.

We hold the view that it is only through multilateralism that we will solve intractable conflicts. Unilateral military might increase tensions and casualties. Of course we are keen to have increased focus on developing countries and greater attention to eradicating poverty and inequality.

The past two years have been witness to the erosion of global collaboration and this was halted progress in combating poverty and actively pursuing implementation of the SDGs. We plan to vigorously pursue an agenda for peace in Africa as a core focus of our AU chairship. Peace will lead to development and prosperity and implementation of our African free trade Area.

South Africa believes the world is solely in need of logical and innovative thinking and that a forum such as this one could be the space in which a new progressive mind set is inculcated and supported. We should challenge outdated notions here and breathe new life into this new decade.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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