Address by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad to the Spanish Foreign Ministry Seminar on Sub-Saharan Africa, Thursday, 12 May 2005, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Your Excellency, Mr. Secretary of State,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
Representatives of the Government of the Canaries
Distinguished guests,

Let me congratulate the government of the Canaries and the Foreign Ministry of Spain for hosting this timely seminar. The important theme of the conference must be interpreted as the need for Europe as a whole and for significant countries within Europe such as Spain, to prioritise the special needs of Africa which must be recognized by all of us, as the most urgent global priority confronting humanity in this century.

We have gathered here today, on the Island of Tenerife situated in the Atlantic Ocean, that connects four Continents of the world to talk about the Continent closest to this island, called Africa and of the close relationship between Europe and Africa.

Being as close as we are to the continent of Africa we can not speak about its present challenges without being mindful of the impact of its history of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and the Cold War.

I am reminded of the words of William Cowper, an anti slavery activist who wrote, I quote

I own I am shock'd at the purchase of slaves,
And fear those who buy them and sell them are knaves;
What I hear of their hardships, their tortures, and groans,
Is almost enough to draw pity from stones.
I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum?
Especially sugar, so needful we see,
What? give up our desserts, our coffee and tea!"

This conference must make the bold assertion that it refuses to be mum and that we are prepared to give up our "desserts, our coffee and tea" and will speak to each other as equal partners as we collectively confront the historic challenge of the day.

For my part as an African, and a citizen of the world, I assert that all of us must agree that despite the fact that we are on this island surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean, we all live in a globalised community and interdependent world. A world in which globalisation has set in motion far reaching change and challenges affecting everyone and in all spheres of life. In this sense, no country or people can claim to be islands onto themselves, no matter how rich or poor, strong or weak they may be.

Increasingly as a result of rampant economic globalisation, the world has been cast into two contrasting villages, one in which the rich of the world are getting richer and more powerful and another in which the poor of the world are getting poorer and more marginalized. This ever-increasing gap between the have and the have-nots is occurring between and within countries and regions.

Consequently the international global, financial and political order favours the wealthy and the powerful of the world. In addition, the international trade institutions have not worked towards the equality of the world's people.

The international system is beset by global issues of insecurity, such as terrorism, organized crime, drugs, migration, human trafficking, the proliferation of WMDs, and small arms. Across the world entire communities are also experiencing insecurity through conflicts, internal displacement, racism, intolerance, poverty, deadly infectious diseases, and environmental degradation. All of these threats are interconnected and affect all of us, whether rich or poor one-way or the other.

All of these truths that I assert has ensured that poverty and underdevelopment in Africa, stand in stark contrast to the prosperity and development of the rich countries of the North.

Time and time again world knowledge has repeatedly affirmed that:

  • Out of the world population of six billion, almost halve have incomes of less than US$2 a day;
  • In recent decades the poorest 5% of the world's population has lost more than a quarter of its purchasing power, while the richest increased its real income by 12%. The national per capita income of the twenty richest countries is 37 times larger than that of the twenty poorest, a gap which has doubled in size over the last forty years;
  • When we look at the African continent the realities are more stark. We see that Africa's share of the world trade has plummeted, accounting for less than 2%. Despite pledges and commitments made, and not withstanding many African countries pursuing sound economic policies of good governance, FDI flows into Africa remains negligible. In absolute terms, bilateral ODA flows to Africa have dropped in the last decade, from US$25 billion to US$16 billion well short of the estimated US$64 billion a year required to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
  • Debt continues to impact negatively on Africa's developmental efforts.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa more than 40% of its people live below the international poverty line of US$1 a day. More than 140 million young Africans are illiterate. The mortality rate of children under 5 years of age is 140 per 1000, and life expectancy at birth is only 54 years. Only 58 per cent of the population have access to safe water, on average 1 in 19 mothers will die in her lifetime from pregnancy-related causes, 1 in 10 children dies before his or her first birthday and 1 in 8 children suffers from malnutrition.

These shocking statistics that speak to the conditions of human life on the African continent underlies the correctness of the assertion made earlier that the special needs of Africa is the most urgent global priority confronting humanity in this century.

This conference must therefore out of necessity address the comments made by President Mbeki at the United Nations (UN) Millennium Summit:

"The poor of the world stand at the gates of the comfortable mansions occupied by every King and Queen, President, Prime Minister and Minister privileged to attend this unique meeting. The question these billions ask is - what are you doing…to end the deliberate and savage violence against us that, everyday, sentences many of us to a degrading and unnecessary death!…

The fundamental challenge that faces this Millennium Summit is that, credibly, we must demonstrate the will to end poverty and underdevelopment."

Chairperson

The special developmental needs of Africa, much of which is stuck within poverty traps, must be recognized and requires, among others, specific poverty-scale interventions by all. Africa's developmental challenges are much deeper than governance alone, and that it requires a big push in public investments to overcome the regions high transport costs, generally small markets, low-productivity agriculture, adverse agro climatic conditions, high disease burden and slow diffusion of technology from abroad.

Yet at the same time, Chairperson, I also assert, that a new season of hope is rising over Africa.

As our part and in the face of such desperation, we came together to grapple with the challenges of deepening poverty and underdevelopment conscious of the need to give birth to a season of hope for Africa's present and future generations. To this end, we have worked hard over the past few years to transform the OAU into the African Union (AU), a union of African peoples and countries whose energies are directed towards using our collective strength to work for peace and stability, to strengthen democracy, to ensure respect for peoples rights and to embark on a far-reaching programme of the regeneration and development of all our countries.

As Africans, we assert that there is no other formation except the AU that is best placed to undertake a programme of such magnitude. The historical mission of all of us, who desire to see a better Africa in a better world, whether we are in government, business or civil society, remains the need to strengthen the AU and all its structures. Significant progress has already been achieved in the operationalisation of the AU organs and its structures.

In this respect, interalia, we have inaugurated the Pan African Parliament and South Africa has been honoured to host this important house of African voices. The establishment of this key political organ of the AU is a crucial step towards Africa possessing its own political future. We, like Europe, have established this parliament to speak to the important issues of political stability, democratic governance, conflict prevention and resolution.

Significant work has also been done in respect of the other organs of the AU such as ECCOSOC, that seeks to integrate civil society as an important partner in the affairs of government, the African Court of Justice and the financial institutions such as the African Investment Bank, African Central Bank and African Monetary Fund.

We also make the bold assertion that the development of Africa is depended upon the emancipation and full participation of women in the affairs of Africa. In this regard, I am encouraged to note that yesterday you discussed the important issue of the role of women in the development of the continent and trust that our women would be strengthened in their resolve by the recent decision of the AU to ensure that all of its structures and that of national government and non government institutions strive, to achieve gender parity. As Africans, we are proud of the progress we have made to ensure adequate and growing representation of African women in all of the AU and national structures.

True to our believe that there can no sustainable development without peace and security, we have established the African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC). The launch of the PSC was a historical moment giving us a framework for conflict prevention, management and resolution and for peacekeeping and peace building. This new organ which is already hard at work signifies to all and sundry the determination and unwavering commitment of all African peoples to rid the continent of any form of instability and to ensure that peace reigns on all corners of our continent. We are conscious of the fact, that the renewal of the continent that leads all Africans down that path to prosperity and sustainable development is dependent upon the success of the PSC.

The architecture of the PSC is based upon the formation of an African Standby Force, the development of a regional Early Warning System and a Common African Defence Policy.

In all of these we shall seek Spanish co-operation and partnerships.

As a member of the PSC, South Africa will do all that it can to ensure that effective functioning of this important instrument of African peace. As such, we shall continue to contribute to the various conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction efforts that we are engaged with on the continent.

As you discussed yesterday, the AU is hard at work to bring permanent peace to the Cote d'Ivoire and in collaboration with the UN to do the same in the Darfur region in Sudan. As part of entrenching and consolidating democracy on the continent we have worked tirelessly with the people of Burundi and the DRC, the result of which is that both countries will be holding democratic elections this year, ushering in a new era away from decades of conflicts and autocracy.

We are also happy to report that after 27 years of war the Sudanese people have signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

For its part South Africa has contributed thousands of its troops to Africa's peacekeeping and peace making efforts on the African continent both within the UN and AU missions.

Given the reality that South Africa has the strongest economy in our continent, it is our historical responsibility to be deeply involved in post conflict economic, social and governance reconstruction efforts.

Africa's experience demands that we answer the question: are the mandates and efforts of the UN and EU adequate, effective, efficient and timeous in dealing with conflict situations on the African continent. To this end the Brahimi and the Secretary General's Report raises the important issue of how the UN approaches and organizes itself to deal with conflict situations.

We do all that we do on the African continent because we remain steadfast in our assertion that peace and sustainable development are the necessary conditions that will give meaning and content to our desire to ensure a better life for all Africans.

As you discussed yesterday, to respond to the critical challenge of widespread poverty and underdevelopment facing many African countries, Africans produced an AU developmental programme, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). NEPAD is directed towards Africa's regeneration and renewal and its success is dependent upon the collective ownership by all Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora.

It is the first time in Africa's history that we have the objective and subjective conditions to determine our own developmental agenda. Significant progress is being made, through NEPAD. We have identified numerous programmes around water, energy, telecommunication and transport infrastructure, human resource development initiatives including work on expanding access to education, especially for rural communities, access to ICT's improving the health infrastructure on the continent and paying special attention to communicable diseases such as TB, AIDS and Malaria and mobilizing for affordable drugs.

An important part of NEPAD is the building of infrastructure, the provision of food security and the improvement of the agricultural sector ensuring better capacity and efficiency and improving investment in this sector. Related to this is the critical matter of market access to the markets of the developed nations of the world. Further, as we all know, Africa is a huge mining continent. Yet, the beneficiation of raw materials has, for many years been done exclusively in Europe. Accordingly, a process of building a strong value addition capacity in the mining industry has started in Africa.

Nowhere more than in Africa has the need for the mobilization of resources to address the developmental challenges has been so stark. Without the necessary resources to address these developmental challenges, the issue of conflict resolution, peace and stability will remain elusive. As Africans, we are acutely aware that we must take our destiny in our own hands, and as such we must be in the forefront of mobilizing, in addition to other resources, our own resources to address the developmental challenges facing the continent.

We are happy to note that despite the daunting challenges we face Africa is making progress. In this regard the IMF in a recent report stated that economic growth in Sub- Sahara Africa in the current year is expected to reach 4.5% which is at its highest level in many decades. We welcome this, but know that given the challenges this is not sufficient.

For us to even sustain this achievement, what is needed now is the political will of the countries of the developed world to fulfil their commitments to provide higher aid levels where-ever possible on grant terms, improve market access, dismantle distorting trade subsidies and to initiate drastic debt relief and cancellation measures.

To this end it is only reasonable for Africa to expect Spain to play an instrumental role within the EU and WTO to ensure that the developmental agenda of the Doha Round is successfully achieved.

It is on the basis of both the AU and NEPAD that Africa continues to interact and partner with itself and the developing world and with the developed world with a view to pushing back the frontiers of poverty and under-development. In keeping with the recent practice of the G-8 leaders to engage with African leaders on NEPAD, we will once again pursue this important dialogue forum to pursue Africa's access to financial and institutional support, for the implementation of NEPAD as reflected in the G-8 Africa Action Plan.

We look forward to the deliberations at the Gleneagles G-8 Summit and the forthcoming UN 60th Summit that shall review the successes in achieving the MDGs. In all of these important summits we expect on the part of the developed world decisive political will and action leading to concrete implement able programme of actions. The time has come to turn pledges into action and not more words.

We seek all of this because we must answer President Mbeki's question "what are we doing to deal with the billions of poor who stand at the gates of the comfortable" demanding of us to resolve the fundamental challenge of ending poverty and underdevelopment.

We are strong in the belief that the momentum of democracy that has taken root in Africa is irreversible and that the process of democratisation shall deepen.

We have initiated the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). The purpose of the APRM is to ensure the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, good governance, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through the sharing of experiences and the reinforcement of successful and best practices.

The APRM includes the identification of deficiencies and weaknesses in our political, economic and social systems and then offering proposals for improvement. It is in reality a self-assessment mechanism available to those who are willing to seek assistance for the benefit of their countries and peoples.

Chairperson

In all that we do, we as Africans, reflect closely on the developments in other regions of the world and in particular in Europe.

We are of the view that the evolution of Europe as a region of the world at peace with itself over five decades has been a remarkable success of the political will of nations and people ravaged by war, over centuries, to seek peace and human development through political, economic and social integration.

Central to the success of the integration project of Europe then and to its current expansion now has, been Europe's access to resources whose provision is based on the principle of human solidarity and which is used in the overall development of Europe as a whole.

Although much has been done, much still needs to be done. I am sure that all of us here would agree that in order sustain and spread Africa's season hope we must assert:

  • The time has arrived, in order to make a meaningful contribution to rolling-back poverty and underdevelopment, to fast track the implementation of the MDGs with bold, creative and decisive action by all in order to provide to the billions of the world's poor who are trapped in the misery of poverty not only the means to live a productive life but also the hope to live a better live.
  • That achieving the MDGs must be placed centrally in international efforts to end violent conflicts, instability and terrorism and that investing in poverty alleviation and development is fundamental to conflict prevention and to peace-making.
  • The stability and prosperity of the developed countries will continue to be threatened if Africa's poverty and developmental issues are not tackled decisively.
  • That essential to empowering the poor of the world necessitates core investment in infrastructure and human capital that empowers the poor to join the global economy. In this regard, your own experience in the use of structural and cohesion funds is informative.

Central to achieving the above, is the commitment and willingness of all of us, rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, based on the premise that we all live interconnected lives, to share our common planet in a manner that ensure its sustainability for the generations to come. It is also based on the necessity to share our humanity based on real understanding of global solidarity and on our willingness to share and abide by the rulebooks that we write as equal nations of the world committed to multilateral cooperation in pursuit of mutual advantage.

We must choose the path to peace, hope and solidarity, committed to addressing the social and economic injustices of the world. In so doing we must be courageous to assert that we do not have any other option but to conduct our international affairs in a manner that respects international law and promotes multi-lateralism as a means of seeking consensus in the affairs of the world.

Consequently, in pursuit of the above, we must deepen the dialogue directed towards the restructuring of the existing global power relations, particularly through the reform of the global multilateral institutions such as the UN, Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organisations.

We welcome the Secretary Generals Report and we are supportive of many, if not all of the recommendations and proposals he has made. We are confident that the Common African Position, especially the position I have just spoken to, can and must be accommodated within the ongoing debate and negotiations occurring at the UN.

We endorse the Secretary General's assertion that "we will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights" and commend him for shaping a common understanding on the need for the world to develop a vision of collective security based on a shared assessment of the current global threats and obligations needed in addressing these threats.

Needless to say, as an African country we have worked with other countries on the continent, to shape and determine the Common African Position with regard to the UN reform. Consequently as an African country we shall pursue Africa's goal to be fully represented in all decision-making organs of the UN, particularly in the Security Council, which is the principal decision-making organ of the UN in matters relating to international peace and security. Consistent with the Ezulwini African Consensus, we shall engage with global community to ensure that Africa has:

  • Not less than two permanent seats with all the prerogatives and privileges of permanent membership including the right of veto;
  • Even though Africa is opposed in principle to the veto, it is of the view that so long as it exists, and as a matter of common justice, it should be made available to all permanent members of the Security Council;
  • Five non-permanent seats;
  • That the AU should be responsible for the selection of Africa's representatives in the Security Council;
  • And that the question of criteria for the selection of African members of the Security Council should be a matter for the AU to determine, taking into consideration the representative nature and capacity of those chosen.

Shortly, the AU Committee of Thirteen will be meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss the mandate to advance the Common African Position and to take this important matter forward.

Chairperson

As a country committed to economic and social justice, we are firm in the view that the current path of globalisation must change, that the benefits of globalisation can be expanded and that the means and resources needed to create a better world for all are at available. Consequently, we shall continue actively to engage with the community of nations, particularly with the fellow developing countries of the South to face the many challenges in realizing our collective hope to create a better life for all of our peoples.

To this end we have recently returned from the historic Asian African Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, attended by all the major leaders of both our continents. This Summit adopted the New Asian African Strategic Partnership which we are confident will decisively contribute to the Africa's developmental agenda.

The positions adopted at this Summit will inform the approaches we take at the forthcoming G77 plus China Summit that will be held in Qatar.

Chairperson

Everything we have said gives us the confidence to boldly state that indeed a season of hope is rising over Africa.

It is in this context that Africa is indeed encouraged by the constructive and positive approach towards the challenges facing Africa, as enunciated by President Zapatero and the Spanish government. Spain's declared intention to make Africa a priority and to ensure greater involvement as stated this morning by Secretary of State Leon, is warmly welcomed.

Given this commitment, in this season of hope, Africa stands ready to partner with Spain to ensure that the 21st century is indeed an African century. Acutely conscious that our destinies are inextricably interlinked together we must walk on the road of the African Renaissance.

I thank you.


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