Address by Ms Sue van der Merwe, Deputy Minister of Foreign
Affairs, to the South African Institute of International Affairs, Western Cape
Branch, Centre of the Book, Cape Town 14 June 2006
- the search for greater equity, representivity and balance in the global exercise
Ladies and Gentlemen
my pleasure to address the South African Institute for International Affairs on
the role of multilateral diplomacy in our foreign policy agenda.
I will start my talk reflecting on two momentous occasions that
we as a country witnessed last year that are significant in terms of foreign policy
The first was the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom
Charter. Some fifty years ago, thousands of people from diverse racial groups
gathered at the Congress of the People to put forward their vision of a future
South Africa. While the Charter envisions a South Africa that belongs all who
live in it, it also envisioned a global role for the country to "strive to
maintain world peace and the settlement of international disputes by negotiation
- not war." The document goes on to further state that: "The right of
all peoples of Africa to independence and self government shall be recognised,
and shall be the basis of close co-operation." This principle has been the
mainstay of our struggle for liberation, which brought about a democratic dispensation
in 1994 and is now the cornerstone of our foreign policy.
interaction with the international community must necessarily reflect its national
imperatives, including such critical issues as job creation and poverty alleviation.
The challenge for South Africa's interactions with the international community
will, therefore, continue to be the way in which foreign policy synthesises the
South African peoples' values and principles with the actions and positions it
needs to adopt as a response to global events and trends.
The second event
last year was the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations. This
could have been one of the momentous events of our time, and we could have witnessed
the far-reaching reform of the United Nations, which would have been exemplified
by an agreement, amongst others, to enlarge the United Nations Security Council.
is now historic fact that this did not happen, and we were set back years in the
process. The outcomes of the Summit were a huge disappointment to us, but because
the core developmental issues that are of concern to us were sacrificed through
Of course, we had realised from the beginning of
our campaign as Africans and members of the South that the first prize for us
was a decisive outcome regarding the direction the world would take towards realising
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
This we did mindful of our commitment
to the vision of "trade and not aid" would liberate us economically,
to ensure that we realise the MDGs by 2015.
However, having said that,
as a country we are aware that there will always be competing ideologies about
how the world should be governed, but we remain convinced that only through constructive
dialogue will be able to bring about the kind of world we envisage. We still believe
that the United Nations is the key multilateral institution for global governance.
years ago, in June 1976, 15,000 school children led by Tebello Motopayane and
Tsietsi Mashinini, with great courage and conviction marched through the streets
of Soweto to protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.
They were met by an armed police force who fired into the crowd. On this
fateful day, our country lost some of its brightest minds in the cause of fighting
for the freedom that we enjoy today. By August, the revolt had spread to other
parts of the country and in the year that followed many children gave their lives
to the struggle for freedom.
This march also sparked an intensification
in international solidarity with the struggle in South Africa; and the Soweto
uprising began the final phase in the struggle to free South Africa from apartheid
and to usher in a new era for the South African people.
Today our struggle
is different and as we commemorate Youth Day on Friday, I am glad to see that
our young people are hard at work using the opportunities that the freedom that
they have fought so hard for in working towards a better life for all.
foreign policy is informed by our domestic policy and the two are mutually reinforcing.
Informed by its domestic policy, South Africa's foreign policy therefore is guided
by the vision of a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better World.
In this regard, progress has been made in confronting the challenges plaguing
the African continent to reach her full potential. Our people from all walks of
life have demonstrated goodwill to change the fortunes of the continent to a prosperous
society. Over the years we have reached various milestones in entrenching the
principles of democratic governance with remarkable results. As a consequence,
many countries on the continent have over recent years held successful elections,
the rule of law is being observed and respected and a vibrant civil society base
Building on the successes that have been achieved so far, the
Democratic Republic of Congo is writing her own history as the country is preparing
itself for the upcoming elections to be held next month after many years of conflict
and instability. In Burundi the groups remaining outside the peace process are
now in dialogue with the Burundian government with the aim of reconciling their
differences to bring about lasting peace and prosperity in their country.
from our own experience, South Africa has actively been involved as a mediator
and promoter of peace and of economic development on the continent. In the spirit
of the African Renaissance, we have committed capital and human resources to various
African Union initiatives that will see our continent achieving the objectives
of a better life for all. Our initiatives have been complemented by the private
sector, which continues to bring about much needed investment on the African continent
propelling our country to be one of the lead contributors to Foreign Direct Investment
on the continent.
Our economic, political and social systems are currently
being evaluated under the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). The APRM as you
might be aware is the brainchild of the New Partnership for Africa's Development
(NEPAD) as a programme of action that encourages good democratic governance. Civil
society movements were a prominent feature in making their voices known to the
APRM's consultative process during the South African National NEPAD Strategy Workshop
held in April this year.
For us to fully achieve and realise the African
Renaissance we recognise civil society movements as an important and key stakeholder
in this process and every effort has been made to bring them on board. These movements
too have responded positively to continental efforts of building a better a future
for her people.
There are however shortcomings that we still need to overcome
as we pursue our development goals for the people of our continent. We still need
to overcome poverty, infectious diseases and provide access to health care, housing,
water and sanitation to the most vulnerable people within our societies.
an uneven gender balance in key sectors of economic, social and political development
still haunts the continent. Women still bear the brunt of discrimination and marginalisation.
Strides are being made in addressing this challenge as we have seen women taking
up leadership positions and playing a critical role in the affairs of the continent.
Regionally, there are positive prospects as various structures under the
auspices of SADC are consolidating the gains that have been facilitated by our
governments. Resources have been made available by our country to strengthen the
SADC Secretariat in order to allow it to implement its mandate to the people of
We therefore remain committed to promoting our domestic interests
abroad through dialogue and engagement. Dialogue has always been our strength
and we remain convinced that only through constructive dialogue will we be able
to bring about the kind of world envisage.
For South Africa, multilateralism is not an option, but the only
choice that can guarantee durable peace, which underpins the fight against poverty
and underdevelopment. As the universal forum for grappling with international
problems, the UN is the best-suited platform for tackling the diverse and complex
challenges that arise within the human polity.
It is clear that it is only
through a reformed United Nations that threats and challenges facing humanity
can be collectively confronted. Such a reform should be meaningful, strengthen
the ability of the Organization to implement its mandates effectively and enable
it to serve the interests of the collective membership. A stronger United Nations
that responds more effectively to our collective needs is in our common interest.
We therefore remain seized with the issue of the reform of the UN.
Budget Vote Speech in May this year, Minister Dlamini Zuma, stated that while
we experienced some setbacks with regards to the UN Reform Agenda last year, some
important developments have taken place in the reform agenda.
we can include the establishment of the Human Rights Council. We believe that
with its establishment, we can now overcome the shortcomings that befell its predecessor,
the Human Rights Commission, which some states used as a platform to refer those
countries whose policies they did not agree with.
This had the negative
consequence of politicising the issues rather than bringing about constructive
solutions to human rights violations by certain countries. As a newly appointed
member of the Human Rights Council, we will continue to advance our principled
position of bringing about a just world that respects human rights.
have already stated, peace and stability on the continent are very critical for
economic growth and development. Therefore a fundamental aspect of our foreign
policy, particularly with regards to the Consolidation of the African Agenda,
is to ensure that once a cessation of hostilities is in place, mechanisms are
developed place that ensure the country does not slide back into conflict. Thus,
increasingly, we are doing work in the area of post-conflict reconstruction and
development. We therefore believe that once it begins its work, the United Nations
Peace Building Commission will play a pivotal role in the transition from conflict
- to post conflict reconstruction that is sustainable.
The Commission will
mainly be a coordinating mechanism of all the actors that are involved in assisting
countries emerging from conflict. This usually includes UN agencies, regional
organisations and bilateral donors. The value of the Peace Building Commission
would be to bring coherence to the work of these various entities around a commonly
Its second main focus would be to ensure that the international
community has a longer-term horizon in assisting a country emerging from conflict.
Hitherto a weakness of the approach of the international community has been its
short-term focus, often reducing support to a country once elections have been
held. This has led to a relapse in most cases back into conflict with costly consequences
for the countries concerned as well as the international community.
the Commission holds the potential to make a significant contribution to post-conflict
reconstruction. It is also important to note that most of the countries that will
be on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission will be African countries.
will now briefly like to address the issue of the reform of the United Nations
Security Council. Much of the work that we and others did last year on United
Nations reform, was overshadowed by the emphasis on Security Council enlargement.
As much as we, in the developing world, were concerned that the over-emphasis
on security issues, particularly the fight against terrorism, would undermine
the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, Security Council nevertheless
remains at the heart of this reform drive.
The question that members are
really asking is how, after 60years of existence, could the global governance
agenda rest in the hands of five countries with the power to veto the decisions
of all the combined votes of the members. We also sought, collectively as African
States, to address this issue through the Ezulwini Consensus, where we argued
"Africa's goal is to be fully represented in all the 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
This position also found resonance in the Secretary-General's
Report entitled "In Larger Freedom", wherein he stated that "[t]he
Security Council should be broadly representative of the realities of power in
So in a sense, there was some kind of global consensus
that was starting to emerge towards the time of the 60th session of the General
Assembly in September last, hence our optimism.
However, this issue is
not completely off the agenda yet and we continue to lobby for the expansion of
the Security Council. This issue will receive attention at the AU Summit in The
Gambia in July this year.
Apart from the political diplomacy, there are
also the economic and development challenges that remain high on our agenda. It
is by now clear that we cannot achieve security without development and development
without security. It is clear to us that trade not aid provides the best and sustainable
path towards having meaningful development and in turn the attainment of the Millennium
Development Goals. However, this cannot happen while the global power relations
remain as they are.
We must therefore continue to 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 United
Nations, the Bretton Woods Institutions and the WTO.
In the last year we
continued to advance our positions through participation in African Group meetings
in UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and WTO and as a G20 member
in the WTO. These interactions play an important role in promoting South-South
co-operation for increased market access, trade and investment amongst developing
At the same time we must continue to play a role in cultivating
the already good political relations that we have with our partners in the North
and strive towards making these translate into concrete economic benefits. Here
I am talking about the G8, \Orangisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD), WEF and other relevant North-South fora.
I must however emphasise
that the responsibility we carry is a heavy one and we must not underestimate
the complexities of the world in which we operate and the strong competition we
face within the South, particularly from other developing countries such as China
Going forward, we must capitalise on the political goodwill
that we enjoy to leverage more foreign trade, external investments, financial
flows, aid, bilateral and multilateral economic negotiations, tourism promotion
and technology exchanges to promote brand South Africa and contribute to building
our country's image abroad. As Mahatma Gandhi once said "what is goodwill
if it not translated into action?"
Global security - nuclear non-proliferation
me start by clearly stating that we oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. We believe that all countries who are in possession of these weapons
should disarm through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty processes. We strongly
support a nuclear weapons-free world. This is our principled position, which we
took as early as 1990 when government decided to dismantle all existing nuclear
weapons, acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and concluded the safeguards
agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The UN Secretary
General's Panel Report entitled "A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility",
"Development and security are inextricably linked.
A more secure world is only possible if poor countries are given a chance to develop.
Extreme poverty and infectious diseases threaten many people directly, but they
also provide a fertile breeding ground for other threats, including civil conflict.
Even people in rich countries will be more secure if their governments help poor
countries to defeat poverty and diseases by meeting the Millennium Development
South Africa is therefore of the view that in dealing with
the issue of global security in general, there is first and foremost, a need for
a global effort to tackle poverty and underdevelopment. Indeed, the international
system is not only challenged by global security issues, such as terrorism, organised
crime, drugs, human trafficking, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) and small arms. It is also challenged by security issues that are critical
to the South such as poverty, underdevelopment, pandemic and communicable diseases
(such as HIV/AIDS). These issues cannot be separated from one another.
efforts must also address issues of the use of land mines, the illicit trade in
small arms, disarmament and non-proliferation of WMD. This also means working
together to tackle the threat of terrorism in accordance with the principles of
international law. We wish to re-affirm that we will continue to throw our weight
behind the implementation of international treaties and instruments in the fight
against international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Networks and alliances based on specific issues are becoming more prevalent
as a form of diplomatic engagement, all of which lead to the further erosion of
multilateralism, international treaties and international law. Examples of this
trend include, the utilisation of the United Nations Security Council only when
it serves the interests of some countries. This has been the case particularly
with Iran. The question of Iran has been sufficiently addressed by President Mbeki,
Minister Dlamini Zuma and Deputy Minister Pahad at various platforms and our message
has been very consistent. We have adopted a principled approach to this matter
and have always believed that a solution will only come about through negotiation
and multilateral approach.
Addressing the issue of Iran specifically, Minister
Dlamini Zuma during her budget vote speech went at length to articulate our stance
on the matter. She stated that:
[A]s committed multilateralists we shall
defend the role of multilateral instruments such as the NPT (Nuclear Non Proliferation
Treaty) and the IAEA.
"We appreciate the professional manner in which
the IAEA and its Director General, Dr El Baradei, have discharged their responsibilities,
including with regard to the thorny issue of Iran, and congratulate them on being
honoured with the well-deserved award of the Nobel Peace Prize.
the inalienable right of all NPT members, including the Islamic Republic of Iran,
to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology and underline the importance of voluntary
confidence building and transparency measures by Iran, and full co-operation with
the IAEA, in accordance with its obligations, to resolve this issue.
believe that this matter can be resolved within the IAEA and appeal to all parties
to reduce confrontation and resort to dialogue and negotiations instead of aggravating
further the tense and explosive situation in the region. Escalating confrontation
and war talk is truly a recipe for disaster, which will benefit no one."
position articulated by the Minister above reflects our position - that we shall
persuade others through negotiation, within a multilateral rules-based international
system. The principled stance is not always universally popular and often its
results are long term. Thomas Jefferson once said, "In matters of style,
swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."
a more equal, representative and balanced world order
The African continent
is without doubt the continent most affected by poverty and underdevelopment and
the connection between conflict and underdevelopment is more visible here than
anywhere else. An analysis of countries in conflict or those that have recently
emerged from conflict reveals a consistent pattern of low per capita income, absolute
poverty, low life expectancy, low levels of FDI and ODA and often high levels
of indebtedness. It is also clear that these countries are often rich in resources
and strategically located.
These global inequities are akin to the situation
defined by Mahatma Gandhi as "When large numbers of people live in abject
poverty, a handful of people living in comfort and luxury amounts to a kind of
In her seminal publication, entitled "How the other
half dies: The real reason for world hunger", Susan George argues that:
world has all the physical resources and technical skills necessary to feed the
present population of the planet or a much larger one. Unfortunately for the millions
of people who go hungry, the problem is not a technical one - nor was it wholly
so in the seventeenth century, for that matter. Whenever and wherever they live,
rich people eat first, they eat a disproportionate amount of the food there is
and poor ones rarely rise in revolt against this most basic of oppressions unless
specifically told to eat cake. Hunger is not a scourge but a scandal."
us, placing Africa at the centre of the global development discourse is therefore
critical. That is why South Africa's foreign policy objectives are firmly anchored
in an African Agenda, an agenda that is aimed at pushing back the frontiers of
poverty and underdevelopment. The effects of conflict such as economic, collapse,
destruction of infrastructure, impoverishment of people, refugee flows and environmental
degradation affect not only the countries and areas in conflict but also its neighbours
and the continent as a whole. It has remained a major pre-occupation for our government
to assist with the resolution of conflict and peace keeping where possible and
within our capacity.
Our work on the continent has mainly been concerned
with the strengthening of regional and continental multilateral institutions as
well as the creation of viable bilateral relations including peace building and
post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
The African Union remains the premier
multilateral tool that we use on the continent to ensure that we develop African
solutions to African problems and advance common positions on global matters.
This was borne out by the development of the Common African position, commonly
known as the "Ezulwini Consensus" which I mentioned earlier, on United
Nations reform. The proposals made in the consensus document had far reaching
implications for the reform of the United Nations and global governance. It comprehensively
addressed all manner of reform-related issues including: collective security and
the challenge of prevention; collective security and the use of force; and institutional
Collectively as the AU we support the implementation of the recommendations
of the High Level Panel. We provide such support within the framework of multilateralism,
as a tool for eradicating poverty, boosting economic growth, promoting sustainable
development, alleviating the debt problem, enhancing Africa's participation in
WTO negotiations and combating HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
realising these important objectives, we will remain mindful of the commitment
we made in 1955 at the Congress of the People, that:
South Africa shall
be a fully independent state which respects the rights and sovereignty of all
South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement
of international disputes by negotiation - not war.
This is the world we
envisioned then, and while in matters of style we will swim with the current,
in matters of principle we will remain solid as a rock.
Thank you for your