Address by Deputy Minister van der Merwe at the Business
Unity South Africa (BUSA) Cocktail Reception
Another world is possible
Ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to be here this evening and
thank you very much indeed for the invitation to talk to you.
has often stated its vision for a better life for all and hence a world that is
different to the one presented to us, another world particularly on the African
Our history of liberation shared many of the idealistic fervour
of the early French Revolution that threw up many far sighted ideas considered
wild at the time. As early as 1789, these revolutionaries proclaimed their vision
of another world, asserting that:
"Why should we hold back our dreams?
Just a few years ago many would have said it was impossible for us to challenge
the King. Now we are being told to be modest in our aspirations, that we are impatient
and unrealistic. But we refuse to take only one step at a time - we are running
towards the sun. Our demands may never be met, but the fire of our impatience
is unending: we cannot live at ease in a world where these things are not possible."
vision has been a consistent one advanced by progressive movements throughout
our modern history. At the historic Congress of the People on 26 June 1955, 51
years ago, the Congress of the People adopted the Freedom Charter where they stated:
Africa shall be a fully independent state which respects the rights and sovereignty
of all nations.
South Africa shall strive to maintain world
peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war;
and friendship amongst all our people shall be secured by upholding the equal
rights, opportunities and status of all.
These ideas were considered wild at
the time. But these principles have informed policy formulation and indeed our
actions since. They are some of the values that we continue to live by.
these idealistic views are still shared by many progressive governments and social
movements in the world today, who hold the view that another world is possible.
In 2002, in an article posted in The Nation entitled Another World is Possible,
Susan George argues that:
"History doesn't offer second helpings"--so
we'd better deal with what's on our plate now, which is world poverty, inequality,
exploitation and hopelessness. How?
Personally, I have not been so hopeful
in decades. The mood is changing. People no longer believe that the unjust world
order is inevitable
"Another world is possible." And urgent.
Therefore, in defining how we each envisage this other better world I think
it is useful and appropriate to consider our respective roles in society, those
of the business community and the diplomatic community - and to consider these
roles in the domestic society, but also in the international sense, and how these
roles intersect. Given the increasing complexity of 21st century international
relations and with the uncertainties that movements in global dynamics present
to both governments and people generally, it is important to examine our respective
roles and ensure that they work in unison.
There is much discussion in
the world today about the role of diplomacy - of the definition of a modern diplomat.
Indeed the modern diplomat is very far removed from the original job description
of an ambassador from the era of Greek city states, when diplomacy was limited
to the interaction between monarchs to maintain the peace. Even in relatively
modern times, as the story goes, one angry president sent word to a diplomat that
he had sent abroad, complaining that he had not received a letter from him in
two years. He, the President, added that if he did not receive word in the next
year the ambassador would be recalled!!
Things move rather faster today.
We operate in a much more complex environment. The Department of Foreign Affairs
is no longer the only player in the world of international diplomacy. Other departments
of state as well as non state actors work in areas that were previously the sole
preserve of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The fact that other ministries,
for example of Trade and Industry, Science and Technology and amongst others also
act in the international environment is not necessarily a negative, it is a modern
reality. It is also a reality that business and other civil society players act
in the international arena. What does become increasingly important is the coordination
of our respective roles and a unity of purpose in the work that we do abroad as
we all represent our country and carry the responsibility for our people.
South Africa I believe there is a vibrant discourse between the different players
and therefore am grateful again for this opportunity to discuss with you some
of our objectives as the lead Ministry and coordinating department of South Africa's
Foreign Policy, starting with the African continent which is one of the key focuses
of our foreign policy agenda.
Since the latter part of the twentieth century
the African continent has been engaged in a deep and fundamental reform and renewal
process. The over-arching objective has been and continues to be to break the
vicious cycle of political instability, poverty, and underdevelopment, as well
as Africa's weak capacity to defend and advance her own interests in the global
For our part, South Africa has put considerable effort and resources,
both financial and human into developments on the African continent, and we regard
this as an investment, a diplomatic investment. For example we have six government
departments working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including our defence
force, our electoral commission and others. This we do, not for some altruistic
purpose but in fact because we firmly believe that our own national interests
are best served if we can work together with our neighbours on the continent to
eliminate conflict and its causes, to rid the continent of poverty and underdevelopment
and, ultimately, to develop a peaceful , stable and prosperous continent .
Africa's foreign policy is
"informed by our domestic policy and the
two are mutually reinforcing. ... our foreign policy is guided by the vision of
a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better world."
realisation of this vision will not happen without mobilising and gaining support
from all formations of civil society on the one hand, and on the other achieving
positive developments in respect of good governance and democratic practice amongst
the state players.
In respect of the latter, we work with and through the
African Union and its organs and programmes (such as NEPAD and the African Peer
Review Mechanism) to entrench democracy and good governance on our continent.
The establishment of the AU through the Constitutive Act, with its profound
vision and progressive principles, has generated high expectations for rapid political,
social and economic progress to transform the lot of the African people and attain
the ideal of a better life for all.
According to a 2005 report by the Economic
Commission for Africa entitled "Progress towards Good Governance in Africa",
there are four identifiable positive trends on the road to creating capable states
in Africa and these are:
1. Democratic transition - many African countries
have made significant strides, evolving from authoritarian or military regimes
to more democratic arrangements.
2. Political inclusiveness - many African
countries are seeking to ensure that the executive and legislative arms of government
reflect the profile of their people in regional, ethnic, racial and religious
3. Voice and accountability - new avenues are being created across Africa
to allow citizens to participate in the political process to express their demands
without fear of retribution.
4. Public financial management and accountability
- more countries are running smaller deficits, meetings their targets for revenue
mobilisation, managing their tax systems more effectively, improving fiscal transparency
and creating institutions and arrangement for better auditing.
comments by the World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, have led to a renewed hope
in the forward progress on our the continent. Addressing an African investment
forum in July this year he argued that not enough attention is being paid to African
success stories. This at a time when there is a decline in active armed conflicts
on the continent from 16 in 2002 to 6 today and the fact that 15 African countries
have had average growth rates of better than 5% over the past decade. Wolfowitz
said that the tendency when it comes to Africa is to focus on security issues
and not give enough attention to economic and social development issues, which
are equally important.
These positive developments did not come about by accident
but through the deliberate efforts of African leaders to adopt democratic dispensations;
encourage participatory democracy; through being more accountable; and through
prudent stewardship of public resources.
These are real political gains
that will contribute towards achieving the kind of world we desire. However, these
political gains will amount to naught if not underpinned by tangible economic
Development entails the improvement of people's lifestyles
through improved education, incomes, skills development and employment. Development
also means that people should have decent housing, and that they should have security
in their homes and productive places of work.
While our job as diplomats
is essentially to represent our countries' interest abroad, the challenges posed
by today's rapidly globalising world mean that traditional diplomacy alone is
Globalisation has "rendered the traditional professional
boundaries of diplomacy more porous and put into question the territorial claims
of the traditional diplomats."
We need, as partners, the business community
a well as trans-national NGOs and other institutions working in the international
As a developing country, we need to enhance their capacity to benefit
from the positive potential of globalisation.
A recent International Labour
Organisation Report on the Social Dimension of Globalisation states that:
has set in motion a process of far reaching change that is affecting everyone.
New technology, supported by more open policies, has created a world more interconnected
than ever before. This spans not only growing interdependence in economic relations
- trade, investment, finance and the organisation of production globally- but
also social and political interaction among organisations and individuals across
The potential for good is immense. The growing interconnectivity
among people across the world is nurturing the realisation that we are all part
of a global community. This nascent sense of interdependence, commitment to shared
values, and solidarity among peoples across the world can be channelled to build
enlightened and democratic global governance in the interest of all. The global
market economy has demonstrated great productive capacity. Wisely managed, it
can deliver unprecedented material progress, generate more productive and better
jobs for all, and contribute significantly to reducing world poverty."
Africa endorses the perspective that holds 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 are available.
It is therefore
encouraging to note that South African businesses have increasingly been involved
in creating economic opportunities in Africa that have greatly enhanced our international
standing. According to the results of a survey published in 2004 by the South
African Institute of International Affairs on Doing Business in Africa:
less than a decade, South Africa has become one of the top 10 investors in
many African countries, displacing those companies from Europe (particularly in
countries that are former colonial powers) and America, which have traditionally
retained their economic links with Africa.
These developments make an examination
of the role being played by our country, and particularly its business community,
important to the unfolding picture of trade and investment in Africa. South Africans
believe their commitment to making Africa is long-term."
these developments, there is indeed cause for optimism that another world is possible.
These are all real steps towards the achievement of our objectives as a country
that support our foreign policy agenda to create a better South Africa through
promoting our national interests abroad.
Consistent with our values, we
do not, nor should not, seek to use our relative economic strength on the continent
do dominate others, rather, we should continue to pursue a principled and consistent
foreign policy agenda that seeks to positively influence others through persuasion.
These are the values that we also envisage our civil society formations, business
included, will carry with them in their engagements beyond the borders of our
country in the pursuit of opportunities.
Collaborative initiatives will go
a long way in contributing to durable peace and sustainable development. Already,
the value of such collaboration is starting to bear fruit in South Africa as well
as on the continent.
There are new "diplomats" now, new players
in the promotion of our countries' interests abroad and as I have said, one of
those players is of course business.
A report produced by the World Social
Forum talks to the power of business in the global community and also its location
in the world
transnational corporations and big business
in general have increased their power greatly in the last decade. To note just
a few examples of this power:
"In terms of sheer scale of economic
activity, the giant corporations now rival all but the largest countries. Comparing
corporate turnover to national GNP, 51 of the world's top 100 economies are corporations.
are 63, 000 transnational corporations worldwide, with 690, 000 foreign affiliates.
Three-quarters of them are based in North America, Western Europe and Japan. Ninety
nine of the hundred transational corporations are from industrialised countries.
corporations profit from and perpetuate what is essentially a racist global system
that benefits the North, and a small minority in the South, at the expense of
the vast majority of people in the South and a growing number of people (often
of African, Latin American and Asian descent) in the North.
WTO rules overwhelmingly
favour the giant transnationals. In fact, these companies play a central role
in shaping the WTO and other trade and investment agreements that allow corporations
increasingly to transcend the state.
So we need to examine our roles in
respect of how each contributes to the transformation of our society to create
a better South Africa and a better Africa in a better world. We recognise that
rather than being threatened by the emergence of new actors on the foreign policy
scene, we need to encourage the positive role that business can play in advancing
our foreign policy objectives.
If government has adopted deliberate efforts
to build the confidence of other countries in our vision, we also need South African
businesses that operate on the continent to concentrate on forging partnerships
for sustainable development rather than focusing on short-term profit gain. Otherwise
we will continue to feed into stereotypes about unscrupulous business practises.
At the domestic level here in South Africa, there are already generally
acceptable principles for good governance for businesses as enshrined in the King
Report on Corporate Governance for South Africa (King II). King II acknowledges
that there is a move away from a single bottom line (that is, profit for shareholders)
to a triple bottom line, which embraces the economic, environmental and social
aspects of a company's activities. In the words of the King Committee:
successful governance in the world in the 21st century requires companies
to adopt an inclusive and not exclusive approach. The company must be open to
institutional activism and there must be greater emphasis on the sustainable or
non-financial aspects of its performance. Boards must apply the test of fairness,
accountability, responsibility and transparency to all acts or omissions and be
accountable to the company but also responsive and responsible towards the company's
identified stakeholders. The correct balance between conformance with governance
principles and performance in an entrepreneurial market economy must be found,
but this will be specific to each company.
It is of course accepted that
business people have a legitimate expectation to receive a return on investment.
But the question is at what point do our political objectives and our economic
ones converge to make the greatest impact in terms of long term foreign policy
objectives and indeed the long term goals of our country as a whole? If we can
provide an answer as to what this convergence point is, then we can consider ourselves
to well on the way to attaining our vision to create a just and equal world with
sustainable national economies.
Success in attaining the kind of world we
strive for lies in strong partnership between government and business. Occasion
such as this provide a valuable opportunity to share ideas on how we can work
together for the realisation of our national interests. This is especially important
at a time when the challenges in the global economy remind us all of the increasing
interdependence between our political and economic objectives.
As a new
democracy, one which many people believe is dynamic and exciting, we have the
energy to consider that another world is possible, and work towards its fulfilment.
me conclude with an interesting observation about the possibilities for change
that Joseph Stiglitz makes in his seminal publication entitled, Making Globalisation
Work. In the first Chapter, he argues that:
Globalisation will change.
The current system cannot continue. It will either change as a result of crisis
or it will change because we approach problems in a systematic rational way. The
hope that underpins my book is that we will opt for the second option.
wish to thank you for your attention and to once again emphasise the importance
which government attaches to partnership with civil society in general and business
in particular to creating a more equal and just world.
I thank you.