SA punching within its weight globally

2012-07-21 13:01

The era of African solutions to African problems has arrived

Democratic South ­Africa’s foreign ­policy and execution represents a break with the past – a past that had confirmed us as the skunk of the world.

Students and practitioners of international relations will attest to the fact that our foreign policy should be an integrated part of government policy, aimed at promoting the security and welfare of South Africa and its citizens.

Our mission is to promote South Africa’s national interests and values in the world, and to promote human rights, democracy, good governance and champion the African agenda.

In all our bilateral relations with our African sister countries, we seek to promote mutual respect and benefits. Our approach is to ensure that we relate to them as equal partners, devoid of all hegemonic ambitions.

We have over time sought to acculturate our continent into prioritising mutual economic development, integration of our economies leading to intratrade and peaceful coexistence – as attested to by the growing importance of regional economic communities.

It is in this context that the decision by South Africa to avail Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as southern Africa’s candidate for the position of African Union (AU) Commission chairperson should be understood.

We are elated that the leadership of the continent is united and has agreed with us that, in this decade of women in Africa, a woman should lead the AU Commission .

Our lobbying and support for Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature was a political campaign underpinned by the need to strengthen and capacitate the commission, and make it efficient and effective.

We want an AU Commission that is accountable, responsive, champions the African agenda, and ­advances and defends the interests of Africa in global affairs.

Our policy towards Africa has been, and continues to be, shaped by a number of historical, economic, political, social and cultural
realities and considerations.

At the top of our agenda is the need to ­ensure that our continent economically develops and politically ­matures into international
systems of governance.

There is no doubt that the elevation of Dr Dlamini-Zuma to the position is another feather in South Africa’s foreign policy achievements.

Our membership of Brics is another. South Africa’s invitation to join the grouping takes cognisance of our country’s contribution to shaping the socioeconomic regeneration of Africa, as well as our ­active involvement in peace, security and reconstruction efforts on the continent. We joined Brics with three objectives in mind:

» To advance our national interests as outlined in the president’s state of the nation address;

» To promote our regional integration programme and ­related continental infrastructure ­programmes; and

» To partner with key players of the South on issues related to global governance and its reform.

South Africa enjoys recognition as a dedicated and committed global and regional player.

Our constructive role in global governance structures as well as our position within organisations like the AU, G77, and China and the Non-Aligned Movement is appreciated by our Brics and other like-minded partners.

South Africa is also the only African country represented in the G20, which has become an important institution on the reform of the global financial and economic governance architecture.

We are far more aware today of the importance of global interdependence than at any time in history. And it is evident that forging fruitful partnerships and a stronger global governance template requires cooperation between the developed and developing world.

In asserting itself in the world as part of the agenda to transform power relations in the global system, the Brics leaders recently jointly pledged additional funding of $7 billion (R624 billion) to the International Monetary Fund for the so-called “firewall fund”, of which South Africa will provide $2 billion.

This pledge is in line with our ­vision to transform institutions of global governance. It has been a tradition, and indeed a norm, that decisions in international financial institutions are made and influenced by countries with strong financial muscle.

In this regard, the more we ­contribute financially to such institutions, the better the chance and prospects for us as a country to
influence decisions.

South Africa’s foreign policy is clearer even to those who still see ambiguity and claim confusion. The achievements are there for all to see.

Under President Jacob Zuma’s administration, we have returned to the UN Security Council after an absence of two years.

We have used our membership on the council to champion the ground-breaking Resolution 2033, which will prevent the mishandling of political crises in Africa as happened in Libya and Ivory Coast.

We successfully lobbied and are now members of Brics, a powerful block of emerging economies.

When we were announced as the host of the UN Climate Change Conference, Cop17, at the end of last year and therefore expected to lead the negotiations and deliver a successful outcome, analysts and commentators said “it was impossible”.

I presided over a conference that delivered a historical outcome that has been hailed the world over as having restored trust in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process. We saved the Kyoto Protocol and launched the Green Climate Fund.

This year, on Africa Day (May 25), South Africa hosted the first Global African Diaspora Summit, meant to create sustainable partnerships between the African diaspora and the African continent through a realisable programme of action. This was done and continues to be work in progress.

We are punching within our weight and will continue to embrace the advancement of human rights and the promotion of democracy as the central pillars of our foreign policy.

We shall remain advocates of the observance of human rights and the exercise of good government.

We look forward to a new era in the AU under the administrative management of one of our own.

The era of African solutions to African problems is now.

» Nkoana-Mashabane is the international relations minister

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