We are products of a principled movement

2011-07-23 14:33

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

Our foreign policy should be an integrated part of government policy aimed at promoting the security and welfare of South Africa and its citizens.

We are committed to building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic continent which should at the end be able to contribute to a just and equitable world.

As we traverse the world, we remain informed by the plight of our own – those who lack relevant education and affordable health care services; sufficient and requisite infrastructure to change their living conditions; those whose safety and security continue to be compromised; and those who lack access to land, capital, finance and markets to exploit.

We strive to be a responsible global citizen, pursuing in the main friendly, mutually beneficial and constructive relations with all nations of the world.
As a responsible citizen of the international community, South Africa continues to make its position known on the broad issues of peace and security as exemplified by our roles on regional conflict resolution, peace-making and peace-keeping, arresting the scourge of terrorism, disrupting illegal arms trading, aiding refugees and migrants, non-proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

It remains our objective to cooperate with all the other countries of Africa and the world in shaping and defining the new world order and promoting multilateral cooperation in the international community.

As one of the last African countries to gain political independence, we believe history has thrust upon us the historic and privileged duty to remain actively engaged in efforts to secure world-wide peace; prevent genocide; and achieve a new world security and economic regime.

It is in this context that we continue to argue for the United Nations, especially its Security Council, and other institutions of global governance like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation to be reformed and strengthened – to enable them to deal with issues of international peace and security, including addressing matters of equitable and fair global economic development, environmental challenges and the achievement of sustainable development.

We have as a country decided to adopt a more pro-active and assertive foreign policy stance which seeks to ensure that we maximise our political and economic benefits in the existing global environment, while simultaneously utilising existing opportunities to change those aspects of the present global environment which are not favourable to South Africa, Africa and the rest of the developing world.

The following set of principles is the source of our foreign policy direction as a country, for they constitute the broad aspirational tenets of our approach to foreign policy.

We firmly believe that, if consistently adhered to, these principles will render our foreign policy predictable and in line with our perception of the kind of international player our country should evolve into being, and most importantly, the kind of world we aspire to build and our grandchildren to inherit.

The principles include our commitment to:
» The promotion of human rights;
» The promotion of democracy;
» Justice and international law in the conduct of relations between nations;
» International peace and to internationally agreed-upon mechanisms for the resolution
of conflicts;
» The interests of Africa in world affairs; and
» Economic development through regional and international cooperation.

It is wrong to conceive the foreign policy of South Africa as amounting to “ganging up with the weak and poor against the powerful and rich” – for our conception of a fair and equitable global world economy and politics speaks to the reform of the institutions of global governance.

We have always said that we are products of a principled movement and our position on the evolving situation in Libya, for instance, bears testimony to this.

Despite our historical fraternal relations with Libya, we were among the first to refuse to keep quiet when the regime in Tripoli turned on its own.

We were loud in our condemnation of the violence against civilians perpetrated by all parties as well as the damage to civilian infrastructure.

The African Union agrees with South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria that voting for resolutions 1970 (for sanctions against Libya) and 1973 (for a no-fly zone over Libya) was correct.

Had we turned a blind eye to the events in that country and the threat to “wipe out cockroaches” was carried out, we would be having a different debate.

We hope the African Union will be given the necessary political space to carry out its mandate.

We believe our efforts should immediately focus on achieving a ceasefire in order to create an environment conducive to constructive deliberations among the people of Libya.

When South Africa voted in favour of Resolution 1973, our intention was to ensure the protection of civilians and ensure unhindered access to humanitarian aid to those desperately in need.

We had hoped this would create an enabling environment within which the Libyans would negotiate a solution to the crisis that has befallen them. Our intention was never regime change nor was it the targeting of individuals.

The future of Libya should be decided by the Libyans themselves and not by outsiders. We accordingly condemn any action that goes beyond the resolution.

Despite attempts to twist our convictions, the truth is out there for all to see. We will continue to take some of these “unpopular” decisions.

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

We need to ensure our continent economically develops and politically matures into the international systems of governance. Our history compels us to refrain from pursuing foreign and economic policies that will make South Africa an island of prosperity in a troubled sea of under-development, war, poverty, disease and illiteracy.

A cursory analysis of our relations with countries of the Southern Africa Customs Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will reveal that since 1994, South Africa has considered regional economic relations in Southern Africa an essential component of its wider international economic relations.

We have repeatedly committed ourselves to promoting regional cooperation along new lines that will correct imbalances in current relationships.

SADC remains an immediate neighbourhood with which we wish to enhance trade, advance work on cross-border infrastructure development and sectoral cooperation with a specific focus aimed at building the region’s production structures.

We remain concerned that although South African imports from the region are increasing, they remain low-value commodities.

In essence, under-developed production structures in the region are proving a serious constraint to balanced regional trade.

South Africa’s foreign policy is by its orientation a campaign for a humane and equitable world order. Our history is a living testimony of what we gained from and will contribute to a culture of human solidarity across the globe. We will continue to embrace the advancement of human rights and the promotion of democracy as the central pillars of our foreign policy.

» Nkoana-Mashabane is the minister for international relations and co-operation 

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