|Address by the President of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union, Thabo Mbeki at the 8th ASEAN Summit, Phnom Penh, 5 November 2002|
Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellencies, Ministers and Ambassadors,
Distinguished Secretary General of ASEAN,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to thank you most sincerely for the invitation extended to the African Union to address this important 8th ASEAN Summit, an invitation which has ensured that we further strengthen the relations between our two regions of Africa and South East Asia.
As the Current Chairperson of the newly established African Union, I bring you warm greetings from the Member States that constitute the African Union as well as best wishes from the peoples of Africa.
It is fortuitous that we meet in Cambodia, whose King and Head of State belongs to a distinguished generation of Asian leaders who came together with their African counterparts in Bandung, Indonesia at the historic 1955 Afro-Asian Conference, to define a common future for our respective peoples.
Arising from this, His Majesty, King Norodom Sihanouk, became one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement when, in 1956, together with such outstanding leaders of the African and Asian peoples as President Soekarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Jawaharlal Nehru of India, as well as Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, he signed the Charter of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, leading to the first Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.
These early developments, which reflected our common determination to take our destiny into our own hands in the period after the collapse of the system of colonialism, emphasised the reality that the peoples of Asia and Africa share a common destiny.
They sought to shape that common destiny by ensuring that together we act on the basis of Afro-Asian solidarity, cognisant of the need for our peoples to improve their lives and determine their place within the global community of nations through joint action, based on reliance on our resources and our collective strength. They projected the important vision of South-South cooperation as a central factor in the construction of a new world order.
I believe that it is these same principles that have brought us to the 8th ASEAN Summit today. The challenge remains that we intensify our work together, to achieve the common objectives of the eradication of poverty, the building of developed societies and the occupation of our rightful place in a world that continues to be characterised by unequal relations between a developed North and a developing South.
In this regard, I would like to express our Continent’s deep appreciation of the fact that early next year we will all convene in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to attend the Summit Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Countries. We believe that this is most appropriate, given the outstanding role that Malaysia, a member of ASEAN, has played practically to translate the vision of Bandung and the objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement into reality.
We are here today to report to this gathering the important recent developments in Africa that bear on the pursuit of our common objectives, to convey a message of solidarity to the ASEAN countries gathered here, and to find ways by which we can further deepen the cooperation between our two regions.
Our Continent deeply admires the progress made by the ASEAN countries in the effort to achieve regional economic integration, driven by the common objectives to intensify solidarity, peace and friendship among themselves and to act jointly to provide a better life for their peoples.
We are convinced that your rich experience would be of enormous value to us as we work to achieve the same goals you have pursued since your Association was formed in 1967. Accordingly, we believe that it would be important for us that our two organisations, ASEAN and the African Union, initiate a process of the systematic exchange of experiences to assist our Union as it strives to achieve its objectives.
We further believe that such an exchange will also help greatly to indicate the areas and the ways and means in and through which we can further intensify our cooperation in all areas that would be mutually agreed, consistent with our common determination to strengthen South-South cooperation.
In this regard, I would also like to express our Continent’s appreciation for the steps taken by ASEAN further to expand the zone of cooperation among the peoples of Asia through various initiatives relating to China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as India.
ASEAN has for a long time successfully pursued the goal of peace within the region. We who come from a Continent that continues to experience conflict and war, sincerely appreciate your achievements in this regard.
We are therefore fully at one with you in your unequivocal condemnation of terrorism and your determination to act together to ensure that this scourge is defeated and not allowed to threaten the safety and security both of your own citizens and the peoples of the world.
Our own Continent has adopted its own Convention on Terrorism. This is currently going through the process of ratification. When it comes into force, it will provide the legal framework within which the countries of Africa can and will act together to achieve the same objectives you have set yourselves. I am certain that it will also greatly improve the capacity of the African Union to cooperate with ASEAN to respond to the universal threat of terrorism.
In this regard, I would like, once more, to extend our sympathy and solidarity to Her Excellency Megawati Soekarno-Putri and through her to the people of Indonesia, following last month’s terrorist outrage in Bali that claimed so many innocent lives.
You are familiar with the efforts of the peoples of Africa to move forward towards greater integration and unity, and the realisation of the goal of the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment. To expedite progress in this regard, in July, our Continent established the African Union, the successor organisation to the Organisation of African Unity, the OAU. The Union has also adopted as its socio-economic development programme, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD.
The question arises naturally – what is it that drives these new and decisive initiatives!
African experience extending over a period of more than four decades and the understanding of the capacities that exist within our Continent have driven the governments and peoples of Africa to form the African Union and to adopt NEPAD.
The unhappy experience we speak of is:
· one of the entrenchment of a system of neo-colonialism;
· conflicts and war;
· the imposition of military governments on many countries and therefore the denial of democracy and human rights to millions of Africans;
· the growing and further impoverishment of masses of people that were already very poor;
· the mismanagement of economies, including corruption, leading to further underdevelopment and the growth of a parasitic elite that has objectively acted in a manner that is inimical to the development and modernisation of Africa; and,
· the further global marginalisation of the Continent, even as human society is progressing through greater integration as a result of the process of globalisation.
As we speak, Africa is the only continent where poverty in on the rise. Over 40% of Sub-Saharan African people live below the international poverty line of US$1 a day.
Africa’s share of world trade has plummeted, accounting for less than 2%. More than 140 million young Africans are illiterate, and, according to Oxfam, Africa is the only continent where the number of children out of school is rising.
The peoples of Africa have now said that the time has come for us to move out of and beyond this terrible past. Our Continent has said that the time has come that we combine our forces to overcome this legacy, and set Africa on a new path of peace, stability, democracy and sustained progress and prosperity.
We have taken the position that we should build on the achievements of the OAU, which was established in 1963, even ahead of ASEAN, more speedily to address the central issue of African political and economic integration and to translate the vision of a shared African destiny, African solidarity and unity into reality.
We understand very well that no African country can succeed if other sister countries fail. War and instability in any country threatens peace and stability in other countries. Growing impoverishment in any country drives people across borders to search for a better life in other countries.
Objective reality dictates that we fully grasp and act on the reality that our countries can only develop and meet the aspirations of the people if they combine their resources, the limited pools of skilled people, and their markets, in a manner that will both enable development to take place and to evolve in a balanced and mutually beneficial manner.
These are the imperatives that have driven the formation of the AU and the adoption of its development programme, NEPAD, and thus to embark on a new, exciting and decisive journey towards the renaissance of Africa.
The various instruments approved by the AU, including its binding Constitutive Act, the Convention on Human and People’s Rights, the Protocols for the establishment of an African Court of Justice, the Pan-African Parliament and the Peace and Security Council, the Declaration on Political, Economic and Corporate Good Governance, and NEPAD, will together radically increase the capacity and possibility for the Continent to act together to address the central issues of democracy, human and people’s rights, peace and stability, and social and economic progress.
As evidence of its commitment to create the conditions of peace and stability that are so necessary both for the protection of human lives and sustainable development, our Continent is hard at work finally to end the conflicts that have engulfed such countries as Burundi, the Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the Sudan.
NEPAD incorporates such areas as human resource development, including health, education, skills, gender equality and nutrition, agriculture, diversification of production and market access, the debt question and capital mobilisation, regional integration, capacity building, technological development, including information and communication technology, environmental protection, infrastructure, encompassing such areas as transport, energy, water and sanitation, good governance and the formation of what His Excellency Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad has taught us to understand as a smart partnership between governments, business, labour and civil society.
Conceptualised and elaborated by Africans themselves, NEPAD seeks to achieve a new, better and equitable deal for Africa within the global community, starting with the building and entrenchment of a partnership among the peoples of Africa, first and foremost, on the basis of reliance on our own resources.
We understood that a radically new and unprecedented paradigm change had to be made to achieve a decisive shift away from Africa’s past of abject poverty, lack of infrastructure, absence of modern technology, poor human resource development and weak manufacturing industry.
This paradigm shift is based on the basic proposition that the African development agenda has to be in the hands of Africans and that, as was said in Bandung, we must, in the first instance, act on the basis of self-reliance.
It is this determination and new resolve that is permeating the length and breadth of our continent, that enables us to make bold to say that the 21st century must in reality be an African Century.
This also requires that Africa should redefine its relationship especially with the developed world. The concept of partnership therefore extends to our relations with the developed North and visualises a truly equitable partnership and not a relationship between donor and recipient.
Pointing to the universal imperative for African development, the founding document of NEPAD declares that ‘The continued marginalisation of Africa from the globalisation process and the social exclusion of the vast majority of its peoples constitute a serious threat to global stability’.
As we have already indicated, we are also convinced that beyond the partnership among the Africans, the partnership between Africa and the developed North, of critical importance is also the partnership with the countries of the South, prominent among which are the ASEAN countries.
To achieve our common objectives in this regard, requires that we work in a systematic, purposeful and conscious manner in fact to deepen the relations among ourselves. In this regard, I would like to pay tribute to a number of the members of ASEAN that have engaged various African countries, including our own, covering such areas as trade, investment, human resource development and technology transfers.
It is clear that the workings of the contemporary multilateral institutions of governance do not adequately represent the needs and aspirations of the developing countries of the South. This is despite the fact that the founding principles of these institutions are sound and full of good and noble intentions.
Clearly, we share a common interest to change this situation in our favour. Together, we must collaborate to ensure that we change the structures of global governance as well as the structure of the global economy such that we achieve democracy, equity, fairness, as well as sustained and sustainable development. This is an inherent part of what we seek to achieve when we speak of a New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
It is our earnest belief that multi-regional co-operation and stronger all-round relations among the peoples of the South increase not just the volume of our collective voice, but the quality of this voice, adding the appropriate and necessary weight to our demand for a just and equitable world order.
I cannot end without referring to the important issues of Iraq and Palestine. It is critically important that the matter of Iraq is resolved peacefully through the United Nations and its Security Council. We trust that sense will prevail so that no country or combination of countries take it upon themselves to embark on unilateral action against Iraq, which should itself cooperate fully with the Security Council to resolve all outstanding matters.
Every passing day points to the urgent need to end the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, to resume negotiations and afford the Palestinians their right to form their own independent state and secure peace for Israel within internationally recognised boundaries. We share a common obligation to combine our respective strengths to help bring about this outcome.
I trust that we will all emerge out of this important Summit with a common resolve to intensify the interaction between the ASEAN and African countries to advance the common agenda of greater South-South cooperation as was visualised at Bandung and concretised with the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement.
I make the firm and solemn undertaking that the African Union and the peoples of Africa are ready to embark on this journey of cooperation, friendship and solidarity among our peoples and regions.
Once more, I thank you most sincerely for giving us the opportunity to share our views with you and to take yet another step towards the consolidation of Afro-Asian solidarity.
I thank you.