UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON DEVELOPMENT AND TRADE BANGKOK - FEBRUARY 2000
Deputy President Jacob Zuma attended the closing section of UNCTAD in Bangkok on the 19th of February 2000 where South Africa handed over chairmanship to Thailand. This session took the form of a panel discussion where each of the eight heads of State was asked a question ion the developmental experience of their region or country. (The questions are listed below)
Following is the South African Deputy President's answer to the question as well as comments made during the session.
The question to the Deputy President was as follows:
"South Africa began a dramatic process of transformation from apartheid to democracy at the same time as it was integrating into the region and the African continent. This took place within the broader context of a globalising world economy. Could you share with us your experience."
Response by the Deputy President:
We have had to transform a divided and polarised country into a new non-racial, non-sexist democratic and united nation, in fact to build a new nation with a new patriotism reflecting the values built into our constitution and the Bill of Rights. The legacy of apartheid was deep and we have begun the difficult and complicated process of nation-building but there still persist wide disparities in economic and social standards embedded in the old system of racial superiority.
However, we have consolidated our new democracy, and through dialogue and negotiation, aimed at producing a national consensus, the transformation process has established peace in previously war-torn communities within the country. Dialogue and negotiation have proved to be critical tools in bringing about stability in South Africa -- this extended to external relations as well. Our view is that dialogue -- and not wars -- will bring about permanent solutions to disputes.
From 1994, the South African government had to begin the process of transforming the country into an African country, with African priorities and programmes when previously it had been a "European" country in Africa, at with the region. We joined the SADC and the OAU and our national and foreign policy is now geared towards the primacy of African interests.
Africa, which has been marginalised for so long, is beginning to assume responsibility for its own development and is seriously addressing the problems that have led to conflict and war, resulting in the destruction of societies. We are working together with our neighbours to end conflict and institute participatory and accountable, democratic systems since these constitute imperatives for promoting development.
But just as we cannot have development without peace and democracy, we cannot maintain and preserve peace and stability in a sea of poverty, and where there exists competition for scarce resources. For as long as basic human needs are not met we are all constantly threatened by potential conflict and wars. I believe jointly, we have the necessary resources as well as the technology to overcome poverty and promote sustainable development, which will also contribute to preserving international peace and stability.
Tackling poverty therefore is critical in the face of a globalising world. Doing this would not be a luxury, whilst not going it would be disastrous. Thus humanity as a whole has to, collectively and through real partnership, address the central questions of poverty -- and in a globalised world, that means concentrating on promoting a people-centred and sustainable development.
In this light therefore, the delay in the World Trade Organisation negotiations translates into a delay in resolving the issues of poverty. The colonial relationship between developed and developing countries was very much in evidence in the last WTO forum, particularly in the manner in which the developing countries were not taken seriously by the developed nations.
The current manner of operation of the WTO clearly demonstrates a mentality that seeks to perpetuate the unequal relationship of the "coloniser and the colonised".
The particular experience of South Africa in its negotiations on the trade development and co-operation agreement between South Africa and the European Union also demonstrates clearly the continuation of this mentality. In this regard, there is a need for reform of the economies, not just of the South but also of the North and transformation of its grandfather industries.
The experience of Seattle was therefor unfortunate since the WTO is intended as a forum for negotiations on trade related issues. The Ministerial conference demonstrated the weakness of the negotiating format and the existing decision-making system, which needs to be reformed. Unfortunately, due to the unyielding procedures for reaching consensus, hopes of launching a developmental round of negotiations were dashed.
For these reasons, UNCTAD provides a good forum for developing nations to find a common voice. In the last few years we have seen UNCTAD transforming to a forum where one now finds bigger players coming to address it on big issues. Developing nations, as a result, are in a better position to engage directly with developed nations.
UNCTAD X, just being concluded in Thailand, has provided an invaluable opportunity for interaction with leaders of the IMF, the World Bank, UNDP, ILO and the WTO as well as leaders of civil society who have all agreed that there is a need for a holistic and comprehensive approach to overcome the problems of trade and development.
We have to recognise, however, that vested interests and centres of economic and political power in the global community constitute major obstacles to change. It will require enlightened intervention by governments in order to focus on the issues of major importance for the future of humanity.
As leaders, we now have the task of mobilising our respective constituencies and overcoming the narrow interests for the greater good. That will involve providing courageous leadership to create the political will required to make a leap forward.
But let us not forget the overall context of global governance -- there is a need to reform the United Nations, as well as other International Organisations including the financing bodies so as to make them more democratic and reflect the realities of the world.
This conference has clearly located UNCTAD and emphasised its relevance in the 21st century. Collectively we have agreed that the world at large, and the developing world in particular, need its collective brain. However, this is not the sum total of the role of UNCTAD. The dialogue with other bodies, concrete work in the elaboration of a global developmental consensus and the redefinition of the role of UNCTAD, are actual challenges that have to be addressed on an ongoing basis. Like the reality that confronts us, our work here should be regarded as "Work in Progress".
Deputy President's Response Ends
In the closing ceremony this afternoon, South Africa handed over the chair to Thailand. The Deputy President returns to South Africa on Monday, the 21st of February 2000.
Please contact Mathula Magubane (currently in Thailand) on 082-371-1315 for further information.
Issued by the Office of the Presidency, Bangkok, 19 February 2000