Statement by Mr. Tom Kitt TD, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs at the fourth EU-SADC Ministerial Meeting,
I would like to associate my self with previous speakers in thanking our Mozambican hosts for their hospitality and friendly welcome. Indeed, this is a country I am coming to know well as it is one of our development partners.
I am pleased to introduce our debate on democracy, peace and security from the EU side.
The overall objective of the dialogue between our regions is to contribute to peace, democracy and sustainable development in southern Africa. Furthermore, our agreed objectives also include a commitment to supporting democracy and the rule of law, respect for human rights, the protection of minorities, good governance and the elimination of all forms of discrimination. It is in this framework that we must develop our political dialogue.
Since the last Ministerial meeting there have been significant developments - who can forget the tragic events of September 11th. In the SADC region the search for resolutions to conflicts continues and we want to encourage your efforts. The African Union has emerged from the OAU and NEPAD has been launched by African leaders. I think it is worth considering NEPAD in the context of our dialogue on democracy, peace and security because, I believe, that it is a partnership of promise.
Building hope, taking stock, looking to the future and meeting challenges are the bedrock themes of the New Partnership for Africa=s Development. NEPAD offers clear and detailed goals to African Governments and the peoples of Africa. But NEPAD also offers similar challenges to the wider world beyond Africa: to join together in a new creative Partnership for Africa and to match our words with our deeds in helping advance sustainable development in Africa and in ending its marginalisation from the world economy.
A major strength of NEPAD is its recognition of strong links between advancing sustainable development and political and economic governance. Poor political and economic governance in some African countries has unfairly cast a blight on Africa as a whole. Now, Africa is putting forward its own clear political and economic governance standards as well as new mechanisms, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, to provide the necessary institutional framework. The international community will be following events closely.
NEPAD will allow for creative interaction at a structural level so that political and economic actions and sustainable development policies advance in harmony. We in Europe, over recent decades, have traveled our own journey of putting in place structures of cooperation to serve all our peoples. Africa is now embarking on the same path. In Europe we continue to be conscious that NEPAD is an African owned initiative and we will assist when asked, but we respect that it is driven by Africa, for Africa.
Democracy, peace and security do not evolve by themselves. They need to be carefully nurtured. In the European Union we are embarking on an ambitious enlargement which will see ten central and eastern European states join the Union. We do this to copper-fasten the fledgling democracies which have emerged over the past decade. We do it to guarantee peace and security in Europe.
African states are aware of the challenges which they face. There have been some positive developments - the dawning of peace in Angola, which has seen the laying down of arms on both sides in a cruel civil war. The Government of Angolan and UNITA are involved in intensive discussions to resolve the remaining issues. We are confident, given the positive disposition of both sides, that these issues will be agreed in the short term. The moves towards the establishment of an all-inclusive transitional government in the DRC is a cause for much hope. We welcome the efforts to give effect to the Lusaka, Praetoria and Luanda agreements and the withdrawal of foreign troops. However, we remain seriously concerned about the desperate humanitarian situation in the east of the country.
Our peoples can only live in peace and security where there is a vibrant democracy with full respect for the rule of law and free and fair elections. We are all aware of the spiral of negative events which have occurred over the past two years in Zimbabwe. I can recall visiting Zimbabwe as a young parliamentarian and meeting with ANC members, several of whom went on to assume key leadership roles. It is a country of immense promise, but current events are not aiding its development. I say this in a spirit of concern for the people of the country. Ireland has strong historical links with Zimbabwe. Ireland has also shared the burden of colonialism with much of Africa. We ourselves had to deal with the fraught issue of land reform. We therefore know that this issue has to be dealt with in a way which does not sow further division. I know that I speak on behalf of all members of the European Union when I urge the Government of Zimbabwe to nurture democracy, to further reconciliation and work to restore the economic vitality of this potentially prosperous country.
We should take this opportunity to reflect on what long-term strategies we can put in place which would tackle the underlying or root causes of conflict. While it may not always be easy to convince ourselves of the benefit of long-term conflict prevention, the case for improved prevention strategies is nevertheless compelling. Conflict prevention is not just about deploying peacekeepers. It is the development of an integrated strategy to address and eradicate the underlying causes of conflict - poverty, injustice and the abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms. We should work together to develop a coherent and integrated conflict prevention strategy incorporating poverty and disease eradication, sustainable development, disarmament, outlawing of trade in illicit resources and the promotion of human rights and good governance.
The single biggest contributing factor to conflict is poverty. Conflict prevention and sustainable development go hand in hand. Sustainable development focussed on poverty eradication is the most powerful instrument which the international community has with which to address the long-term root causes of conflict and to promote peace.
In this context let me say that we must succeed in attaining the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals, and in particular their overall aim of halving the proportion of people living in absolute poverty by 2015. The development agenda must also include the issues of trade and debt, so that developing countries are given a fair chance to take full advantage of the benefits of development assistance. The need for a quantitative increase in the assistance provided by donors and agencies is self-evident. Ireland=s aid budget has increased this year by more that i100 million, more than the value of our entire programme a few years ago. At the recent Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] reiterated Ireland=s absolute commitment to achieving by 2007 the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Overseas Development Assistance.
Perhaps, even more critical than the quantity of aid is its quality. Experience teaches us that effective aid is untied, targets poverty, is carefully coordinated, is driven by need, not supply, builds local capacities and promotes partnership. For the first time, Governments, donors, agencies and civil societies are, however imperfectly, working on Poverty Reduction Strategies, which can provide a framework for real progress.
As Trade Minister, leading the Irish delegation to the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Doha last November, I actively contributed to the European Union=s efforts to ensure that the concerns of developing countries would be at the core of the new WTO round of negotiations. That this goal was achieved is evidenced by the fact that his round is called the Doha Development Agenda. The European Union is providing leadership in the international efforts to make globalisation work for the poor, both through its constructive role in the new trade round and, in particular, through its AEverything But Arms@ initiative. Helping developing countries to participate in the global economy can lead to a reduction in poverty. We in the European Union can, and must, help our SADC partners to participate in the global economy so as to ensure that they benefit from the opportunities offered by gloablisation.
Let me conclude by saying that we should approach our political dialogue in a spirit of co-operation and oneness. Recriminations lead nowhere. We should be firm in our resolve to create a better society for our citizens. I believe that this can only be achieved by respect for democracy and good governance. Only then can our peoples live in peace and security. To do otherwise favours the elite at the expense of the common good.
Let us not get any differences out of proportion. Our common values are strong, but these values must be nurtured and protected to ensure that they remain so. They require patient and determined reinforcement through dialogue but also through concrete action.