Remarks of Mr. Thabo Mbeki, the Patron of the TMF, at the 13th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club

Sochi, Russian Federation: 27 October, 2016.

Mr Moderator,

Your Excellency, President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,

Esteemed Fellow Members of our Panel,

Distinguished delegates:

I would like to believe that you will understand why, today, I address you to present an unauthorised African perspective on the matter at issue, even as I refer to the United Nations.

I am certain that all of us will recall that the United Nations Millennium Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000, which accompanied the approval of the Millennium Development Goals, contained a specific global commitment to “meet the special needs of Africa”.

The following year, in September 2002, the UN General Assembly adopted a ‘Declaration on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’ which, among others, affirmed that “international support for the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s development is essential…”

In October 2014, the UN Secretary General convened a High Level Panel charged with the task to make recommendations about UN Peace operations today and tomorrow.

The Report of the Panel was tabled at the UN General Assembly in June 2015.

Among others the Report said:

“Whether in preventing conflict or responding to it, the regional partnerships of the United Nations in Africa must be intensified…”

Fully to understand the importance of this recommendation, Conference must bear in mind that in 2015 80% of UN peace keepers were deployed in Africa.

The distinguished delegates will have noticed that I have so far cited UN documents relating to the two African challenges of:

  • socio-economic development; and,
  • peace and security.

I have done this to make the statement that:

(i) these are two of the major challenges which Africa confronts and is working to address; (ii) this reality is recognised by the world community of nations; and, (iii) this international community has accepted its own solemn responsibility to enter into a conscious partnership with Africa successfully to address these challenges.

Given the fact of the theme which has been prescribed for our Panel I will therefore proceed to make a few remarks about how the African challenges I have mentioned, and the extant UN responses I have cited, relate to the larger matter of ‘a philosophy for development for the new world’.

The first categorical assertion I would like to make in this regard is that for Africa to achieve the objectives I have mentioned, Africa needs the ‘new world’ visualised in the theme of our Panel.

The second categorical assertion I must make is that this demands a strategic break with the view that, globally, Africa is a mere peripheral dependency.

The third categorical assertion I will make is that genuinely shared global prosperity and world peace cannot be achieved while Africa is excluded as a forlorn exception to such an admirable outcome.

My fourth and last categorical assertion is that the sustained success of the developed North cannot be achieved in a situation of relative autarchy as this relates to the African Continent.

To revert back to the matter of the continuing African struggle to eradicate poverty, etc, I would like to confirm that our Continent enthusiastically accepted the unanimous global adoption of the very ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This was because of the global commitment to ensure that during the effort to achieve the SDGs, “nobody is left behind”!

For us as Africans, this means that the system of global governance must be constituted in a manner which makes the achievement of the SDGs and the peace objectives I have mentioned possible.

A whole millennium, to date, has, during various periods, entrenched systems of generally unequal all-round global governance among the nations which, since the end of the Cold War, resulted in what has been correctly characterised as “unipolar hegemony”, with the United States as this hegemon.

Relating to Africa, the millennium I have mentioned has included the Roman destruction of Carthage in African Tunisia, slavery, imperialism and colonialism, and neo-colonialism.

All human history confirms that all exercise of hegemonic power, resulting in the emergence of the phenomenon of a “centre” which thrives from the existence of a “periphery”, can only result in inequality, conflict and instability.

It is exactly because of this arrangement in terms of the global distribution and exercise of power that today we have a world situation which, to borrow words from Shakespeare, is clearly “out of joint”.

It is not possible for Africa and humanity as a whole to extricate itself from this situation outside the context of a multipolar exercise of power which respects the equality of all nations with regard to the determination of the world order.

For this reason, as Africans, precisely because we are globally relatively weak in all respects, politically, economically, militarily, technologically and otherwise, we are in desperate need of a freely and universally agreed and fully respected system of international law which all States, big and small, must respect.

Accordingly, in our view, whatever legitimate proposal is advanced about a better and ‘new’ world, it must be based on such extant international law as has already been agreed, especially during the period since the end of WWII.

This emphasises the absolute imperative for all Nations practically and seriously to return to the spirit and the letter, as amended to take into account material developments since 1945, as reflected in the UN Charter and other related strategic decisions and documents adopted since then through the UN.

The existence of Agreed international law, and reliance on the established but reformed UN institutions to ensure the observance of such law, must constitute the very core of the ‘philosophy of international development for the new world’.

Thank you.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.