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State visit to South Africa: Seminar on foreign policy

Speech by His Majesty The King at the opening of a seminar on foreign policy in Pretoria during the State visit to South Africa, November 2009.

Your Excellencies
Ladies and gentlemen

The fact that we have arranged a seminar on foreign policy together with South Africa emphasises a key area in the bilateral relations between South Africa and Norway. Starting around 1960, supporting democratic forces both inside and outside South Africa became increasingly important in Norwegian foreign policy, and this gained momentum in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

Following the dismantling of apartheid and the emergence of the new democratic South Africa, foreign policy has been an area where our relations have rapidly expanded. Our two countries have their own national interests, and we may at times have different views on various international issues. However, South Africa and Norway share the values and ideals of democracy, human rights, security and development. Our two countries also attach importance to multilateral institutions and forums as instruments for addressing global challenges. This common understanding has created a good basis for fruitful cooperation.

The issues to be discussed her today centre around fragile states, conflict resolution and development. The focus will be on peace and security in the broad sense, identifying challenges on the African continent and how South Africa, Norway and regional and international bodies can cooperate in order to deal with these challenges.

Let me mention some examples of such cooperation. One is the joint effort by South Africa and Norway in the process leading up to the treaty banning anti-personnel mines, which was signed in 1997. Southern Africa was a region that had experienced the devastating effects of land mines on its people at close hand. Roads could not be passed, land could not be cultivated, buildings had to be abandoned due to the ever-present danger of mines planted years before.

Recognising the need for a strong international effort to deal with this threat to development and poverty reduction, South Africa and Norway worked closely together throughout the process. With the strong political support of our respective governments and the efforts of dedicated individuals, both countries contributed significantly to achieving this important treaty. Today this successful cooperation is being further developed in a closely linked process, working towards an international ban on cluster munitions. They are another form of silent and indiscriminate killers that affect civilians in particular.

On the African continent, South Africa and Norway continue to be engaged in countries like Burundi, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The focus of dialogue and concrete action is the broader context of human security, supporting peace processes and peace building.

At the continental level, South Africa is a major actor in the African Union. Through cooperation both through governmental and non-governmental channels, we have together helped to strengthen the AU’s capacity for conflict management.

I am very pleased to see students in the audience today. While ministers and high ranking officials play an important role in foreign policy, you – the youth and the students – are the future. We need your expertise and enthusiasm in our efforts to enhance the human security of the people on the African continent. You are the ones who will be driving these processes forward with a view to achieving change on the ground. Change that will enable people all over Africa to live in peace, fulfil their hopes and dreams, and realise their potential.

I feel confident that you will have fruitful discussions and wish you a successful seminar.


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