Published On: Tue, Feb 18th, 2014

Presentation of credentials by Her Excellency Maureen Isabella Modiselle

Remarks by the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community Ambassador Irwin LaRocque on the Occasion of the presentation of credentials by Her Excellency Maureen Isabella Modiselle, Plenipotentiary Representative (DESIGNATE) of the Republic of South Africa to the Caribbean Community 

LaroqueIt is my pleasure and honour to welcome you to the CARICOM Secretariat and to the family of Plenipotentiary Representatives to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Beyond the political affinities that bind South Africa and CARICOM, our relationship is predicated on shared values.  These include a mutual aspiration to ensure that freedom, equity and the rule of law are guiding principles for our actions.  It was a commitment to such principles on our side that galvanised the Caribbean Community to support the struggle against apartheid and to assist South Africa to prepare for its post-apartheid era.

Excellency, the strength of our ties was underlined by the fact that many of our leaders paid homage to your revered former President, Nelson Mandela, by attending the funeral services last December.  Madiba’s visit to the Community was undoubtedly one of the highlights in the history of the Community’s engagement with world leaders; it was a moment we all cherish.  Both his successors have also been welcomed to our Region, further evidence of the continued strong links that we enjoy with each other.

Ambassador, your accreditation today, along with the fact that four of our Member States have diplomatic missions in South Africa, is testimony to our mutual desire to carry our relations to a higher plane.  We are building a platform from which to strengthen our bilateral cooperation which could be enhanced by more regular and structured political interface.  This would lead the way to cooperation in a range of areas including the fostering of trade and investment between our respective private sectors, tourism, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.  There is no doubt that the initiation of air transport services, in which both sides have expressed a keen interest, would help in realising the full socio-economic potential of our relations.

Experience and history have taught both South Africa and CARICOM that standing together can make a difference. In that regard, your strong support for positions taken by the Community in international fora on issues of importance to us, such as Climate Change and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), is highly appreciated.  Also, we both recognise that Crime and Security, the negative impact of a protracted global, financial and economic crisis on development, and the need to reform global governance structures are but some of the defining challenges of our time. To confront them, it is necessary to strengthen partnerships with like-minded countries such as we are doing here today with South Africa.

CARICOM and South Africa have done their part as members of the international community in contributing to a significant advance in the fight against crime and violence by working towards the successful conclusion of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty which seeks to regulate the trade in conventional arms. For a Region like the Caribbean, where the proliferation of small arms and light weapons has contributed to a rise in crime and violence, this Treaty is but one critical tool in the fight against crime. We welcome the signing of this important Treaty by South Africa and look forward to your support in encouraging other countries to use the Treaty as a basis for curtailing this scourge of death by small arms.

Ambassador, let us continue to lead the way in respect of another developmental issue which is before the United Nations – the scourge of Non-Communicable Diseases. NCDs are a major public health concern in our countries as I am aware it is in yours. CARICOM played a lead role in identifying and drawing global attention to this issue because these lifestyle diseases are literally ravaging our societies.

NCDs constitute a clear and present threat to national, regional and international development and therefore require concerted action, at all levels, and within all relevant fora, if they are to be seriously curbed. We must do this not only within the UN, by supporting the implementation of the outcomes of the 2011 UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, but also within the context of the Commonwealth, in which most of our Member States and South Africa share membership and which has also put emphasis on this problem.

Another problem on which The Commonwealth has placed emphasis is in respect of the debt and financing challenges facing small states. One of the Community’s Heads of Government, the Rt Honourable Dr Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, has been at the helm of a high-level group of Commonwealth Leaders, making a compelling case for the urgent need to address this situation.

Many CARICOM Member States are Small Highly-Indebted Middle-Income Countries and are graduated out of access to concessionary financing from International Financial Institutions and other multilateral agencies due to the flawed GDP-based criteria. It is critical that avenues be opened for renewed access to concessionary financing given our high level of economic vulnerability which contributes in large measure to our high level of indebtedness.

South Africa has an influential voice in The Commonwealth, due partly to its membership of the powerful G20 Group of Nations and the BRICS which places it at the leadership table in global affairs. South Africa is therefore well placed to advocate on our behalf in all those fora.

Excellency, your presentation of credentials is much more than a symbolic gesture, it is a sign of the continued and genuine desire of the Government of South Africa to forge deeper ties with the Caribbean Community, to have dialogue and cooperate with us, to pursue a partnership based on mutual interest. On behalf of the Caribbean Community and in a spirit of genuine friendship, I welcome you into the heart of this Caribbean family in accepting your Credentials accrediting you as South Africa’s Ambassador to CARICOM.

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