Speaking Notes: Speaker of the National Assembly Ms Baleka Mbete – Mid-Year Briefing of Diplomats, Stakeholders and the Media on Key International Engagements (Inter-Parliamentary Union, BRICS Parliamentary Forum)

As the fifth Parliament, we remain acutely aware that the world’s problems are interconnected – that economic crises, for instance, to which countries and their citizens are exposed, often emanate from far beyond their borders.
Parliament’s engagement in international relations is informed by South Africa’s foreign policy and parliamentary diplomacy imperatives. In turn, this is an expression of the democratic values of our country, entrenched in our Constitution.
The vision of our Parliament is to create a better South Africa in a better Africa and a just world. Engagement in international relations is important in achieving our country’s goal of improving the quality of life of South Africans.
Our participation in parliamentary platforms includes advancing motions and resolutions of key issues on our national agenda – human rights, democratic advancement, health, women empowerment and gender equality.
We also employ alternative methods of engagement. These include knowledge sharing on processes and procedures; legislative and policy alignment with country groupings; and promoting democratic electoral systems through election observer missions.
PARTICIPATION AT THE IPU AND BRICS PARLIAMENTARY FORUM
From Sunday, 14 October, a delegation from Parliament will be participating in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) 139th Assembly and Related Meetings in Geneva, Switzerland. This is a major international parliamentary event, which takes place twice a year.
Our Parliament’s multiparty delegation to the IPU Assembly and Related Meetings, ending on 18 October, comprises: Mr Raseriti Tau (Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces), Ms Mmatlala Boroto (National Assembly House Chairperson for International Relations), Mr Seiso Mohai (Chief Whip of the National Council of Provinces), Mr Pumzile Justice Mnguni, Ms Peace Mabe, Mr Michael Waters (Democratic Alliance Deputy Chief Whip), Mr Marshall Dlamini and Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa. The Speaker of the National Assembly is leading the delegation to the IPU.
The commemoration of our first democratically elected President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, will feature at both the IPU and the BRICS Parliamentary Forum events.
This follows the unprecedented unveiling on 24 September of a statue of a leader – Madiba – at the headquarters of the United Nations (UN) in New York and the UN General Assembly’s peace summit, paying homage to Madiba’s legacy.
The forthcoming IPU and BRICS Parliamentary Forum meetings are landmark occasions on which Madiba’s role in advancing human rights will be profiled among the Parliaments of the world. At both these key international platforms, our delegation will promote the constitutional values of human rights and democracy.
We are scheduled to address a special session of the IPU during which tribute will be paid to Madiba’s significant contribution to advancing human rights. The commemoration of Madiba and his high regard for human rights coincides with the 70th anniversary, this year, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Parliament has been affiliated to the IPU since South Africa became a democracy in 1994. The IPU provides a platform to advance South Africa’s position on topical global issues. It also provides a platform to advance accelerating socio-economic development in Africa.
Several topics on the agenda of the forthcoming 139th IPU Assembly and Related Meetings have a bearing on the National Development Plan and implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, to which South Africa is a signatory.
The General Debate of 139th Assembly is intended to provide a platform for Parliaments to explore the impact and role of science in development.
The subject of the General Debate is: “Parliamentary leadership in promoting peace and development in the age of innovation and technological change”. A number of questions have been circulated to stimulate the debate.
Members of the delegation will also participate in the:
• Forum of Women Parliamentarians (Sunday 14 October)
• Forum of Young Parliamentarians (Monday 15 October)
• Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade (starting Monday 15 October, continuing Wednesday 17 October), which will receive a briefing on the Parliamentary contribution to the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference; have a debate on: “The role of fair and free trade in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially regarding economic equality, sustainable infrastructure, industrialisation and innovation”; and have a panel discussion on: “Taking forward the IPU resolution entitled Engaging the private sector in implementing SDGs, especially on renewable energy”
• Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights (starting on Monday 15 October, continuing on Tuesday 16 October and Wednesday 17 October) which will have debate on the draft resolution on: “Strengthening inter-parliamentary co-operation on migration and migrant governance in view of the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. Our delegates who are participating in this Standing Committee are scheduled to make some amendments to the draft resolution.
The IPU is the oldest and largest global organisation of Parliaments working together, to safeguard peace and promote positive democratic change through political dialogue and concrete action.
It has permanent observer status at the UN General Assembly.
Currently, there are 178 Member Parliaments affiliated to the IPU, coming from countries in which about 6.5 billion of the world’s 7 billion people live. The IPU also has 12 Associate Members. These are Parliaments coming from groups of nations, such as, the Arab Parliament, the European Parliament and the East African Legislative Assembly
South Africa hosted the 118th Assembly of the IPU in 2008 in Cape Town.
During the time when we are in Geneva, we will chair the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Parliamentary Forum, also meeting in Geneva.
The BRICS Parliamentary Forum first met in 2015 in Moscow, Russia. It is chaired on a rotational basis by Parliaments of member countries. The rotational chairing of the Forum coincides with the rotational chairing of the BRICS Summit, which President Cyril Ramaphosa chaired earlier this year, when it was held in Johannesburg.
The BRICS countries, collectively, are home to 42% of the world’s population. The BRICS Parliamentary Forum provides an opportunity for the BRICS Parliaments to reflect on how they can, through the mandates of their Parliaments, ensure implementation of BRICS Summit decisions.
The BRICS approach is informed by the need to deepen, broaden and intensify relations within the grouping and among the individual countries for more sustainable, equitable and mutually beneficial development. This approach takes into consideration each member’s growth, development and poverty objectives to ensure relations are built on the respective country’s economic strengths and to avoid competition where possible. The bloc offers a unique opportunity for BRICS countries to extend and advance their co-operation in ways that meaningfully promote their economic development agendas as well as that of other developing countries. In this regard, Parliaments of these countries are crucial in ensuring that, through their oversight, legislative and public involvement processes, they ensure effective realisation of economic co-operation, people-to-people exchange and political and security cooperation.
In the light of Parliament this year commemorating the centenary birthdays of Madiba and MaSisulu, these key multilateral institutions are important in galvanising the international community to meaningfully embrace the noble principles, values and ideals for which these two stalwarts of our struggle lived.
OTHER INTERNATIONAL PARLIAMENTARY FORUMS
In addition to the IPU and the BRICS Parliamentary Forum, our Parliament’s international participation includes the African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the Global Legislators’ Organisation International (Globe).
We are active in the Pan African Parliament and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum.
In August, the SADC Heads of State Summit considered the proposal for the transformation of the SADC-Parliamentary Forum into a fully-fledged regional legislative institution. This matter will once again be discussed at the next Summit during the first quarter of 2019. This is a significant and progressive step towards the conclusion of this long-standing process, which has been in the making for over 20 years. The transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, once concluded, will bring it on a par with the rest of regions in the continent, which already have fully-fledged regional Parliaments.
CONCLUSION
We are honoured that the 139th session of the IPU will mark the centenary commemoration of Madiba’s birth and that the BRICS Parliamentary Forum will also do so.
These international events to celebrate Madiba are fitting. He was, after all, an internationalist and a leader of a movement, which consciously pursued international engagement in its struggle to free South Africa of the scourge of apartheid.
As Madiba said in March 1999, in his last address, as President, to Parliament: “To the extent that I have been able to achieve anything, I know that this is because I am the product of the people of South Africa… To the extent that I have been able to take our country forward to this new era it is because I am the product of the people of the world. They gave us hope because we knew by their solidarity that our ideas could not be silenced since they were the ideas of all.”

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

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