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DIRCO: Naledi Pandor: Address by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, during the 37th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council (13-14/10/2020)

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DIRCO: Naledi Pandor: Address by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, during the 37th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council (13-14/10/2020)

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor

15th October 2020

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Excellency, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Faki Moussa Mahamat
Excellencies, Members of the Executive Council,
The Deputy-Chairperson of the AU Commission and all the AU Commissioners present here today,
Excellency the Director for the Africa CDC, Dr John Kengasong,

Ladies and gentlemen,

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I call to order the meeting of the 37th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union.

Let me begin by thanking you all for attending this meeting albeit under extremely unusual circumstances. I would like to thank the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Mousa Faki Mahamat, and his team for facilitating this Session today. The importance of the issues confronting us as the Organisation and the urgency of making decisions during the Session has left us with no option but to convene this Ordinary Session of the Executive Council despite the pandemic and I want to express my profound appreciation to all of you for heeding the call to be at this meeting today.

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We meet today under a “new normal” caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Continent has lost more than thirty thousand people due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more than 1.5 million have been infected as of 12 October 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely strained our already weak public health systems to their limits.

The pandemic has also caused a devastating impact on our socio-economic landscape thereby undermining the gains that we have made thus far. It came as no surprise therefore that the economic forecasts predicted that the Continent will experience a recession this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in over two decades. These effects are felt by our globe and affect all our countries.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

As the world contends with the “new normal” and as we continue to navigate through the destruction that the pandemic has caused the Continent, we must not despair. The COVID-19 pandemic provides us with a rare opportunity to reimagine the Continent in the post-COVID-19 era.  COVID-19 has forced us to develop new ways of addressing our challenges of peace and security, socio-economic under-development, and poverty.

Excellencies and ladies and gentlemen,

Despite the awful impact of the pandemic on Africa our ability to work together and develop an African response has revealed an African resilience in unity that we should use for addressing our continent's challenges. The areas in which action is desirable to have been starkly revealed by the pandemic and we should seize the opportunities to strengthen our systems and institutions to ensure we build the ability to withstand such emergencies in future.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The Continent has made huge strides in containing the spread of the virus. The achievements recorded thus far can be attributed to the proactive initiatives undertaken by all of us as a collective under the decisive leadership of the AU Bureau with the support of the Chairs of the RECs, and the Chair of the AU: HE President Cyril Ramaphosa. Underpinned by the Joint Continental COVID-19 Strategy, the AU Bureau established the AU COVID-19 Response Fund and the AU’s Medical Supplies Pool Platform and took proactive measures to bolster the capacity of the Africa CDC and its preparedness. The excellent work of AU COVID-19 Special Envoys to negotiate economic relief measures including debt relief for African countries should be supported throughout the Continent.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

These efforts would not have been realised without the tireless efforts and utmost dedication of the AU Bureau, the Chairpersons of the RECs, the African Union Commission under the leadership of HE Mr Mousa Faki Mahamat; as well as the Director of the Africa CDC, Dr John Kengasong, who has been working closely with the World Health Organisation in ensuring that the Continental Strategy is effectively implemented. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

As we continue to fight the pandemic, we should not lose sight of the challenges that we continue to face as the Continent. The ongoing conflicts in Africa and the difficulties we continue to face in our collective quest to silence the guns by 2020, are a serious cause for concern and must be addressed with the urgency and vigour they deserve.

The impact of climate change, droughts and extreme levels of poverty and increasing numbers of unemployment continue to hamper development on the Continent and this requires us to spare no efforts or resources to ensure that the Continent realises its socio-economic potential and its vision as outlined in Agenda 2063.

Excellencies,

The challenges need an African Union that is well-resourced and capable of addressing the challenges on the Continent that continue unabated even during the pandemic. The AU must develop its ability to support the continent in establishing functional institutions that can withstand emergencies such as COVID-19.

In this regard, one of the issues under discussions and consideration during this Session are the recommendations of the Permanent Representative Committee regarding the 2021 AU Budget as well as progress that has been achieved thus far in the AU’s efforts to improve its financial management. Although the issue of the budget is a technical matter, it places huge political responsibilities not only on the AU Commission but on its membership. The Chairperson of the AU Commission will provide an update on the budget situation of the Organisation and its implications for the implementation of the priorities of the African Union. The implementation of the Peace Fund is critical in the maintenance of peace and security on the Continent and therefore I have no doubt that the report by the High Representative on the Peace Fund will provide us with options and ways of sustaining the Fund going forward.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The year 2021 is upon us, and as is custom during this session we are expected to discuss and consider the theme for next year, which is entitled, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building a Prosperous, Peaceful, Integrated and Resilient Africa in the Context of Multi-sectoral Challenges.” The theme is in recognition of the contribution of Arts, Culture, and heritage as catalysts to our socio-economic development.

I look forward to the discussions and the decisions that we will adopt for the advancement of the goals and objectives of our Organisation.

I thank you.

I now invite the Chairperson of the African Union to make a few opening remarks.

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