Speech delivered at the Forum 2000 by H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor

African Update – 25/10/11

I am honoured to have been asked to join in your discussions today. This Forum continues to bring together experts and practitioners from around the world to discuss the major challenges humanity faces. This is certainly the case this year with its focus on democracy and the rule of law which are central, I believe, to our hopes for a fairer, peaceful and prosperous future.

With so many expert and distinguished figures in the audience today, I am keen for the discussions to continue. And this is because l believe with the phenomenal continued explosion of knowledge and technology opening up the world, the 21st Century should be the Era of Humanity. I am very much here to learn, not to lecture. So I will be brief in these opening remarks. But I want, from the perspective of Africa, to touch on some of questions I have no doubt will underpin our discussions. In particular, I want to stress the importance of constitutions which must have human rights as their cornerstone, and of responsive leaders who are accountable to their citizens. It is such a constitution as the basic law the framework and legitimacy of the policy that gives meaning to the concept of the Rule of Law.

And so l want to challenge Thought Leaders around the world to rise to the advocacy for the institution of freedom through democratic constitutions everywhere. Common humanity must supercede race, religion, wealth and gender. For the bravery of the protestors in North Africa and the Middle East have shown that the desire for freedom and democracy is universal.

The difficulty though is that whereas nature embeds freedom in humanity, it is humanity that must deliberately institute democracies – for social governance. Thus the spontaneous outbreak of people power must be guided into democracy.  This is a challenge of enlightened and committed leadership. It is therefore appropriate that Forums such as this is addressing this issue. In country after country, we have seen people risking their lives to have a say over the futures of the families and countries and to be treated with respect under the law. I know this is the case in sub-Saharan Africa as well.

There are many countries in Africa where democracy is progressively getting embedded, and governments strive to improve life for all their citizens. But there are some, too, sadly where this is not the case, yet. But everywhere people have the same ambitions. They want to be free from poverty and hunger, from fear and conflict. They want the opportunity to build a better life for their children and to shape their own future. What has been called the Arab Spring is a warning to dictators and autocrats everywhere that their citizens will not allow them to ignore their interests or plunder their country’s wealth.

But it is also a rebuke to the rest of the world, where these protections and freedoms are already enjoyed, that not enough is being done to support democracy and human rights elsewhere.

I fear that we have, on too many occasions in too many countries, put the focus on stability or economic performance and turned a blind eye to human rights abuses.

There has been a tendency not to rock the boat or upset those in power because of the rich natural resources contained within their country. But this is, I believe, a false trade off for both countries and companies.

It is the mistake of putting short-term interests before the long-term good. For as we have seen in North Africa, there can be no long-term stability without democracy and respect for the individual.

Countries which would never ignore the rights of their own citizens now rightly find themselves embarrassed for dealing with those guilty of the worst breaches of human rights.

And companies, too, can pay a heavy price both reputationally and commercially for dealing with repressive regimes. Into the 21st Century, l believe a strong streak of conscience will progressively hall-mark international relations and universal governance.

Nor do I believe, in today’s globalised world, will we see sustained economic growth without the rule of law. For the rule of law is not just crucial to protect individuals. It is also vital to create the conditions for investment and commercial activity. It is the absence of fair and functioning legal systems which has proved a major brake on economic growth in many parts of the world. Why would a company want to invest its shareholders’ money in a country without confidence that their assets will be protected? How can corruption be tackled without an independent judiciary and laws which are enforced? The rule of law is one of the great civilising forces on our planet. Without it, social, political and economic progress is all but impossible.

So we must support those countries – with extra resources and knowledge transfer – who want to strengthen their legal systems. We need to give help to those countries drawing up constitutions to ensure human rights are at their heart.

We must be ready, too, to speak out for democratic and human rights where they are denied. But we also have to find the courage to drive through reforms at an international level. For in a world where our fate and fortunes are linked as never before, our multi-lateral systems too are failing us. It is not true democracy if only the voices of the powerful and wealthy carry weight within our international bodies.

The make-up of our global institutions – political and financial – reflect history rather than the reality of the 21st century.

There are five continents. But only three have permanent members of the Security Council. We need to find the courage to widen and modernise our decision-making bodies to new countries and continents.  

Unless they are fully involved in finding solutions, whether in tackling the economic crisis or climate change, the solutions will neither be effective nor seen to be legitimate. Nor can we demand individual leaders respect the rule of law within their borders when they see powerful nations ignoring international law. International rules and standards must apply to everyone, whoever they are. Above all, we need a much greater emphasis in our deliberations and decisions on fairness, partnership and our common values.

Whether we live in the First World, emerging world, or developing world, we must realise that we stand and fall together. Climate change can not, for example, be tackled by any one country, no matter how well-intentioned or strong.  

The global financial crisis showed how mistakes in one part of one economy could cause devastation in every continent. Our multi-lateral systems and institutions have not yet caught up with this reality. Nor can we see outside the narrow and short-term interests of individual countries. And yet, if we work together and put social justice at the heart of what we do, we can make extraordinary progress for the benefit of all. Look, for example, at the global challenge of hunger and food security.

One in seven of the world’s population – the majority in Africa - already go hungry.

With the population set to increase to nine billion by 2050, the risk is that hundreds of millions more will go without food. The effect of mass migrations and the anger and despair fuelling extremism will be felt in every continent. We already have plenty of evidence of the impact of failed states on not just their close neighbours but the wider world. It is a huge challenge. Yet Africa has the potential, by increasing yields and bringing uncultivated arable land into production, not just to feed itself but to feed the hungry across the globe. But this can only be achieved if African farmers share in the latest scientific knowledge and techniques. This calls for sincere partnerships and enlightened self-interest across the board. There are, ladies and gentlemen, many challenges to overcome.

But if we put fairness and partnership, democracy and human rights at the heart of our solutions, I believe progress will be rapid and the benefits shared by all. The 21st Century must be the ERA for this.

Thank You.

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A collection of recipes by Nelson Mandela's personal chef, this book contains the food served to visiting heads of state, celebrities, politicians for more than 20 years. Featuring some of the favourite former South African president's favourite meals including samp and beans, farm chicken, tripe, this book also features paella, peri-peri chicken, prawn curry, and myriad of other delights. With simple, delicious and nourishing recipes, it will interest those who wish to prepare meals that are both elegant and healthy.More

New arrivals

New titles in our library 12/2016

Our library has aquired a number of new and interesting books. Here is the list of the latest titles.

  • Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith
  • Fashion Cities Africa by Hannah Azieb Pool
  • Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanismby Christopher Lee
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Robinson, James A., Acemoglu, Daron
  • Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures With the Ever-Living Poet by Edward Wilson-Lee
  • A History of Modern Africa: 1800 to the Present by Richard J. Reid
  • Authentically African: Arts and the Transnational Politics of Congolese Culture by Sarah Van Beurden
  • Children in Slavery through the Ages by by Gwyn CampbellSuzanne MiersJoseph C. Miller
  • Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control by Tamara Giles-Vernick
  • Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos by Gary  Stewart
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 1: Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 2: The Modern Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Cahier d'un Retour Au Pays Natal by Aimé Cesaire
  • Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948 by Karen Elizabeth  Flint
  • Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies by Antoni Verger
  • Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry by Matthew M. Heaton

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