What does it mean to be a diplomat? I am sure you are familiar with the term ‘career diplomat’. But what exactly does this mean? 

For diplomats, it is representing one’s country - an honour and a privilege which the majority of people will never have the opportunity to do. It entails not only representing the President and country, but also the main aim of building relations with other countries to the mutual benefit of both you and your host country.

In the age of globalisation and technology development, no country can exist without relations with other countries. Representing your country is multi-dimensional. This is beyond merely political relations but extends to all spheres of life including economics and trade, civil society and people to people relations. The process of globalisation has had a major impact on and implications for cultures.

In fulfilling our mandates as diplomats, we are required to implement the decisions ie strategies and policies, of our government. In this context, it is very true that foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy. South Africa’s foreign policy is conducted against the background of a dynamic domestic, regional and global political and economic environment.

South Africa’s new democracy in 1994 necessitated the development of a completely new domestic and foreign policy. This was done to address the discriminatory policies of the previous regime and to provide a better life for all South Africans and all who live in the country. This has extended also to the role South Africa plays regionally and on the global stage with the aim of contributing to a better world for all people. Much has been achieved although South Africa has faced many challenges and continues to face many challenges in addressing the wrongs of the past as well as globally. Policy and strategy cannot be static if we wish to achieve the aims we set ourselves as government and representatives of that government. It has to be dynamic: re-tooled, adapted, and overhauled - in order to address the challenges of an ever shifting global environment.

The current global environment is characterised by shifts in political, economic, social and cultural dynamics that impact on all parts of the world. The role of new media and social networks, innovation, climate change, heightened demand for scarce resources, and the changing nature of conflict and insecurity have changed the way diplomacy is conducted. For South Africa to be effective, it must shape its domestic and foreign policies to respond and adapt to global trends influencing the international system and impacting on its national interest.

South Africa will continue to strengthen its political and economic relations through partnerships.

Africa continues to drive the vision of South Africa’s foreign policy and South Africa is fully supportive of the Africa Agenda 2063 which aims at the socio-economic development of the African continent. South Africa therefore continues to play a leading role in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peace-building and post-conflict resolution. Regionally South Africa is focussed on further integration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for economic development and global competitiveness.

South Africa also remains focussed in pursuit of an equitable and just system of global governance. We are committed to multilateralism and a rules-based international order and will continue to play an active role in all fora of the United Nations (UN) and its agencies, funds and programmes. South Africa supports all initiatives aimed at strengthening the UN system and the effectiveness and accountability of the secretariats of these organisations. We believe that the UN remains the most important vehicle for the advancement of the global development agenda and to address underdevelopment and the eradication of poverty.

Partnerships with the countries of the South are critical to advancing not only South Africa’s own development needs but also the African Agenda and South Africa will continue to promote the strengthening of South-South cooperation. Engagement with countries of the South will be intensified through participation in the Non-Aligned Movement Group of 77, as well as BRICS, the India-Africa Forum and the Africa-Turkey Forum among others.

We will continue to consolidate and strengthen our relations with the formations of the North to advance and support national priorities such as the Africa-Europe Strategic Partnership.

This year in particular, 2018, diplomacy takes on another form since South Africa is celebrating the Centenary of Nelson Mandela under the theme ‘Be the Legacy’.

We very much look forward to strengthening relations with Turkey as we continue to promote this important milestone in South Africa’s history globally. As we are aware, the United Nations designed July 18, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, the Universal Day of Nelson Mandela while South Africa has also used the day to institute a programme of voluntarism by encouraging people to offer up 67 minutes of their time in a good deed in honour of Mandela.

Nelson Mandela himself was the consummate diplomat, someone who united people across all spheres of life, regardless of whether it is politics, economics, culture, sport or music. Tributes from people all over the world abound with dedications to and in the name of Nelson Mandela. Above all, Nelson Mandela reminds us of our humanity, that despite anything that can be done to us, we should always retain hope and strive to be a better person as an example to others.

It is easy to talk but a good diplomat leads by example.

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