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Speech by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič at the University of Pretoria, South Africa

Pretoria

Thank you for your friendly hospitality and warm welcome!

Ladies and gentlemen,

My visit to your country is very special to me, and I am delighted to start my visit to Africa here in this great nation. For me personally, it feels good to be back on African soil, a continent where I used to live when serving as a diplomat, in neighbouring Zimbabwe. It was there that my daughter was born, now a student herself, probably around the age of most of you sitting here. My years in Africa have attached me to the African continent and its magnificent and rich culture. I therefore feel very honoured to share some thoughts with you today.

As a professional diplomat, I have always been inspired by the South African transition from apartheid to democracy, from the years of embargo to becoming an influential voice on international fora. I come from Slovakia, a country which gained democracy in the early 1990's, which has gone through a major political transition, and which now enjoys the fruits of regional integration. Sounds familiar?

Nowadays, both South Africa and all EU members have embraced democratic values: celebrating cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity; defending the rule of law and promoting peace and human rights around the world. We have more in common than one might think.

Today, I am here in my capacity as the Vice President of the European Commission, in charge of what we call in Europe the 'Energy Union'. This highly-ambitious project aims to transition our generation and consumption of energy into a new model, one which is sustainable, secure, and caters for all. The project is at the heart of the European Union's political agenda but it is outwards looking, involving our partners around the world. As you know, in a globalised economy, energy has no borders. What happens in one part of the world has a great impact on others. When it comes to climate action - that is all the more true!

I came to South Africa to discuss what we are doing in Europe, what you are doing here and how we can both do it better – together. Both Europe and South Africa are important players in this game, we in Europe are the largest energy importer in the world, and you are a major producing and transit country. Given the major consequences of our respective policies, we are bearing a great responsibility on our shoulders. And it is that responsability that I would like to talk about, doing the right thing before it is too late.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you all know, on Saturday we will all celebrate the Nelson Mandela International Day, which was set by the UN as a day for humanity to cherish and celebrate the legacy of this great man. One of the things that made the late Nelson Mandela a remarkable leader who changed the face of history was his deep conviction that any man-made reality is reversible, even if it seems carved in stone. He often said that phenomena like poverty, slavery and apartheid were created by man and therefore could also be removed by actions of us, human beings. I would like to borrow the same logic, in paraphrase to climate change.

My friends, there is no greater risk to humanity today than global warming. It is not a hypothetical theory about what might happen in some years from now. No, it is a reality which is already affecting all of us, in different ways, around the world. We are facing more and more severe natural disasters, pollution-related diseases, forces new flows of migration sometimes causing new conflicts to erupt. The tragic irony is that the most vulnerable societies in developing countries are those who are most exposed to the perils of climate change.

This is a wakeup call for all of us. And I say 'all of us' because America cannot solve climate change. China cannot solve climate change. Europe cannot solve climate change. No single country can make it on its own. This is bigger and more complex than any challenge humanity has known before. It thus requires a coordinated solution, one which involves all countries, all sectors, all segments of society, without exclusions.

When it comes to Africa, the importance of fighting climate change is far more than symbolic. In fact, it is among the regions which will suffer its consequences the most unless we act now. The international community is trying to limit global warming at a 2° Celsius average; yet, for some regions in Africa this will mean up to 3-4 degrees which could have catastrophic implications for areas which are already close to a breaking point. I sometimes joke that when I moved from Zimbabwe to Canada I saw a temperature drop of 80 degrees, from +40° to -40°. But for some people these extreme temperatures are far from funny, they are a question of life or death. That is why there is so much at stake.

There is a wide range of aspects in which the EU and South Africa have already been cooperating in the fight against climate change. For example, the South African successful UN Climate Conference in Durban in 2011 (COP 17) paved the way to the COP 21 conference in Paris this winter. Your government did not only host the conference but was crucial in securing its positive outcome. In the end, all Parties agreed to work towards a legally binding climate Agreement in 2015, to enter into force until 2020 at the latest. This year it will be up to us all to follow up and make it happen.

I know some countries are less proactive. Some might even be complacent, thinking they have more urgent problems to solve first, that they cannot  tackle climate-change, or at least not now. These countries must realise that economically, the price of failing to tackle climate change is far greater than that of implementing climate policies. There are also countries which are genuinely interested to join forces but which are struggling to find the necessary funds to invest in climate actions. That is why the EU stands ready to assist in climate investment and finance. In 2013, the total public funding for international climate action from the EU and its Member States stood at €9.5 billion.  And we remain committed to mobilise our fair share of the $100 USD billion per year by 2020, from public and private sources, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, as was pledged collectively by donor countries in Copenhagen in 2009. We do hope to see other donor countries following with similar action.

I am fully aware of the political difficulties to reach an ambitious binding and global agreement which involves all countries. There will be challenging negotiations among governments about the burden sharing of decarbonising our economies - until we find the most just and sustainable agreement. But in the end, regardless of what the agreement will look like - there will not be winners and losers. Either we all win or we all lose. Any way we look at it, we are all part of the same ecosystem, the only one we have.

With regards to our own commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the EU has set itself quiet ambitious targets, the result of very intense negotiations we have held among our Member States. But I am proud at what we have achieved: the EU is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% from 1990 to 2030. I know that your government has also made a clear commitment: to start decreasing its emissions level no later than in 2025. We are very interested to learn more about this plan.

But our role as two global leaders, South Africa and the European Union, does not stop at making our own commitments. As I mentioned earlier, even with the most ambitious targets, neither the EU nor South Africa can solve the problem. We must bring all our partners on board, we must convey to them the sense of urgency, the need to act now. That is why the EU as well as the French hosts of the conference - are highly active in climate diplomacy, inviting more governments to join in action. I had the pleasure of visiting Belgrade recently while the government announced its national contribution to COP21. I could see from nearby  what the process entails for some of our partners.

When it comes to our internal energy policies, both the EU and the South African government have come to realise the tremendous potential of renewable energy, not only for the environment but also for creating jobs, for providing affordable energy down the line and for establishing a new economic model where consumers have a central role. In that respect, I must say I was very impressed by the climate-relevant programmes you have put in place here, especially the recent quick build-up of renewable energy capacity and the innovative auctioning scheme you have set up for independent renewable energy producers. Some of the ideas I have seen here could be useful for us in Europe.

As for us in Europe, we have set ourselves the objective of becoming the global leader in renewable energy technologies. And I have no doubts that great minds of your institutions will also take up this challenge, a very dignified one! The fact that South Africa will host the International Renewable Energy Conference (SAIREC, 4-7 October 2015) just two months before COP21 in Paris is just another sign how serious you are about this challenge. Rest assured that I am not here to declare a competition; I will leave that to the market forces. I am here to tell you that there is great room for cooperation between the EU and South Africa in this field. This involves trade, investment, joint research projects, and development aid.

For example, we are already seeing the fruits of the excellent EU-South African cooperation on technology and research, namely under what we call the 7th Framework Programme for Research, or shortly FP7. Its successor, Horizon 2020, will also provide very good opportunities for cooperation in the energy field, particularly renewable energy research.

Let me conclude with a message to you, the young generation of this country; students who are about to join the labour force and are ready  to take over the torch of leadership. Your voice matters. As a member of the G20, a member of the BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), the African Union and SADC and as this year's chair of the G77 – the world is listening to what South Africa has to say. But also you, each and every one of you sitting here today: your voice matters!

If you have a smartphone in your pocket you have a huge amount of power. Use it and take part in the change: engage in civil action, in political discussions, and awareness raising – especially now, in the run-up to COP21. Write a blog, a post, shoot a video, share an article. Trust, when political leaders from around the world convene in Paris in December, they will be much aware of the sentiment on the street.

Thank you again for having me today and for making me feel so at home.

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European Union and FAO launch new programmes to boost food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture and resilience

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

A farmer working in a rice field in Bangladesh. The EU-FAO partnership seeks to boost food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture and resilience in some 35 countries.

16 July 2015, Addis Ababa - The European Union and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have launched a new partnership agreement to boost food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture and resilience in at least 35 countries*.

The new programmes were announced yesteday at a meeting between the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva during the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development, in Ethiopia.

The European Union is contributing €50 million and FAO €23.5 million to this initiative, which will be country led and demand driven.

Commissioner Mimica said: "This initiative will be crucial to support partner countries and regional organizations in pulling together political, technical and financial means towards the common goal of reducing food and nutrition insecurity. It will also contribute to strengthening the partnership between the European Union and FAO."

"This newest phase in our partnership with the European Union will greatly reinforce FAO's ability to engage with governments to help them acquire the data and information they need to develop and implement effective policies aimed at tackling hunger's root causes and building resilience to shocks and crises," said Graziano da Silva.

The new initiative consists of two linked five-year programmes:

  • The Food and Nutrition Security Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Transformation (FIRST) facility, which will enhance the capacities of governments and regional administrations to improve food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture policies and better implement them. This will be done by providing policy assistance and capacity development support.
  • The Information for Nutrition Food Security and Resilience for Decision Making (INFORMED) programme will contribute to strengthening resilience to withstand food crises as a result of human-induced and natural disasters. Providing regular, timely and evidence-based information to decision-makers is one of the means to achieve this goal.

Shared priorities in fighting hunger and malnutrition

Despite the progress made in recent decades, according to the latest UN food insecurity report, around 800 million people in the world still go hungry and millions more do not have access to healthy diets.

Moreover, in recent years an increasing number of people have been affected by food crises, often resulting from conflicts, natural disasters, also due to climate change, or food price volatility. Vulnerable people are finding it increasingly difficult to ensure they have enough food and can earn a living in the face of such shocks.

A recent report by FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that eradicating world hunger by 2030 will require an estimated additional $267 billion a year in investments in rural and urban areas and in social protection.

Given the challenges, the various partners participating in FIRST and INFORMED initiatives recognize the need for coordinated action by all stakeholders to effectively address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

The European Union's contribution to the initiatives comes from the Global Public Good and Challenge (GPGC) programme, under the European Union's budget dedicated to development aid (Development and Cooperation Instrument, or DCI).

The European Union - one of FAO's biggest donors - joined the Organization as a Member 1991. In 2004 the European Union and FAO became strategic partners, deepening their working relationship. This latest agreement strengthens and expands on that long-standing collaboration.

* Preliminary list of countries in which the programmes will be implemented are:

19 countries for INFORMED: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Haiti, Kenya, Mauritania, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, the Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

27 countries for FIRST: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Djibouti, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, the Niger, Pakistan, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Press release – Human rights: Zimbabwe; Thailand; Swaziland

Parliament passed three resolutions on Thursday, calling for Zimbabwean human rights activist Itai Dzarana to be found immediately; the release of all political prisoners in Swaziland; protection for Rohingya asylum seekers and action against human trafficking in Thailand.

The case of Itai Dzarana in Zimbabwe

MEPs strongly condemn the forced disappearance of human rights defender Itai Dzamara and urge the government of Zimbabwe to comply fully with the High Court order directing it to search for him and thus take all necessary measures to find him. They express concerns at the reports by human rights organisations of increasing political violence and other human rights abuses and call for concerted action by the international community.

The resolution deplores the absence of a strong and enforceable human rights clause in the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and calls on the EU delegation in Harare "to continue to offer its assistance to Zimbabwe in order to improve the human rights situation".

 

The resolution was passed by a show of hands.

The plight of Rohingya refugees and the mass graves in Thailand

Parliament expresses its concern over the plight of Rohingya refugees and calls on the Thai authorities to hold "immediate, full and credible" investigations into the mass graves of Rohingya Muslims found in May near human trafficking camps in southern Thailand.

It calls on all countries in the region to strengthen cooperation on counter-smuggling measures and to provide Rohingya asylum seekers "at least with temporary protection" and urges the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to make saving of lives and refugees stranded on vessels in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea a top priority.

It also asks the government of Burma/Myanmar to end the persecution of the Rohingya minority and calls on the EU High Representative to address this issue "at the highest possible political level" in her contacts with Thailand and Burma/Myanmar.

 

The resolution was adopted by a show of hands.

 

The case of Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu in Swaziland

MEPs call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu, "given that their imprisonment relates directly to the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression" and also of all political prisoners, including Mario Masuku, President of the People’s United Democratic Movement, and Maxwell Dlamini, Secretary-General of the Swaziland Youth Congress.

Parliament considers the imprisonment of political activists and the banning of trade unions to be in clear contravention of commitments made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also under the sustainable development chapter of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement, for which Parliament’s support will depend on respect for the commitments made.

It calls, therefore, on the Commission to honour its obligation to monitor Swaziland’s adherence to human rights and to labour and environmental conventions under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), and to open an investigation to determine whether there has been a serious and systematic violation of the labour rights protected under the GSP.

The resolution was passed by 579 votes to 6, with 58 abstentions.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolutions

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John Kerry in Kenya

The Secretary of State is in the midst of a visit to Kenya to lay the groundwork for President Obama’s visit in July. There are many issues on the table, including terrorism, human rights issues and Kenya’s decision to shut down the Dadaab refugee camp. On that latter issue, Kerry announced $45 million aid package to convince the Kenyan government to reconsider that idea. The aid would keep the Somali refugee camp — the world’s largest –open. This AP story has a good run down of the issues on Kerry’s agenda. Later this week, he’ll become the first Secretary of State to visit Djibouti.  (AP http://yhoo.it/1JlBz5j)

Gayle Smith Has Critics…Howard French and Bill Easterly, among others, do not hold back their criticism of Obama’s pick to lead USAID.  “The controversy around Smith lays bare age-old tensions between America’s principles and realpolitik interests.The American government has forcefully withheld assistance from autocratic regimes it is hostile to (i.e. Zimbabwe and Sudan), but less willing to confront US-friendly authoritarians, for example in Rwanda, Uganda, The Gambia, DRC, or Equatorial Guinea (Quartz  http://bit.ly/1QgESyL)

Quote of the Day: “We call for an end to attacks on these vital lifelines and for the Yemeni civil aviation authority to be given the chance to repair the airports, so that humanitarian assistance can be sent to Yemen.” — A rare joint statement from MSF and the ICRC http://bit.ly/1QgDPP7

DAWNSer of the Day: Liz Braden “I am currently the Program Manager at Princeton in Africa which supports a fellowship program offering professional opportunities across the continent for recent college graduates. We are working with 30 partners in 15 countries this year. “ www.princetoninafrica.org

Africa

Three protesters were killed in Burundi’s capital on Monday, the Red Cross said, as demonstrations against a decision by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s to seek a third term in office ran into a second week. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zIppU4)

A meningitis epidemic in Niger has claimed 252 lives since January, a health official said Monday, warning the country was short of vaccines to fight the outbreak. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JlBHBy)

A proposed law before Malian lawmakers would reserve one-third of government jobs for women, including in elected offices. (Washington Times http://bit.ly/1QgEzE1 )

Kenya’s deputy president has said there is “no room” for homosexuality in Kenyan society, the latest comments from an African government to anger activists and likely also to annoy Western donors who say gays are targeted on the continent. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zIpqr8)

Youths, defying a government ban on demonstrations, clashed with security forces in Guinea’s coastal capital Conakry, as opposition leaders called for nationwide protests against the timing of elections. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zIpqrg)

More than 500 delegates representing all stakeholders in the Central African Republic begin a week-long reconciliation forum Monday in Bangui on the future of the strife-torn country, including its proposed constitution. (VOA http://bit.ly/1I9rppu)

As Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia work to end Ebola, critical healthcare services damaged by the epidemic are beginning to be revitalised. (IPS http://bit.ly/1KHqbSa)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday a decision by Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in office “flies directly in the face” of the constitution. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GVdQZp)

MENA

A monitor and Syria’s opposition have called for an investigation into a US-led coalition strike last week that allegedly killed 64 civilians, nearly half of them children, in northern Syria. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JlBH4N)

Senegal (!?) will send 2,100 troops to Saudi Arabia to take part in an international coalition combating Houthi fighters in neighboring Yemen, the West African nation’s foreign minister said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1GVdLVq)

Asia

Nepal’s government will need immense international support as the Himalayan nation begins turning its attention toward reconstruction in the coming weeks, in the wake of the devastating April earthquake, a top official said Monday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIpt6s)

Thai police have arrested a man they believe is the key figure behind a brutal human trafficking network that ran a jungle camp where dozens of bodies have been found. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1zIptDf)

The European Union has approved $22 million in financial support and emergency aid to help Nepal deal with the April 25 earthquake. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIpreL)

The leader of the U.N. Development Program on Monday praised China’s relief efforts in Nepal and said the country’s importance to global development will only grow. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIprvk)

Climate change threatens some of China’s most important infrastructure projects, China’s top meteorologist warned in a state newspaper, adding the country’s rate of warming was higher than the global average. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1JlBvSR)

Two days of informal talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives produced a series of agreements that, while not binding, raised the prospect of advancement in Afghanistan’s long deadlocked peace process. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1QgEIr9)

The Americas

In Peru, the Shipibo-Konibo people’s promised relocation has been blocked by the city’s new mayor, with the future of their Cantagallo community cast into doubt. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1KHpTdX)

…and the rest

The European Union will not be adopting Australia’s migration methods despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claim that some Europeans are seeking policy advice. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIpreE)

A new study adds to growing evidence that HIV infected people have immune systems similar to those who are much older. This occurs even when they are being treated with antiretroviral drugs. The older-acting immune systems can make them more susceptible to certain diseases. (VOA http://bit.ly/1JMmFZd)

An international report says Sweden needs to urgently address the declining performance of its schools, a growing embarrassment for the Scandinavian welfare state. (AP http://yhoo.it/1JlBApL)

Belarus faced harsh criticism Monday at a UN review of its rights record, with diplomats decrying an “atmosphere of intimidation” and urging the country to ensure free and fair elections. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1zIpuqX)

Firms in Europe’s Emissions Trading System have swapped a total of 255 million U.N.-backed carbon offsets for European Union emissions allowances from April 2013-2014, data published by the European Commission showed. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1I9nCIO)

Opinion/Blogs

Meet the French Countess who sold her family heirlooms to start and anti-poverty NGO. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1R5D115)

Guinea Ebola diary: In the land of lost handshakes (IRIN http://bit.ly/1KHpYOO)

The West and Its Self-Assumed Right to Intervene (IPS http://bit.ly/1I9oQnz)

Lack of Media Coverage Compounds Violence in Libya (CPJ http://bit.ly/1DPMK17)

The rent seeking rebellion cycle (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1bXEg1T)

The Missing Men in International Development (CFI http://bit.ly/1EShbsF)

The Long History of the Garissa Attacks (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1KHtKaT)

Why are Ethiopian Israelis protesting? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1KHqgFy)

Part II: One Standard To Rule Them All (AidSpeak http://bit.ly/1KHqlsL)

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