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Minister for Foreign Affairs and Transport, Mr Joel Morgan Diplomatic Cocktail Friday 4 March 2016

09.03.2016

It gives me great pleasure tonight to welcome you to the 2016 Diplomatic Cocktail – an auspicious occasion that provides us with the opportunity to reflect on 2015 whilst outlining our key objectives and strategy for 2016 in an atmosphere of friendship.

Undoubtedly, this past year has been a busy one for Seychelles - a year that has seen our nation make tremendous strides, achieving numerous milestones along the way. Seychelles has strengthened its position, both in the international arena as well as regionally. Tonight, I will highlight some of these achievements which would have been far harder to achieve where it not for your support.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to firstly publicly express my gratitude and sincere appreciation for the enormity of work that has been done by all within the Ministry making 2015 a successful year for Seychelles internationally. We recognize the challenges that we face collectively as we try to promote the foreign policy objectives of a small nation- the diplomatic cadre can attest to having to continuously adapt to an ever changing environment and a rapid pace of development! 

I feel we currently have a competent group of dedicated diplomats and support staff who execute their responsibilities with purpose and tenacity.  These two characteristics are important prerequisites needed in a Ministry that is often times Seychelles’ primary line of defence and ensures that it’s international and diplomatic obligations are met.

Our team at Maison Quéau de Quinssy, strives to continually strengthen the ties between Seychelles and its international partners through smart diplomacy, in the spirit of solidarity, integrity and mutual respect. 

Seychelles has, in the last year, strengthened its international relations in the region and across the globe, through many high level visits and joint commissions conducted during 2015 and the representation at various international and regional conferences.

All of these have been instrumental in fostering cooperation with some of our key partners. Indicative of this are the vast array of initiatives and interests we have shared - in a multitude of different fields including education, social and cultural integration, trade, the blue economy and fisheries, maritime security, in climate change matters, as well as the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Our country may be small but it has enormous potential. The creation and implementation of the Blue Economy has garnered considerable momentum and is an initiative which we are proud to spearhead. It is imperative in this respect that we build on the foundations that have been instilled and truly establish the Blue Economy concept as a global undertaking.

The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week served as an international platform for Seychelles to host the second Blue Economy Summit. This was done in collaboration with the UAE and UNESCO. This high-level meeting allowed for constructive discourse on ways to practically implement this concept in order to effectively govern our oceans, manage our marine resources, and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

As the champion of the Blue Economy concept, we remain convinced that the sustainable development of our oceans is key to ensuring the viability of our planet and future generations. As such, the inclusion of the sustainable development of the oceans in the Sustainable Development Goals highlights that the international community is cognizant of finding innovative ways to unlock this untapped opportunity. The Blue Bonds initiative and the debt swap agreement are tangible contributions that Seychelles has made to this discourse.

In this light, Seychelles recognizes the joint success that we have had in securitizing our common oceanic spaces. The pervading regional notion is that the threat of piracy is on the wane. We must not become complacent and be receptive to the reality that this is a situation that can change rapidly. We have collaborated with our international partners to find ways in which to eliminate what we consider an existential threat as well as ensure that all forms of maritime crime do not go unpunished and that the perpetrators cannot act with impunity.

It is in this respect, our responsibility to acknowledge that every country must adhere to international maritime law and the law of the seas. Fishing illegally within an EEZ is not only a breach of territorial integrity but a violation of international law which burdens the continued development of a small island developing states like our own.

It was therefore an honour for me to participate and open the 1st Contact Group for Piracy off the coast of Somalia (CGPCS) strategy meeting of the year under Seychelles’ chairmanship. We welcomed over 70 delegates from various nations and private entities. During the discussions, it was confirmed that no successful attacks against IMO registered vessels had occurred which was certainly encouraging to note. However, the reality remains that many unregistered smaller fishing vessels are still frequently affected by piracy and its uncompromising nature. In this respect while acknowledging the progress that has been made, we must remain vigilant and build on the foundations we have manifested together.

Last year, Seychelles assumed the Chairmanship of the Policy Organs of the Eastern Africa Standby Force, which is the only of the five African Standby Forces to have attained Full Operational Capability status. Under Seychelles’ chairmanship, this multidisciplinary peacekeeping force reactivated its maritime component. This is a positive development considering that Seychelles is an oceanic country with maritime security as a salient strand of the blue economy concept it champions. 

In aviation, the collaboration between Air Seychelles and Etihad continues to soar to new heights. Today Mahé is better connected and is serviced daily from the Gulf which has seen tourist arrivals attain record levels. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Transport is committed to the promotion of Seychelles as a tourist destination and as such we work to that end by ensuring that various Bilateral Air Services Agreements are initialed. Just this year, Seychelles has signed a historic agreement with the United States of America further connecting Seychelles to the rest of the world.

This increased connectivity is also reflected in the strength of the Seychelles passport whereby the international community has placed confidence in our Government as a viable partner allowing for increased mobility of the Seychellois people. Through tireless efforts of my Ministry, Seychelles has been ranked first in Africa by Henley and Partners Visa Restrictions Index 2016.

On the multilateral front, Seychelles is a firm believer in the principles and values enshrined in the UN charter. These universal values have for the last 70 years been guiding the UN family to aspire to achieve greater democracy, rule of law and good governance in their respective societies. The UN and its agencies have played a crucial role in Seychelles in terms of our own development trajectory. For this we are grateful.

Time and again Seychelles asserts that Small Island Nations are the voice of reason of the world. As such we urge a renewed commitment by the major players in the international community to set aside geopolitical interests and to act with compassion whilst embracing egalitarianism for the greater good of humanity.

With regards to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), I would like to reiterate that Seychelles’ withdrawal from our bid to occupy a non-permanent seat for the period of 2017-2018 was a decision that we made in solidarity with our neighbours in the East African region.

Although our bid has been temporarily postponed, we would like to thank all of those who supported us and hope to have your continued support as we remain ready to represent the region in 2021-2022.

In this year that we are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), our multilateral relationship goes from strength to strength. We are currently in the process of elaborating the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) 2016-2020, which is meant to align very closely with our National Development Strategy (NDS).

Last year marked the end of the 15 year process of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted by Seychelles and 189 other UN Member States in 2000. Having proudly achieved the MDG’s, Seychelles has renewed its commitment to achieving an equitable world, free of social ills and environmental degradation by implementing the SDG’s. 

More than ever Seychelles has become cognizant of its human rights obligations. Just this year, we have given firm commitments when our human rights records were scrutinized by the UN Human Rights Council with a view to not only take constructive criticisms to address some of our weaknesses but to also implement pertinent suggestions to ensure that ALL of our citizens have equal protection and recourse under our current laws. We believe firmly in human rights as evidenced by our submission to the Second Cycle of the Universal Periodic review.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As an island nation, Seychelles is conscious of the effects of climate change on both on our marine and land resources, our endemic species and their eco-systems, and subsequently the livelihoods of our people.

More than most as islanders we feel the brunt of climate change. In a very short period of time we have seen our pristine natural environment destroyed before our very eyes.

As such, the Government of Seychelles has been active in the international arena, lobbying for action against climate change and championing the cause of sustainable development, especially as a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Seychelles joined the rest of the world, as well as a coalition of like-minded small island states, at the Conference of Parties, also known as COP21, in Paris in December 2015 to sign the historic document which would give humanity a second chance. 

In recognizing that Seychelles is therefore extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, we will continue in this same breath, in the year ahead, to be vocal in our plea to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and champion sustainable practices. This will be at the core of our Chairmanship of AOSIS in 2017.

We are also actively engaged both regionally and internationally to solidify our longstanding relationship with our partners. Our integration progress within the African continent is a source of pride for us. For instance COMESA has been instrumental in assisting Seychelles with devising an Agricultural Investment Plan which has the potential of getting donors to pledge for support to our agricultural development 

Seychelles has also been able to negotiate through SADC our adhesion to the SADC Free trade Area and the Tripartite FTA which would benefit our local entrepreneurs many of which are present here today.  Actions such as these are congruent with Seychelles’ drive to further promote south-south cooperation.

The EU remains as one of our most resolute strategic partners in development. Through the 11th EDF, the EU-Seychelles Fisheries Partnership Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreement we have been able to address many of our development issues from both the financial and technical perspective. 

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs, 

Permettez-moi de rappeler encore que cette cérémonie conviviale est aussi l’occasion pour moi de  vous dire combien je suis sensible à l’intérêt et à l’amitié que vos Chefs d’Etat, vos mandants, et Responsables d’Organisations Internationales portent, à travers vous, aux Seychelles et au peuple seychellois. 

Je me réjouis que nos relations continuent à se développer sur la base du respect mutuel, sur l'amitié et sur une volonté commune de trouver des solutions dans un esprit de partenariat et de coopération.

Dans ce monde devenu incertain et instable,  où les menaces et les atteintes à la paix et à la sécurité sont devenues quasi permanentes, où l’extrémisme et l’intolérance n’épargnent  aucun continent, cette atmosphère très agréable me paraît être un grand atout.

Je voudrais, à cet égard, exprimer de nouveau ma reconnaissance et la gratitude du Gouvernement seychellois pour votre soutien et appui multiformes.

L’année 2015 a  en effet été marquée par un déferlement d’actes terroristes. Plusieurs nations du monde en ont été victimes : la France, le Nigeria, le Mali, le Kenya, la Tunisie, pour ne citer que ces pays.

La leçon que je tire de tous ces actes, est que l’intensification de la coopération internationale est devenue un impératif vital.  Aujourd’hui plus qu’hier, seule une volonté ferme de mutualiser nos moyens de lutte, nous permettra de relever ces nouveaux défis sécuritaires que sont le terrorisme, la piraterie maritime, la criminalité transfrontalière et les trafics de tous genres.

C’est le lieu pour moi de réitérer ma gratitude ainsi que celle du Gouvernement et du peuple seychellois à mes pairs de la COI d’avoir adhéré immédiatement à l’appel du Président Michel de créer une structure régionale d’intelligence, de coordination et d’intervention pour lutter contre le fléau de la drogue.

Au niveau régional et panafricain, les Seychelles ont en effet pris une part active aux différentes assises de la COI, de la SADC, du COMESA et de l’Union Africaine. C’est dire que le  dynamisme et les succès de notre diplomatie, incarnée en premier lieu par le Président de la République, témoignent d’un renouveau et d’un leadership incontestable.

Mais si les acquis sont nombreux, nous sommes conscients aussi que beaucoup de défis demeurent,  surtout  pour nous les petits Etats insulaires, qui doivent  promouvoir ensemble un développement durable conjuguant le respect des droits humains, la justice et la paix durable.

Je vous remercie donc pour vos encouragements et pour votre disponibilité à nous accompagner dans ces divers domaines.

Mes remerciements vont aussi à tous mes proches collaborateurs, les cadres, l’ensemble du personnel d’appui, en particulier les secrétaires, les agents de sécurité, les chauffeurs, les techniciens, les agents de nettoyage, pour leur dévouement et le sens du travail bien fait.

Finalement, je voudrais conclure en souhaitant que l’année en cours apporte à  vous tous, à vos familles ainsi qu’à l’humanité, plus de paix, de bonheur et d’espérance.

 

Je vous remercie !

 

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