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Vice President Vincent Meriton Speech on the Occassion of the Annual Diplomatic Cocktail on the 9th February 2018

15.02.2018

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All protocol observed

 

Good Evening.

 

We live in a time of diverse and complex world politics. 

 

Some countries are choosing to retreat, to protect, to insulate themselves from the perceived and real threats of globalization. 

But our country cannot afford the luxury of isolation. For one, we are already isolated from the rest of the world by a vast ocean.

Yet, it is this same ocean which connects us to the world, which brought the first settlers to these shores and which today is the life-force of our Blue Economy.

Seychelles is thankful for the support of our many international partners. You have been part of our journey towards national development.  During tough times, we have counted on you. 

Tonight, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to our annual diplomatic cocktail. 

It is an opportunity to once again affirm our belief in the principles of international engagement and collaboration.  

Modern-day Seychelles is far from perfect. 

We have our fair share of challenges but we have chosen what is best for the country, a path of national unity, a path of collaboration, a path of cohabitation as is evident in the present political and governance landscape. 

Globalization has impacted both our culture and society, but we have never been tempted by nationalist or ideological sentiments.

While our environmental footprint may be insignificant in global terms, we will continue to passionately advocate for the preservation of not just our natural environment but that of our planet. 

Because we know that Seychelles is part of the World, not the World.  We might not possess the global influence or power of the bigger nations. But our size allows us to appreciate the fact that we are part of a bigger system that is inextricably interdependent and interconnected. 

This is our message. 

We are fully aware of our responsibilities as a member of the global community.  And we remain committed to the ideals of multilateralism and cooperation. 

Ideals that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that global challenges are best solved though international cooperation and dialogue.   

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am humbled to have been entrusted with the responsibility of leading the Department of Foreign Affairs and along with the support of the new Executive Head, Secretary of State Ambassador Barry Faure, will continue to strive to ensure that our diplomatic service is one which fulfils its mandate as our nations’ voice and that it reflects President Danny Faure’s vision of a service which is pragmatic and remains relevant to the people of Seychelles.

At this juncture I would like to express my deepest gratitude to former Foreign Secretaries Ambassador Marie-Louise Potter and Ambassador Claude Morel, to the Diplomatic Advisor to President Ambassador Callixte d’Offay as well as former Principal Secretary Ambassador Michelle Murray, without forgetting other staff members who have moved on.

I would also like to thank all the dedicated staff of the Department. Through challenging and difficult circumstances, you have discharged your responsibilities with passion, purpose and tenacity. 

We, at ‘Maison Quéau de Quinssy’ and our missions abroad; pledge to strengthen the bond between 

Seychelles and the international community through smart diplomacy, integrity and mutual respect.

Our foreign policy for this year is a continuation of the active engagement that has been at the core of our recent international relations.   

We remain committed to the goals of regional integration as a vehicle for peace and security and as a means of strengthening resilience and broadening opportunities.  

We will continue to give importance to the regional organizations that we are party to, including COI, COMESA, SADC, IORA and the African Union, as we continue to collaborate within the region for mutual socio-economic development. 

Beyond our region, we remain active partners in the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, the EU, the ACP and the UN, which all provide Seychelles with a platform that gives our small island nation a voice on the international arena.

With respect to the Commonwealth, Seychelles is in full preparation for the upcoming CHOGM, scheduled to be held in April 2018 in London, under the theme ‘Towards a Common Future’ with the aim of achieving a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all citizens, especially our young people. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

2017 was a fruitful year for diplomacy.

We opened our Embassy in Havana, Cuba, our first in the Caribbean and Latin America and the 25th African Mission in Havana.

We are pleased to have extended our reach in that part of the hemisphere, especially with a long standing partner. 

This year, will in fact mark 40 years since we established, diplomatic relations with Cuba and to mark this occasion, we will receive next week one of the highest level visits to our shores. 

2017 also saw President Faure undertaking his first visits abroad since taking Office, including the working visit to Sri Lanka, as well as State visits to Kenya, Cuba and Mauritius. 

Such visits have served to further strengthen our respective bilateral relations.  

At this point, I am happy to note that the implementation of the Blue Economy is gaining momentum worldwide.   

As its firm advocates, in line with SDG 14- life below water, we remain convinced that the sustainable development of our oceans, as well as our natural environment, is key to ensuring the viability of our planet, as well as the continued growth of Seychelles.  

We will ensure that our vast ocean resources continue to contribute to the livelihoods of future generations.  

As emphasized by President Faure at the Our Ocean Conference in Malta last year, “the oceans remain lifeblood of countries, regardless of whether they are oceanic or landlocked nations”. 

Our ocean is precious to us. This is why we must ensure synergy between sustainable marine resource management and maritime security.

We remain mindful of the ever present threat of piracy in our waters.  As such maritime security remains at the forefront of our foreign policy.  

We will continue to bolster our capacity with bilateral, regional and international partners in programmes such as Cutlass Express, REFLECS3, RCOC & MASE.

The recent signing of the revised Assomption Agreement with India is a case in point. 

It entails the construction of military, aviation, maritime and communication facilities financed by India, owned by Seychelles and jointly managed and operated. 

The facilities will further enhance the capacity of Seychelles People’s Defence Forces to effectively control our EEZ against drug trafficking, illegal fishing, maritime piracy, exploitation of our maritime resources and other illegal activities.  These facilities will immensely help with search and rescue and speedier emergency assistance to disasters, far from Mahe.

The need for a permanent coastguard and air force presence in our southern waters has become even more urgent as we move to implement our Marine Spatial Plan and realize our debt swap pledge with the Paris Club, of turning 30 percent of our Exclusive Economic Zone into marine protected areas. 

The Assomption Agreement will be scrutinized by the National Assembly prior to ratification.  

Once the agreement is ratified, the Joint Project Management Committee will be established. It will facilitate an EIA after which construction will begin.

Another example of Seychelles commitment to international collaboration is in the Joint Management Area of the Extended Continental Shelf of the Mascarene Plateau.  It is between Mauritius and Seychelles, an extent of almost 400,000.00 square km, comparable to the size of Germany.  

This collaboration is gaining momentum with the recent signing of a joint contract with Spectrum ESA for seismic studies in the area, and the signing of the GEF/UNDP Stand Alone Project to provide assistance to Mauritius and Seychelles in capacity development in the management of marine resources.  

The first joint ministerial council and the launch of the JMA will take place in Seychelles in the latter part of 2018.  An international forum is being planned to mark the occasion.

To further highlight the role that Seychelles plays in the maritime domain, two conferences will take place in the first half of 2018. 

The Climate Resilient Ocean Economies Conference will be held on 22-23 February with the World Bank for African countries and the African Ship-owners Summit from 23rd to 25th April.

 

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs, 

 

Au cours de l'année écoulée, les Seychelles a bénéficie de différentes formes de coopération et de soutien que ce soit technique ou économique visant essentiellement à renforcer nos capacités dans plusieurs domaines tels que la santé, l’éducation, l’infrastructure et le développement durable. 

À cet égard, je tiens à exprimer la gratitude du Gouvernement des Seychelles à tous nos partenaires pour l’appui qu'ils continuent à nous apporté et je tiens à le préciser ce soir car c’est bien grâce à vous et à votre confiance que nous avons aujourd’hui atteint le statut de pays à revenu élevé.

Cependant, les Seychelles continuent à subir diverses contraintes et cela au détriment de notre développement économique. 

Ainsi nous comptons sur vous pour l'adoption d'un indice de vulnérabilité qui reflétera au mieux les spécificités des Petits Etats Insulaires que nous sommes.  

 

En outre, compte tenu du contexte politique de cohabitation, le département des Affaires étrangères a établi des relations de travail très étroites avec la Commission des affaires internationales de l'Assemblée nationale. 

 

Ce partenariat non seulement contribue à consolider la diplomatie seychelloise, mais  il représente aussi sur le plan régional et au-delà un exemple concret et positif d’une démocratie participative.  

 

C’est dans ce cadre  que nous aurons le plaisir d’accueillir prochainement en octobre la rencontre biennale avec tous nos  ambassadeurs et consuls honoraires du monde entier.

 

D’autant plus 2018 sera pour nous une année à fort enjeux régionaux car les Seychelles assumera la présidence du Conseil des Ministres de l’Océan Indien (COI). 

 

La COI comme vous le savez est une organisation en pleine réforme institutionnelle, il s’agira alors de l’aider à lui donner une nouvelle impulsion en ligne avec son texte fondateur l’accord de Victoria de 1984 et nous travaillerons sans relâche avec ses membres afin que notre région demeure une zone de paix, de coopération et de stabilité. 

 

La COI s’est déjà positionnée comme une organisation régionale défendant les intérêts des Petits Etats Insulaires. 

 

Ceci non seulement répond à nos intérêts, mais aussi et surtout à l’urgence de définir un nouveau modèle de développement pour notre planète en général.

 

De ce fait et afin d’accroitre les relations entre les États insulaires et les États riverains, nous envisageons plusieurs visites de haut  niveau en 2018 et en 2019. 

 

C’est en partageant notre expérience dans  la lutte commune pour le développement de nos peuples que nous arriverons à mieux gérer les grands défis de notre temps. 

 

D’autant plus qu’à travers l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), les Seychelles  joueront pleinement son rôle dans la préparation et le bon déroulement du Sommet de la Francophonie qui se tiendra en Arménie, en octobre prochain autour du thème ‘Vivre Ensemble’. 

 

Par ailleurs, nous nous réjouissons d’avance de la tenue du Sommet du FOCAC qui se tiendra à Pékin au cours du second semestre de cette année. 

 

 Les Seychelles apprécient vivement sa relation privilégiée avec la République Populaire de Chine, l’un de nos principaux investisseurs dans le domaine de l’infrastructure et dans cet esprit de solidarité et de coopération entre pays en voie développement j’ai le plaisir de vous annoncer de l’intention du Président Faure de participer à ce sommet. 

 

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,

 

Notre département est guidé par trois valeurs clés qui nous unissent tous : la bonne gouvernance, la transparence et la responsabilité. 

 

La diplomatie seychelloise sera désormais axée sur les règles internationales de bonne gouvernance, de pragmatisme et d’efficacité. 

Au centre de nos actions par rapport à la mise en œuvre de nos priorités nationales, nous garderons, comme toujours, le bien-être du peuple Seychellois.

En complément du renforcement et de la diversification de nos relations d’amitié et de coopération nous envisageons de créer un nouveau type de partenariat destiné à promouvoir des opportunités d’affaires, d’investissement, d’emploi, de formation et de l’acquisition d’expertise aux Seychelles.

Les Seychelles continueront à s'engager avec ses partenaires régionaux et internationaux ainsi qu'avec la communauté diplomatique aux Seychelles.

L’année 2018 s'annonce donc très prometteuse !

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, I would like to reiterate the Government’s appreciation for your steadfast support and friendship that you continue to extend to Seychelles. 

As a small island nation, we will continue to look to you for your cooperation in matters that will bring not only ours, but all of our nations forward. Through unity there is strength, and in strength we find progress. In return you can count on our reliability, credibility and willingness to be a real partner and friend.

Allow me to take this opportunity to raise my glass, and invite you all to join me, in proposing a toast to the President of the Republic, to your good health and to a prosperous 2018. 

 

I thank you.

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