By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK President Hifikepunye Pohamba yesterday asked the southern African region’s international cooperating partners to lend the region a hand for it to end hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. SADC is meeting with its regional and international cooperating partners, civil society, cooperating government and business partners to seek a partnership for the implementation of strategies that will ensure the region realises the aspirations of its people. Cooperation from SADC’s partners, said Pohamba, would ensure that its people become active participants in global trade and commerce which will ensure wealth creation through adding value to the region’s abundant natural resources. Speaking when he opened the SADC Consultative Conference 2006, Pohamba said a developed SADC would be for the betterment of not only the region, but also the world as a whole. SADC’s restructuring process brought about the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and the Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (SIPO), for whose implementation SADC is looking for partnership. SADC has come up with a number of priority projects such as trade and liberalisation and development, infrastructure building for regional integration, sustainable food security, social and human development, HIV/AIDS, and peace and security maintenance, which if dealt with can ensure the development of the region. In addition to these, the region is looking at deepening regional economic integration to the level of a Common Market, which will be achieved through the establishment of a SADC Free Trade area by 2008 and SADC Customs Union by 2010. To achieve this, however, Pohamba said it would take total commitment of all SADC member states with the support of ICPs. He added that to ensure economic growth, the region also needs functioning infrastructure in the rail, road, air and maritime sectors as well as telecommunications, energy, tourism and finance sectors, that serve as lubricants for economic activity. “Such infrastructures will also play a crucial role in bringing the peoples of the region closer and enhance their ability to participate in regional and international economic activity,” Pohamba said. The Deputy Director General for Development of the European Commission, Athanassios Theodorakis, who spoke on behalf of international cooperating partners, said it was time to put strategies in place to achieve them and turn the commitments into reality. While the conference gave the ICPs an opportunity to discuss SADC’s main policies for the next years, its progress and how it relates to other regional configurations, Theodorakis said ICPs needed more active dialogue between SADC and ICPs on political issues including the successful implementation of SIPO. As far as food security is concerned, Pohamba noted that the region did not want to beg all the time but engage in dialogue that would promote food supplies and realise regional development goals. “We do not want to perpetually hold out a begging basket. We want to engage in constructive dialogue and share experiences, knowledge and expertise with a view to form partnership to promote secure supplies of food and realize regional development goals,” he said adding: “through proper planning, the SADC region can produce enough food to export the surplus to different parts of the world.” According to SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Tomaz Salomao, the RSIDP has also already been unbundled into 15, five and one year implementation frameworks and annual business plans have been developed. Other developments that will positively impact on the implementation of the region’s strategies are the Africa Union’s initiatives to rationalise the Regional Economic Communities and to harmonise SADC’s operations with those of its sister regional economic communities. Among its expected outcomes are the adoption of the SADC-ICP Partnership Declaration that will guide future cooperation between SADC and its cooperating partners, mobilise consensus for the relations of SADC and its ICPs and also to present policies, strategies and priorities for the next 15 years, as indicated in the region’s blueprints. Theodorakis said the new partnership would require strong leadership, adequate resources and commitment of SADC member states to take the regional agenda forward.
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