Southern Africa: How Will Russia's G8 Presidency Affect Africa?
As Russia assumed the Presidency of the G8, New Era's Max Hamata approached the Russian Ambassador, Nikolay Gribkov on the essence of Russia's G-8 Presidency to Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He spoke on the need for African permanent representation on the United Nations Security Council and Russia's role in the stabilization of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how Russia's G-8 Presidency will affect relations with SADC.
Russia has enjoyed sound relations with most African countries. In fact Russia played a crucial role in the emancipation of African countries with Namibia's independence having largely been a factor of Russian support. What can Africans expect from your G8-Presidency?
Let me first first explain Russia's relations in the context of the G-8 Presidency?
Despite major changes in Africa in the past decades, it still remains the most distressed region in the world. Numerous armed conflicts still rage on the continent, resulting in millions of casualties recently. The socioeconomic situation in many African states is quite complex, often having a chronic crisis nature. The region's real problem is poverty, with a substantial share of the population of African countries being on the edge of physical survival. The unfavorable situation in Africa has obstructed full-scale participation of countries on the continent in global policies and international economic ties, having turned into a factor posing a threat to regional, as well as global, stability.
Huge material and human resources have been employed in peacemaking operations in the region, humanitarian aid and post-conflict restoration.
In this context, it is very important to make sure that what is happening in Africa should get adequate and increasingly active reaction on the part of the international community, including the G8 group as a club of the world's most influential countries.
When has Africa become a concern to the G-8 and why?
Africa has been in the center of attention of the G8 for a rather long period, but it has been given more focus in its agenda since 2001, when during a summit meeting in Genoa, Africans presented to the G8 leaders their New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) program aimed at turning the continent into an area of peace and stability and putting it on the path towards sustainable economic growth and development. The program, the first document of its kind developed by Africans themselves, proclaims own responsibility of countries in the region for their development. At the same time, it states the need for the international community to provide maximum assistance to Africa.
G8 leaders hailed the NEPAD program and agreed to support efforts by African countries aimed at dealing with acute problems on the continent. A decision was made to shift to new partnership relations with African states, based on the principle of mutual responsibility: with Africans being responsible for radical economic and democratic restructuring and G8 members providing support for countries showing their readiness to implement reform.
In pursuance of those accords and with the purpose of promoting the implementation of the NEPAD program, a long-term action plan for Africa was adopted by the G8 during a summit meeting in Kananaskis in 2002, which is to serve as an instrument for the mobilization of wide international efforts in support of own steps made by countries on the continent. The plan was drawn up by specially appointed personal representatives of the G8 leaders for Africa (the personal representative institute still functions, dealing with the goal of monitoring the performance of the plan).
What is your position on Africans demand for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and will you use your influence during your Presidency to push for a permanent African seat?
We support the initiative for Africa to be represented on the Security Council. It is out of respect and dignity that we feel that Africa gets a permanent seat on the Security Council. What is needed is to find consensus on the subject and we hope this does not lead to division of the UN.
How does Russia intend dealing with African armed conflicts during your presidency?
While favouring the shaping up of a complex approach to dealing with Africa's acute problems, our country, in line with its UN Security Council status, has made a weighty contribution to peacemaking activities on the continent, including the drawing up, in the Security Council's framework, of a strategy for the settlement of particular armed conflicts and defining mandates for relevant peacemaking operations.
Russian troops and Interior Ministry employees - around 140 at the moment - are employed in all UN peacekeeping operations in Africa - in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sudan.
Russia is training peacemakers for Africa. Opportunities are being considered for wider cooperation with African states in that sphere. Our country intends to continue to do everything possible to promote the strengthening of stability in Africa, promote the development of African countries' own anti-crisis potential. Practical aspects are being elaborated for Russian organizations' participation in the realization of relevant international programs.