#Eritrea welcomes the new initiative as it represents another complementary #BuildingBloc with an external impetus
By Araya Desta (Eritrea)
Your Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN
Your Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission
Your Excellency Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Let me first express Eritrea’s sincere appreciation for the timely initiative that is being launched today through the foresight and goodwill of our development partners; notably the World Bank Group and the UN.
The challenges that confront the Horn of Africa region at this historical juncture are certainly many and multi-layered. But without sounding unduly optimistic, it is clear that we can indeed leverage the latent potential of this richly endowed region, as well as the cultural affiliations and communality of interests that bind its peoples together, to envisage and set in motion realistic, incremental and synergetic processes that will ultimately catapult the region to a new and promising setting in the decades ahead.
This will of course be predicated on bolstering and reinvigorating paradigms of collective well-being and well-fare that transcend traditional, zero-sum, power politics at the inter-State level; supplemented by a more congenial domestic or intra-State environment of good governance rooted on the twin pillars of social harmony and inclusiveness.
The African Union, IGAD and other RECs at various stages of development in our continent broadly enunciate the ideals and underlying principles highlighted above. In this context, Eritrea welcomes the new initiative as it represents another complementary building bloc with an additional, vital, external impetus that can potentially lubricate and enhance the various collaborative and integrative processes already underway.
Let me now revert to Eritrea’s views on the two interrelated pillars that the Horn Initiative strives to focus on:
1. Pillar One: Vulnerability and Resilience
Meaningful material and relief assistance to refugees, IDPs and fragile or marginalized borderlands in the context of a gaping centre-periphery configuration is certainly useful and an urgent task that cannot, clearly, be postponed. At the same time, Eritrea sees the need for a two-track or parallel approach that is aimed at addressing the underlying causes while pursuing temporary measures to mitigate the emergency situations in the short-term. This endeavour is multi-layered as it encompasses wide ranging inter-State and intra-State conflict resolution mechanisms; credible and actionable early warning systems as well as related issues and trends of migration and human trafficking. These tasks fall within the purview of, and are currently managed, by multiple other bodies at the regional, continental and international levels. Nonetheless, coordination and pooling of resources will be useful and Eritrea sees positive dividends for the WBG initiative to create workable interfaces with the ongoing process; particularly the recent joint efforts by countries in the region and the European Union on matters of migration and human trafficking.
2. Pillar Two: Economic Opportunity and Integration
Eritrea wishes to comment on four subcomponents of this objective.
The report rightly alludes to the security development nexus. While there are a plethora of institutions and mechanisms for conflict prevention and resolution within the region and the continent as a whole, the net output in terms of effective results – Somalia, the Sudan, Eritrea/Ethiopia – remains far from satisfactory. There is thus an urgent need for a critical assessment of the prevailing security architectures to address intrinsic flaws and operational modalities. A paramount task in this regard is the robustness of the ground rules and basic principles that guide and inform effective action on these matters. The report for instance talks about the unresolved dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia when everyone knows full well that the dispute has long been resolved through an arbitration that both parties agreed to on the basis of a binding peace agreement. Clarity and universality of principles and approaches are thus critical parameters in the collective endeavours to resolve and prevent debilitating regional conflicts. Extraneous agendas and involvements must also be carefully scrutinized and appraised to ensure that the interests of the region are not subordinated and compromised for ulterior objectives. Regional polarisation is indeed a perilous trend and a recipe for cataclysmic turmoil as the sad events in the Middle East illustrate.
In regard to communications, Eritrea sees tangible advantages in enhancing fibre-optic based, broadband, Internet connectivity in the region; particularly in the countries where this is lacking. Investment opportunities, business transactions, governance and education will continue to be severely hampered in the absence of these facilities and upgrading them through various financial instruments – including concessional loans – will go a long way in accelerating economic growth.
The extractive industry – whether in the mineral or hydrocarbon sector – is another area where meaningful action can deliver huge dividends. As the report highlights, the region possesses huge endowments in the mineral sector and contains commercially exploitable hydrocarbon resources. These endowments are the property of future generations and require prudence and potent negotiating levers on the part of the host countries to ensure fair return from their commercial exploitation through joint ventures with big multinational companies. In this respect, emulation of best practices; joint development of models for investment terms and instruments; maximisation of local share through effective involvement in the value chains; and, increasing local capabilities and competencies will be valuable in the endeavours to ensure fair and sustainable exploitation of these resources. Eritrea believes that the Initiative can contribute much in all these areas. Furthermore, we believe that local capacity building must be accorded high priority within this scheme. In our case, we have already initiated first degree and diploma course on process, mining engineering and associated competencies at the Institute of Technology. Tangible programmes that promote regional capabilities and exchange of experiences and expertise can bolster these nascent endeavours.
Finally, on the public private partnership arrangements and the issue of deregulation in certain areas. In our view, the principal bottleneck does not lie in the regulatory department. For most private domestic enterprises, the hurdles they face are mostly tied with access to foreign currency and favourable credit terms both for capex and working capital. Creative schemes that address this problem could be useful indeed.
In concluding my brief remarks, allow me to digress somewhat from the main themes of this session to mention two interrelated issues that will inevitably corrode the momentum of this initiative.
Eritrea could not be represented at the highest possible level in this Ministerial Session because of the particular venue that has been chosen. Until and unless Ethiopia’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories is removed and normalcy restored between the two countries, Eritrea believes Ministerial Conferences of this nature need to be convened in capitals in the region that will not put any party in an awkward situation. Eritrea hopes that these sensitivities will be taken into account in subsequent arrangements.
Secondly, the Horn of Africa appellation for the initiative seems to have been creatively conjured up to circumvent another embarrassment ensued from unlawful blockage of Eritrea’s rightful resumption of its membership in IGAD. Again on this count, the best approach must be, in our view, speedy resolution of that conundrum rather than creating new mechanisms that will inevitably entail institutional duplication and wastage.
We have raised these issues not because we desire or have an appetite to stir mutual acrimony with a Member State but simply in the interest of maximizing the output and our collective dividends as we embark on a prospective process.
I thank you!