I would like to begin by thanking Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and the Ethiopian people for extending me this kind invitation to come to Addis Ababa, and for giving me such a warm and hospitable welcome. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Prime Minister for his heartfelt words, in which he highlighted Spain’s efforts to get closer to Africa in recent years. Your Excellencies, it is both a great honour and a privilege to be here tonight addressing the African continent’s highest authorities.
I am very glad that this Summit allows me to come here, to Addis Ababa. It truly makes this opportunity become a memorable date for me. Three reasons explain this: it is my first time in Ethiopia; it is my first visit ─as King of Spain─ to sub-Saharan Africa; and it is also the first time a Spanish Head of State attends this Assembly of the African Union.
Indeed we are in the continent’s diplomatic capital, and also the capital of an ancient, great country with which Spain ─through figures such as the 17th-century historian Pedro Páez─ has significant links that date back over 400 years.
But allow me to say that it is quite fitting my visit should take place now, during this AU Assembly; the organization that embodies the highest expression of African sovereignty. Today’s Africa exudes the renewed vigour of a region that knows and wants its destiny to be entirely in its own hands: a region willing to participate —holding increasingly more sway— in the dialogue and cooperation dynamics that characterize the international community of the 21st century; and a continent that is also growing in economic terms.
But there is still much to be done. There is no such thing as a uniquely African challenge, just as there are no European, American or Asian challenges. What we have, in this intertwined and interdependent world, are, above all, global challenges. We should all be able to rise to these challenges.
Challenges such as extremism, intolerance and brutality jeopardize the security of every society, the heritage of our universal civilization and the fate of future generations.
An intrinsic aspect of security is poverty. Fighting poverty and inequality is an inescapable moral duty. Healthcare and education must be the foundations of our work. We should always remember Nelson Mandela’s thoughts: “The greatest responsibility of every single generation is to contribute to the progress of the next one”.
Closely linked to stability and the fight against poverty are development ─to be done in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way─, industrialization, and a more diversified economy: all absolutely necessary to make economies more inclusive, to get more population involved in the production sector.
In facing and standing up to these, and many more, challenges, Africa can clearly count on Spain as an honest and reliable partner. Actually, I am proud to remind you that my country’s foreign policy, over the last decade, has indeed demonstrated a huge commitment to the African continent.
This all-round commitment is supported by three basic pillars: responding to the need for peace and security by backing African solutions to African conflicts; aiding the progress of democracy and human rights; and promoting an economic partnership that places all the available instruments at the service of achieving prosperity for Africa’s people.
From a political perspective, our geographical proximity and historical ties make Spain a natural point of contact between Africa and the European Union.
Spain not only serves to amplify Africa’s voice at the European Union, but also at the UN Security Council, where we just took up a non-permanent seat on January 1st this year.
Our commitment to the African Union and other regional multilateral organizations is only a logical projection from our country’s own experience. Spain’s full incorporation into the European integration process gave us a decisive boost, furthering progress in our country.
That is why Spain will continue to support the African Union, and we intend to extend the Memorandum of Understanding we signed with the AU in 2009. We will also continue bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation programmes with our African partners.
Here I would like to mention an African Union initiative that, in our view, is right on target: declaring 2015 as the ‘Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063’.
As to the economy, in Spain we are convinced that international trade and foreign investment are key drivers of growth and integration. Spain’s trade relationships with the African continent are becoming more and more intense, having multiplied two and a half times in volume over the last decade. Much remains to be done in terms of investment, but progress is coming along nicely. Spanish companies are now present in sectors such as the food and agriculture industry, renewable energy, infrastructure and communications.
But turning back to the issue of security, I am also proud to say that Spain currently has troops deployed in seven African countries ─Mali, Senegal, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Somalia, Djibouti and Cape Verde─ forming part of several international missions. Moreover, with regard to security in the Mediterranean, we are cooperating more and more closely with the countries on the southern shore, within the framework of the 5+5 initiative.
(Pour revenir à la sécurité, je suis également fier de dire que l’Espagne a actuellement des effectifs déployés dans sept pays africains – le Mali, le Sénégal, la République centrafricaine, le Gabon, la Somalie, Djibouti et le Cap-Vert – où elle participe à plusieurs missions internationales. Par ailleurs, concernant la sécurité en Méditerranée, notre coopération est chaque jour plus étroite avec les pays de la rive sud, dans le cadre de l’Initiative 5+5).
What Spain wants is to help Africa, actively and constructively, to address and manage its own challenges to peace and security. We therefore support the African peace and security architecture, and the mechanisms that the AU has introduced for its implementation.
(La volonté de notre pays est d’aider l’Afrique, de manière active et constructive, à affronter et à gérer ses propres défis en matière de paix et de sécurité continentales. En ce sens, nous apportons notre soutien à l’Architecture africaine de paix et de sécurité et aux mécanismes prévus par l’Union africaine pour sa mise en œuvre).
Our commitment to Africa in terms of cooperation is also very clear, with total Spanish official development aid exceeding 10 billion dollars over the past decade.
Spain’s priority is for our cooperation in development to be as effective as possible, and to do so, we must reach a consensus with its beneficiaries on the objectives of our work. Sectors such as rural development, food security, and governance, as well as the gender mainstreaming approach, have taken on particular importance, as has the commitment to providing basic social services such as healthcare and education.
While on the subject of humanitarian assistance, I would like to talk about the recent Ebola outbreak. It has been the most deadly known to date and clearly demonstrates the global nature of the major challenges of our time, showing that global commitments are also clearly needed.
Spain, although still facing some difficulties in the wake of the past economic crisis, has contributed considerable efforts to tackle Ebola, mobilizing resources and promoting debate and aid coordination within the framework of the European Union.
On this point, I would like to pay tribute to the victims of Ebola, to their families and communities, to all aid workers and humanitarian staff from the African Union, the UN, and other organizations, who have bravely and wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to helping those who are most vulnerable.
Your Excellencies, I would like to close this address looking to the future.
Our dialogue and cooperation —and everything that we can do together— are strengthened and reinforced through Spain’s seat on the Security Council. From now until our two-year term is up, Africa can consider itself to have a 4th seat on the Security Council: the seat occupied by my country.
We will not forget the African continent’s majority backing for Spain’s candidacy. We will work side by side with African countries in seeking solutions for the great challenges of our time: climate change, international terrorism, and the fight against poverty.
This represents one more bridge connecting Africa and Spain, which is the same as saying that it connects Africa with Ibero-America, a community of more than twenty nations in the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula, with over 600 million Spanish and Portuguese speakers.
I would like to end here with a pledge for my reign: my pledge to this continent, and to its peoples, with their creative energy and capacity for innovation.
There is a new reality in Africa, one which invites the rest of the world to look upon this continent with confidence, pragmatism and admiration.
Thank you very much.
Speech of His Majesty the King at African Union Summit pressoffice 2017-01-07T17:02:41+00:00