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President Zuma shares reconciliation lessons with Sri Lanka

Written by Noluthando Mkhize

International relations

President Jacob Zuma used his recent visit to Sri Lanka to share South Africa’s experience in national reconciliation.

During his recent visit to Sri Lanka, President Jacob Zuma shared some of South Africa’s experience in nation building with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.He was attending the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, where he met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the three-day CHOGM meeting.

According to the Presidency, President Zuma discussed “the role that could be played by South Africa in assisting the people of Sri Lanka to resolve their problems through engagement”.

The Sri Lankan government is under international scrutiny for the conduct of the final stages of its military campaign against Tamil Tiger rebels, in which tens of thousands of civilians died.

The civil confl ict ended in 2009 after nearly three decades of fighting.

As many as 40 000 civilians were killed in the last months of the confl ict, as government troops advanced on the last stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels, fighting for an independent homeland.

President Zuma also participated in the dialogue between the Heads of State and youth leaders, which saw the establishment of the Commonwealth Youth Council. The council will ensure that youth matters are taken forward in an organised manner.

With regard to the United Nations’ Development Agenda after 2015, which was the theme of the summit, President Zuma recommended that countries must build on progress accomplished so far and take into account regional programmes.

“Poverty eradication, addressing income inequalities and job creation must remain the overarching objectives of the Development Agenda beyond 2015.”

According to President Zuma, the theme of the CHOGM meeting -- Growth with Equity: Inclusive Development - resonated very well with South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP), which aims to eradicate poverty and inequality by 2030.

He urged Commonwealth leaders to continue championing the aspirations of the youth and ensure that their voice is represented in Commonwealth actions at national and international level.

Meanwhile, the leaders committed to work on post-2015 development, including debt financing and climate change.

The leaders also agreed that achieving growth with equity and inclusivity must be one of the main policy priorities for the Commonwealth. They reaffirmed the right to development for all individuals, and vowed to eliminate disparities and focus on making growth more inclusive for all, including for vulnerable groups, women, youth and the disabled.

The leaders also welcomed progress being made in strengthening relations between the G20 and Commonwealth members, including the establishment of the Annual Commonwealth Dialogue and regular G20 outreach with the Commonwealth.

Leaders further requested Commonwealth finance ministers to develop proposals for adoption at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Meeting in 2014, which can further deepen the Commonwealth's engagement with the G20.

“Heads [of state] also acknowledged the work being done by the Commonwealth members of the Global Governance Group 3G in encouraging the G20 to engage the wider UN membership. They welcomed Australia's forthcoming assumption of the G20 presidency, and noted that this offers an important opportunity to refl ect Commonwealth priorities in advancing global development policy challenges,” they said.