It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all today to our annual Diplomatic Cocktail. This event is a particularly special one for me, as I host it for the very first time in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Transport.
It is therefore an utmost pleasure and honour for me to begin my tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Transport by expressing at the beginning of this New Year 2015 all the appreciation of the Government and people of Seychelles to all those committed individuals who continue to go out of their way to understand and appreciate how Seychelles sees itself in the world.
I have always believed that foreign policy must start from a lucid and realistic analysis of the place of Seychelles in the world as it is today.
Now, while it is fairly easy to take the measure of what Seychelles represents today, it is becoming harder to define the world in the 21st century and harder still to predict what it will look like over the decades to come.
Despite this and because of the dynamic nature of international relations, we have never lost sight of one principle which remains at the core of our foreign policy- and that is the concept of cooperation. So, this evening, when we speak of the achievements of Seychelles on the diplomatic front- we are also speaking of the value of the durable win-win partnerships we have built with many partners.
As we turn the page on 2014, your invaluable support has allowed us to look forward to 2015 with confidence and optimism as we work towards consolidating further victories for Seychelles.
Tonight is therefore about all of us, our efforts and our collaboration.
On the diplomatic front, 2014 has been a particularly productive year for Seychelles.
We have proven on numerous occasions over the course of last year, that our size will not be the barometer on which our actions will be measured.
We have been the determined island nation that President James Alix Michel so passionately encouraged us to be during the „International Year of Small Island Developing States.‟
Looking around me this evening, I am warmed to see such a diverse group of dynamic and committed individuals from team “Maison Quéau de Quinssy” who chose to rise to the challenge and help create a dynamic and proactive nation unafraid to speak its mind on global issues. In the great halls of international fora our voice was heard.
This is not an easy endeavour as the numerous challenges faced by the international community today continue to test our ability to cooperate.
However, and thanks to the strength and resilience of the values and principles that have always guided our foreign policy, we remain engaged and relevant.
Today, I am proud to renew our commitment to these values as we collectively raise the bar to consolidate Seychelles‟ place in the World.
During the last year, this Ministry has grown not only in size and scope of work, but has encouraged the cultivation of strong working relationships amongst colleagues within the Ministry and partners further afield from other institutions.
With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge our growth across the spectrum, starting with the extended arm of our diplomatic service, which today encompasses a total of 14 Ambassadors and 87 Honorary Consuls, putting us in a better position to promote and defend our interests as well as provide essential services to our nationals and to foreigners alike.
We held our biannual Honorary Consuls Conference and the Ministry‟s Open Day last April attesting to our ability to deliver not only on quantity but in quality as well.
We touched base not only with our colleagues that work so hard to uphold our values, but with the public, so as to sensitise them on the day to day workings of the Ministry and issues that are of pertinence not only to us, but also to our people whom we serve.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
2015 is a year of significance for all of us with many moments to look forward to.
This year we will see Seychelles joining the rest of the world in commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations Organization. We do so, ever conscious of the pressing need, to strengthen the UN, make it more effective and representative while ensuring the “One UN” at country level.
The UN represents a symbol of unity amongst the nations of the world; one which is based on equality and which Seychelles will continue to champion.
As we look forward to the next 70 years, it now remains for us to define the institutions capable of acting effectively for the common good of humanity in the 21st century.
The whole question is for us to know:- How we can ensure that the idea of responsible partnership can prevail over those of competition and rivalry.
How do we work towards ensuring that states as sovereign members of the international order view each other not as subordinates but as mutually respected partners with an equal stake in global governance.
2015 will also see the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MGs).
As the international community approaches this important deadline, Seychelles takes pride in having achieved most of the MDGs and continues to instil greater impetus in its determination to ensure that the remaining challenges we face are effectively dealt with.
There is no doubt that our success in the implementation of the MDGs stems from our philosophy of people-centred development and it is with renewed focus and determination that as a country and as a nation we will take on further responsibilities to achieve the more ambitious Sustainable Development goals for post 2015.
The African Union has also recently endorsed Agenda 2063 at the AU summit in January 2015. We are happy to note that both oceans and island states are featured as priorities for our continent.
2015 has unfortunately begun with much uncertainly as we witnessed horrific events including terrorist attacks in France, Canada and other parts of Europe and the continued crises in many parts of the world.
With the number of terrorist attacks increasing around the globe, especially now in Africa, we renew our collective will in fighting terrorism in all its form.
Seychelles will continue to express its unreserved condemnation in the face of atrocities perpetrated by terrorist groups and in particular Daech(IS), Al Qaeda and the Boko Haram. Furthermore as a nation and as members of the international community we must strengthen our resolve to stand firm and combat this barbarism, ensuring peace and lasting stability in the world.
Seychelles will also continue to advocate for peaceful resolutions to conflicts and disputes through dialogue and diplomatic processes that restores constitutional order, the rule of law, addresses genuine grievances and promotes reconciliation.
The Ebola epidemic which started in 2014 also continues to dominate world events in 2015. No stone should be left unturned as we seek to eradicate this pandemic which at the end of the day concerns all of us and possess a threat counted in precious human lives lost.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The work of the Ministry in 2015 will be above all, one of continuity and moving forward.
Our approach to diplomacy will continue to be based on pragmatism and reciprocity.
As we brace ourselves for the work that lies ahead, priorities will need to be increasingly identified and addressed in order to reach the clear and ambitious targets that we have set as benchmarks of development.
We need to ensure that Seychelles remains as visible as ever on the international stage. Seychelles must be vocal in expressing its opinions and position based on our priorities as a country and as a responsible player in the international system. This forms the basis of our campaign for a seat as a Non-Permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018.
Over the past years, we have proven that size does not always obstruct the progress of a country.
Seychelles has played a leading role in the fight against piracy by transforming itself into a hub for information sharing and consolidating partnerships with members of the international community under the REFLECS3. Seychelles has also committed itself to contribute to the achievement of peace and stability in Somalia given that stability and development on the ground is crucial to peace and security within the Western Indian Ocean.
We are also proud to have launched the Human Trafficking Action Plan and Media campaign, displaying our stance on issues that are affecting an increasing globalised world we inhabit. This is at the core of our efforts to build a better and healthier nation, where all members of our society feel they have a vested interest in it and are free in the pursuit of their dreams.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On the economic front, Seychelles last year signed the WTO accession Protocol in Geneva. We hope to finalize our accession before June this year and we are very confident that Seychelles‟ accession to the WTO will strengthen the multilateral trading system and advance the WTO closer to the goal of trade universality.
Seychelles despite its small economy is also classified as a high middle income country which enjoys good governance, ranking 5th in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance in 2014.
We are therefore well positioned to share many valuable lessons with the world.
Investment-wise, Seychelles remains at an advantage regionally. Tourism continues to remain one of the driving forces of our economy. We are hopeful that this year we shall see a substantial increase in visitors with the introduction of the 3 new flights initiated last December to India, Madagascar and Tanzania. We are also looking strongly towards China for direct connectivity.
Air Seychelles in partnership with Etihad continues to promote our country‟s‟ image on the international scene as a must visit holiday location.
With the numerous Bilateral Air Services Agreements and code share links established with our partnering countries over the last year and more to come in the future, connectivity to Seychelles continue to improve.
The effective marketing of Seychelles through the Tourism Ministry and its stakeholders remains key to the success of this industry.
Our commitment in the regional integration processes will be pivotal as we unlock the potential of Seychelles.
We do not wish to simply, adapt‟ to the rules set by others.
We continue to make a real difference in those regional dialogues by encouraging innovative approaches to development that are based in the reality of an island context.
We see regional cooperation as indispensible for the prosperity of the Seychellois people and as a means for strengthening resilience and opportunities for all countries in our region.
Through SADC, COMESA and IORA, we are committed to ensuring also that we can create more opportunities for growth in Seychelles.
Last year we also marked the 30th anniversary of the Victoria Cooperation Agreement. This commemoration was an excellent opportunity to reflect on our achievements and to strategize on the new direction of the Indian Ocean Commission.
This commitment we made to the IOC back in 1983 is unwavering and we will continue maintaining an active role in further consolidating peace, democracy, stability and achieving sustainable economic development in our Indian Ocean space.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we are all aware, the threat of climate change is all the more real for Small Island Developing States, with rising sea levels threatening to decimate entire communities.
A number of extreme weather events in 2014 reinforced the fact that global action on climate change is not a choice but a necessity.
Science says that the worst of climate change effects can still be averted, but only if action is taken now. As such, climate change and sustainable development remains a major feature on Seychelles‟ Foreign Policy Agenda, particularly as we move towards the greatly anticipated 2015
Paris Conference, which we hope will finally see a legally binding and universal agreement that will make a meaningful difference when it comes into force.
Seychelles remains committed as the world waits in anticipation for Paris, and throughout 2014, we flew the SIDS‟ banner high, participating in a number of key international forums aimed at raising the profile of SIDS, highlighting the urgent challenges we face, and ultimately galvanizing international action against climate change.
To note, Seychelles was very pleased to have hosted AOSIS meeting in 2014 in Victoria prior to Lima to discuss this initiative and help boost consensus on an AOSIS‟ common position.
Last September, we also saw President James Michel travel to the Pacific for the greatly anticipated UN International Conference on SIDS in Samoa, where he presented 4 major proposals for the sustainable development of small island developing states. In addition to calling for decisive measures against climate change and more affordable financing for SIDS, President Michel pushed for a vulnerability index to be built-in to the global development architecture to ensure that development is better targeted.
These crucial matters will greatly influence Seychelles‟ Chairmanship of AOSIS as we take on this important responsibility in 2017.
We will also not miss an occasion to spur new momentum towards the implementation of the, Blue Economy‟, pushing for sustainable ocean- based development. As I‟m sure you‟re all aware, this is something which the Government of Seychelles has been strongly advocating since it hosted, in partnership with the UAE, the first Blue Economy Summit in Abu Dhabi last January, and will host again later this November during Seychelles‟ Festival of the Sea.
To also ensure that the Blue Economy is brought to the forefront of Seychelles‟ national development agenda, and is in line with our advocacy of it internationally, we held in December our first National Stakeholder Dialogue on the Blue Economy.
Only this week we broke another barrier in our pursuit of building the resilience of our country by signing a landmark debt buyback agreement with the Paris Club for financing action to mitigate climate change and support our Blue Economy.
We are grateful to all our Paris Club creditors and to South Africa for leading the way in supporting this very innovative form of financing for marine conservation.
We are confident that this historic agreement will chart the way forward as we renew our collective will of transforming oceanic spaces into sustainable development spaces.
Mesdames et Messieurs,
Le monde actuel est interconnecté et nul pays, si grand soit-il ne saurait se passer du concours des autres. La diplomatie seychelloise est active aujourd‟hui sur la scène internationale. Les Seychelles sont visibles. Notre pays est présent partout où se posent les nouvelles bases du destin collectif. Les Seychelles sont aussi écoutées et soutenues partout.
Dans la sous-région, comme sur le reste de la scène internationale, la place de notre petit pays est évidente. Ce respect international et cette visibilité, nous le devons à vous aussi, Vous qui êtes les dignes Représentants de vos pays et des organisations qui vous ont accrédité.
Je voudrais saisir cette occasion pour vous adresser les remerciements du Président Michel et de son Gouvernement pour cet immense investissement, si efficace, pour le développement et l‟avenir de notre pays.
Je voudrais aussi exprimer notre gratitude à tous nos partenaires pour leurs appuis constants et multiformes à nos efforts de développement.
C‟est le lieu pour moi de vous assurer de ma totale disponibilité à garder le cap, et à travailler avec vous pour le renforcement des excellentes relations que mon pays a su tisser avec vos Etats et organisations respectifs.
C‟est le lieu aussi de m‟arrêter sur le travail considérable effectué par mon prédécesseur Jean Paul Adam, qui assume aujourd‟hui d‟importantes fonctions à la tête des Finances de notre pays. Il me plaît de lui témoigner ici toute ma reconnaissance pour le travail immense de qualité qu‟il a abattu à la tête de ce Ministère. Tout ce que j‟ai mentionné plus haut, il y a contribué pour une large part. Je veux qu‟il en soit remercié.
Je m'en voudrais de ne pas remercier aussi la dynamique équipe qu‟il a laissée et dont l‟accueil m‟est allé droit au cœur.
J‟ai pu déjà mesurer vos compétences et votre motivation. Néanmoins, je vous invite à une plus grande coordination de vos actions. Car en équipe, le résultat est plus grand, plus beau et assurément plus durable !
Alors, mon vœu le plus cher est que nous travaillions en symbiose.
Je tire déjà de votre motivation une totale confiance dans notre capacité collective à relever les nombreux et importants défis qui nous attendent.
Nous devons nous investir ensemble, en synergie, pour écrire de nouvelles belles pages de la diplomatie seychelloise.
Cette année le Président de la République a choisi comme thème national « J‟AIME LES SEYCHELLES ». Je souhaite que ce thème devienne une autre source de motivation pour travailler ensemble comme un corps humain, pour faire avancer la diplomatie seychelloise.
Je souhaite à chacun de vous une bonne soirée !
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses to the year ahead, to our achievements of 2014 and to many more successes during