April 20, 2014
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President Koroma addressses the World Peace Forum at Tsinghua University

President Koroma addressses the World Peace Forum at Tsinghua University

Speech by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma World Peace Forum Tsinghua University June 27, 2013 on  Trends in International Security:

On behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, and in my own name, I congratulate the citizens of the Peoples Republic of China for their inauguration of a new leadership. Please accept Mr. Vice President our wishes for the continued well-being and prosperity of the friendly leadership and entire citizenry of the Peoples Republic of China.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to be present at this year’s World Peace Forum to share our perspective on New Trends in International Security and to propose actions on innovation, cooperation and development as effective pathways for meeting the security challenges of our changing world. We appreciate Tsinghua University for inviting the leadership of a small developing nation in West Africa to contribute to this landmark discussion. In a changing world of converging spaces and technologies, insecurity anywhere could introduce breaks in the chains and networks of worldwide security, which could negatively impact the infrastructures of development, peace and progress everywhere. The impacts of insecurity can no longer be confined; the benefits of security can no longer be monopolized. We are in the same boat. Plugging emerging holes in the boat, wherever they are and however small they are, is a wise course of action. The successful voyage to the destinations of our converging aspirations requires the integration of this wisdom into discussions, mechanisms and actions for international security. This must be the new trend, and we congratulate Tsinghua University for their pioneering awareness of this imperative.

We are here because we believe China is the biggest driver of our changing world. From issues relating to trade, investments, security and possibilities of prosperity for most of the world’s people, China moves many of the actions and responses of most of the nations of the world. This changing world is, in the main, also China’s world, and we are heartened by the fact that China has committed its role within it to a Peaceful Rise.

This peaceful rise has brought about significant collaboration between China, Africa and other regions of the world in delivering innovation and development. The continuation of these collaborative efforts will enhance international security in our changing world.

There are varied positive and negative emerging trends in international security, most of which are very well known and discussed all the time. And it is also very well known that most of these trends are carried on by the same vectors, the most prominent of which are globalization, migration, explosion of demands for food and energy, the rise of new powers and the exponential acceleration of technological change.

The negative trends impact upon our world as terrorism, environmental degradation, drug and human trafficking, money laundering, proliferation of arms, cyber crime, and other security threats that are very well known. But every nation and region has issues of security for which it is most worried about. In Sierra Leone and West Africa for instance, we worry greatly about small arms proliferation; about the attempts by drug traffickers to make our region their staging points; about illegal fishing in our waters; about growing terrorist threats by extremists in the Sahel; and about challenges to human security posed by poverty and ill-health.

There are instances of insecurity for which our countries are the points of direct impact. But it is important to note that episodes of insecurity that directly impact a particular region may send waves of insecurity that reach other regions and challenge their security architecture. Before now, these waves of insecurity may only get as far as different districts of the same countries, or a bordering nation. For instance, the war that engulfed my country in the 1990s began as a direct incursion by rebels in neighboring Liberia; then it moved on to border districts of my country before it took over the whole of Sierra Leone. It took about four to five years for the war to engulf the whole of the country. But in our changing world, the waves of insecurity move much faster, reaching neighboring countries; a whole region; a continent and the entire globe in record time. In the new emerging world, because of greater internet capacities, the convergence of data, voice and video technologies, and speedier migratory flows everywhere, insecurity could be unleashed by many more people from many more places to impact many more areas.

The sources of insecurity are not necessarily where they register their greatest impact. A Tsunami could be triggered by earthquakes deep below the ocean; but its point of greatest impact may be thousands of miles away. In the emerging security discourses, however, when a place that receives the greatest impact of insecurity is in the developing country, that nation is seen as the source of the insecurity; and even when the insecurity directly hits developed nations, analysts also trace sources to developing nations. Many developing nations are perceived as breeding grounds for terrorists and threatening migrants. But it is important to note that actions of particular groups in the developed world are also threats to global security. A notable example was the case of speculative bankers and commodity buyers during the international financial food and fuel crisis. Did the actions of these groups not breed anxieties, human insecurity and riots in many parts of the globe? Are these groups not vectors of disorder? Must they not be reined in? Must we not create effective international mechanisms to ensure more prudent regulation and governance of these groups?

Security challenges in our changing world are converging, but mechanisms in place to deal with them are often fashioned in terms of the old divide of us, the weak and developing versus the strong and developed. Often, these mechanisms are ones of convenience. They are respected when it suits powerful states and interests and discarded when it does not. They are imposed on other states in ways that make them look more like instruments of foreign domination than as mechanisms for promoting global security, accountability and international development. Thus, we see many practices that defeat declared intents for fairer trade enshrined in the founding objectives of the World Trade Organizations, the IMF and other institutions. These practices include amongst others, agricultural subsidies in many developed countries that are constraining the competitiveness and livelihoods of millions of farmers in developing countries; high tariffs in developed nations for goods produced through comparative advantages in developing nations; and unfair taxation mechanisms and non transparent banking processes, leading to loss of billions of revenue that should have accrued to developing nations.

These contradictions between stated objectives and practices also afflict many international security mechanisms; from agreements about arms proliferation to migratory flows and the integrity of cyberspace operations.

In many cases, the compliance regimes of emerging security mechanisms are greatly geared to addressing security concerns prioritized by bigger developed states. This is not to suggest that issues that firstly impact developed nations should not be everybody’s focus. For definitely these episodes, from cyber crime to tax fraud, piracy and undocumented migrations may send waves of insecurity everywhere. Rather, those issues whose first impacts are felt in developing nations also require more than our token attention.

Integrating developing countries’ primary security concerns into discourses and actions for international security promotes local ownership of global security and prevents the unleashing of recurring waves of insecurity all over the globe. Without democratic, effective and flexible mechanisms for discussing and acting upon these concerns at the global level, hardly any society may be immune from the ripples moving outwards from the centers of direct impact. At the local level, it may involve strengthening of capacities for action and response. Many African countries, including Sierra Leone, are revamping security systems at their airports; we are establishing institutions to combat drug trafficking, corruption, human trafficking, money-laundering, piracy, and cyber-crimes.

We have shown determination at the African Union, ECOWAS and Mano River levels to enhance human security through democratic governance, good economic policies and social programs. We have designed and adopted protocols relating to security; we have sent peace-keeping forces to troubled spots, and organized mediation of political disputes in several countries. However, many of the compliance regimes governing international security agreed upon in the exclusive international forums outside Africa place burdens upon nations like ours, that our resources and current technological and other infrastructures would find very challenging to carry. In other instances, the accelerations of technological change render systems upon which millions have been spent to enhance security obsolete within a few years. With limited local ownership, systems that become obsolete too soon, constrain resources and capacities in the face of other immediate security challenges; the result is the presence of many weak links in the chains of international security.

In our emerging world, new trends usually pose new challenges. Let us, for example, look at the issue of migration. International migration is usually from poorer countries to wealthier nations. And we have often seen these migratory flows linked to security issues by the leaders and citizens of wealthier nations. But these migratory flows are evolving, and a new trend is emerging: this involves the growing migratory flows from investor and donor countries towards the destinations of investments and aid. These new migrants, sometimes far less competent than locals, are disrupting potential employment and growth opportunities for locals. This poses security challenges for recipient nations, communities and citizens. And we have recently seen actions by countries within Africa, to deport migrants seen as posing this challenge. We believe that though many a time migrations create anxieties amongst people, it has been, on balance, a great contributor to human progress. We therefore need to transcend the traumas of mass deportations, be it from European or African countries through win-win coordinating and innovative mechanisms. As a starting point, we propose a high level panel on migration to lead us through the design and implementation of innovative mechanisms to address this challenge.

We may also want to note a new trend in drug trafficking that warrants our innovative attention. In the 1990s and greater part of the last decade, drug traffickers targeted the shores of West Africa as staging point for moving cocaine from South America to Europe. The drugs were wholly manufactured in South America. Now, the ingredients to make synthetic drugs are separately smuggled into West Africa to evade detection; then the separately smuggled elements are utilized to manufacture synthetic drugs for illicit marketing in Asia where these drugs fetch far higher prices than the cocaine sold in Europe. Improved coordination between governments in West Africa to tackle this trend will greatly enhance our collective security.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, there are many positive developments in relation to human security. Security should not only be about the state, or monopolized by armed forces. The absence of well being in communities, the degradation of community sustaining environments, and widespread illiteracy in this era of great knowledge are at the same time vectors of insecurity. And they warrant our greatest attention and collaborative actions. We have often heard that there is enough food in the world to ensure that nobody goes to bed hungry; that there are enough knowledge resources in the world to ensure that nobody stays illiterate; that there are emergent technologies and modes of behaving that will ensure a cleaner and safer environment; and that making the world safer and securer for women enhances the security and dignity of the human being, our communities and nations.

We have seen collaborative mechanisms to utilize these resources to ensure health and education for all; we have organized processes to address issues relating to global warming, climate change, gender equity and judicial accountability. But whilst successes are scored in one aspect, failures in other areas complicate the impact of our successes. Whilst there are collaborations, from the inter-governmental agreements on the Millenium Development Goals and the support to eradicate poverty at the country level by both state and non state actors, other actions including failure of states to sign up to effective mechanisms on climate change, and irresponsible behavior by corporate giants at the global financial level and at local extractive environments have constrained these efforts. It seems as if attachments to old non-participatory frameworks, mechanisms of convenience and notions of dominance are constraining global efforts at dealing with many vectors and states of human insecurity.

We need to deal with this attitude of dominance and exploitation wrought onto our emerging world from an era that has run its course. The world has changed; China has risen; Africa is rising; critical masses of populations everywhere are now very aware of their rights and the possibilities of a better life; and they are activating these possibilities with a zeal never before experienced in the history of the world. And more importantly, many people are also acquiring the skills to seek redress for injustice, marginalization and indignity. We must build sustainable security models that address the root causes of the political challenges the world faces. We must therefore open up such forums of global decision-making as the UN Security Council, the IMF, and the World Bank; we must admit rising regions into the hallowed councils of global security decision making. Our continental organization, the African Union, recognizes this new imperative and calls for two countries in Africa to be permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Africa applauds new approaches focusing on human security. We are, however, mindful of a particular negative and totalitarian trend; that would even consider increases in a country’s GDP as having negative security implications for other nations. But we need not perceive increases in prosperity as a zero sum game; that some nations could only rise at the expense of other countries. As suggested by the theme of last year’s World Peace Forum, we must promote mechanisms for the win-win prosperity and security of the peoples of the world. We must also take actions to reduce the collateral cultural and individual insecurities coming from the accelerations of technological change.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Africa is growing, six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in the continent; our populations are increasing at faster rates than many other regions; our cities are growing and over two thirds of the continent’s population are below 35. These growths offer great opportunities for Africa’s future. And I believe that Africa is seizing these opportunities. Our efforts, our youths and our endowments will be mainstays of security, prosperity and dignity. But as our people say, fire could sometime come from the river; opportunities are also fraught with risks. Sprawling urban centers and large cohorts of young men, especially when unemployed and out of school pose enormous governance and security challenges. But Africa is determined to seize the destiny of prosperity marked out by our growth through collaborations for a peaceful world.

It is in the enlightened self-interest of our continent to stand up for peace. Africa grows when peace reigns. This has been the story of many Africa nations, including my own country, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone still has enormous challenges, but we have been able to grow our economy and be amongst the fastest growing economies in the world, because we have ensured peace and security for over a decade now. This is our aspiration for the world; and we believe that collaboratively with the new China and other countries dedicated to the peaceful rise of nations, this aspiration is within our rights and our reach.

© 2013, John Baimba Sesay. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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John Baimba Sesay

John Baimba Sesay Press Attache Sierra Leone Embassy 7 Dong Zhi Men Wai Dajie, Chaoyang District, Beijing People's Republic of China 100600 *Tel: 0086-13701206875* * Fax:0086-1065323752*

John Baimba Sesay
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