18 November 2013
President Jacob Zuma was back in South Africa on Monday after attending the Commonwealth heads of state summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he took the opportunity to share some of South Africa’s experiences in national reconciliation.
Zuma met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance for talks on the sidelines of the three-day summit, which ended on Sunday.
According to the Presidency, 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 its conduct during the final stages of its military campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels, when tens of thousands of civilians died.
The civil conflict ended in 2009 after nearly three decades of fighting. As many as 40 000 civilians were killed in the last months of the conflict, as government troops advanced on the last stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting for an independent homeland.
During the weekend summit, Zuma also participated in a dialogue between heads of state and youth leaders, which saw the establishment of the Commonwealth Youth Council.
He urged Commonwealth leaders to continue championing the aspirations of the youth and to ensure that their voice was represented in Commonwealth actions at national and international level.
With regard to the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda, Zuma said: “Poverty eradication, addressing income inequalities and job creation must remain the overarching objectives of the development agenda beyond 2015.”
Zuma said the theme of the summit – “growth with equity: inclusive development – resonated with South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP), a policy blueprint for achieving a more inclusive economy while addressing the country’s socio-economic imbalances.
In a joint communique issued at the close of the summit, the leaders committed to work on post-2015 development, including debt financing and climate change.
They reaffirmed the right to development for all individuals, and vowed to focus on making growth more inclusive for all, including for vulnerable groups, women, youth and the disabled.
The communique also welcomed progress being made in strengthening relations between the G20 and Commonwealth countries, including the establishment of the Annual Commonwealth Dialogue and regular G20 outreach with the Commonwealth.
“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 reflect Commonwealth priorities in advancing global development policy challenges.”