Your Excellency, President Sauli Niinistö, President of the Republic of Finland,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is always an honour to welcome friends, and an even greater honour to pay tribute to longstanding, cherished friendships.
Mr. President, thank you for accepting our invitation to pay a State Visit to South Africa.
The Finnish people, alongside other Nordic countries, were at the forefront of the global anti-apartheid movement.
After we won our democracy in 1994, Finland continued to play an important role in supporting national reconciliation, in development cooperation, as well as trading with and investing in South Africa.
It is auspicious that you visit us this week as we celebrate 29 years of democracy. Without the support of Finland and our many other friends, we would not be where we are today. So welcome to you and your delegation once more.
South Africa and Finland have excellent and well-established bilateral relations. We have found in Finland a like-minded partner in various fields of cooperation be it the environment, energy, maritime affairs, science and technology, trade, and peace and security issues.
We meet at a time when the world is faced with multiple challenges.
We are in the midst of a global cost of living crisis. Food and energy prices continue to soar, as has inflation. Household debt is at all-time highs, making it difficult for families to survive.
Both small and large businesses are still struggling to return to pre COVID-19 levels of profitability and production, and many national economies are still counting the true cost of the pandemic.
The poor are particularly vulnerable, and the need for comprehensive social safety support has become even greater than before.
Climate change is advancing faster than previously thought, affecting lives and livelihoods around the globe. And while we all agree on what needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions, developing countries are finding it difficult to secure the resources and technology that would help them transition, without incurring further indebtedness.
Conflicts and instability around the world are exacerbating existing humanitarian crises, with events in Sudan adding to this volatility.
The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has had economic reverberations across the world, including in South Africa.
We know that this conflict has also been polarising, and has seen multilateral systems of governance being called into question and put under scrutiny.
As the international community we have agreed on a common developmental path in the form of the UN Agenda 2023 for Sustainable Development, and on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
To achieve this in the midst of the current turbulence facing the international community, we have to work together.
Just as we did during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to set global cooperation along a new trajectory that is rooted in mutual respect, that is inclusive and that leaves no-one behind.
In 1997, President Martti Ahtisaari was received by President Nelson Mandela on a state visit to South Africa.
At a banquet in President Ahtisaari’s honour President Mandela said to him:
“As we meet again after three years, you will see for yourself how South Africans have been using the freedom Finland helped them win.”
Indeed we have, with the support of our great friends the Finnish people. We have laid the foundations for a better life for all.
Even as we face enormous challenges, they are not nearly as daunting today as they were back in the early days of our democracy. Just as we overcame the problems back then, we will do so now.
As South Africa we are grateful to count Finland as a longstanding partner in progress and development.
Finland has always been open to cooperation in pursuit of a better, more egalitarian world, all the while with the highest degree of respect when it comes to relations with its partners in developing countries. For this, in turn, Finland continues to enjoy our highest respect.
We look forward to today’s deliberations.
I thank you and invite you now, Mr. President, to deliver your remarks.
Source: Government of South Africa