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    12 Nov, 2012

    SADC Communications Strategy Review Workshop

    Keynote speech by Honourable Mokgweetsi Masisi Minister of Presidential Affairs & Public Administration of the Republic of Botswana on the occasion of the official opening of the SADC Communications Strategy Review Workshop Lansmore Hotel, Masa Centre, New Central Business District, Gaborone, Republic of Botswana, November 12, 2012

    Your Excellency, the Executive Secretary of SADC; Members of the SADC Management
    Team; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; SADC National Media Coordinators; Members of
    the SADC Media Awards Regional Adjudication Committee; Members of the Media; Ladies
    and Gentlemen

    1. I am pleased to be able to officiate at the opening of this important meeting, which has been convened to review of the SADC Communications Strategy.

    2. Allow me to begin by commending SADC Council of Ministers for recognizing the need for this initiative.

    3. Let me to also express our sincere appreciation to the organizers of this gathering for their efforts in bringing key stakeholders from all of our Member States to support and facilitate the policy review process and start its implementation. I appreciate the fact that the individuals gathered together in this room collectively reflect a wealth of experience in supporting the flow of information within the region, thereby contributing to our SADC goals. 

    4. On behalf of both the SADC Secretariat and the Government of Botswana, let me further express my deep felt gratitude to our cooperating partner - GIZ - who have helped make this meeting possible.

    5. Distinguished Participants, a policy review process is essentially about "re-thinking" and "re-engineering". For this reason, I look at this meeting of key stakeholders as a critical first step in what in what will be an evolved process. I therefore urge you all to purposefully and meaningfully contribute to the birth of a new SADC Communications strategy - a strategy that will advance the goals set out in the SADC Treaty, to fast track regional integration. The process you are about to begin here is a significant enabler to regional development and integration. 

    6. Moving forward this process will include a thorough evaluation of our past efforts and build on the regional agenda and priorities as stipulated in the various policies, strategies and development plan instruments including the SADC Declaration and Treaty which states in Point E that: Regional integration will continue to be a pipe dream unless the peoples of the region determine its content, form and direction, and are themselves its active agent 

    7. The SADC Declaration and Treaty further states, under the same Point E that: Measures will, therefore, be taken and appropriate mechanisms and institutional framework put in place; to involve the people of the  region in the process of regional integration.

    8. This is a Clarion Call to all of us - especially those of us involved in the dissemination of public information. 

    9. In addition to the SADC Declaration and Treaty, the SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport states in Article 7 that Member States: "...shall develop a regional information infrastructure to facilitate information exchange in the areas of culture, information and sport".

    10.The protocol also compels Member States, in Article 4, to review and formulate policies, strategies and programmes in the same areas so as to provide a framework for practical action in each Member State and also as a basis for regional co-operation. Member States shall therefore "seek to harmonise their policies, strategies and programmes in these fields in the interest of regional
    integration".

    11. Distinguished Participants, harmonisation of information policies of Regional Economic Communities is crucial to regional integration. Needless to point out that communication has been a significant issue for some before us, such as the European Union integration since the Danes voted 'No' to the Treaty on European Union in 1992.

    12.Public criticism of the incomprehensible nature, not only of the Treaty text, but also of the structure, processes and policies of the Union, provided the impetus for a new information and communication policy, based on transparency and openness. 

    13.Following Denmark's rejection of the Treaty, Former French President Francois Mitterrand said "we forgot to talk to the people". 

    14.That statement galvanised the EU to come up with a harmonised information and communication policy. Today, the EU's Directorate General for Information Society and Media is functional and very successful.

    15.Not wanting to forget to talk to its citizens about the SADC regional integration agenda, SADC embarked on harmonising Member States Information and Communication Policies, as stated in the SADC Council Declaration of 1995. The process involved holding workshops attended by senior officials responsible for public information and communication in SADC Member States. 

    16.Unfortunately, after one or two workshops, the process was discontinued as funding dried up and some Member States were still to avail their national information and communication policies while others were still to formulate theirs. 

    17. I wish to take this opportunity to call on all stakeholders present here to revisit and facilitate the implementation of the SADC Declaration on the Role of Information, especially the harmonisation of information to facilitate the free flow of information because as a Community, we simply cannot afford not to talk to our people with one voice.

    18. In conclusion, I look forward to the presentation of the findings of this forum, which are scheduled for presentation at the meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers in February 2013. There we anticipate an improved draft SADC Communications Strategy that will incorporate a clear implementation business plan and set time frames.

    19.Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, with these few remarks, I wish all of you fruitful deliberations and I declare this workshop officially open. I thank you.