Lynne Featherstone welcomes Friends of Zimbabwe

Lynne Featherstone MP delivered a speech for Friends of Zimbabwe at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London, 26 March 2013.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Lynne Featherstone
  • Honourable Minister Chinamasa
  • Honourable Minister Mangoma
  • Honourable Minister Misihairabwi-Mushonga
  • Ambassadors
  • Other distinguished guests

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Lynne Featherstone. I am the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for International Development and I am the Minister responsible for the UK’s development relationship with Africa.

It is a pleasure to be here this morning to open the first formal session of the Friends of Zimbabwe meeting and I am delighted to see so many countries represented.

I would like to thank all of you for coming and particularly my honourable colleagues from Zimbabwe for making the time to travel to London.

Although the ‘Friends of Zimbabwe’ have met regularly over the last few years, this meeting has added significance because of when it is taking place and who is participating.

2013 is already an historic year for Zimbabwe. The referendum on 16th March was a turning point in Zimbabwe’s political history. The good turnout underlined the desire of ordinary Zimbabweans to help shape their political future. And it was the first major milestone in the process that will play out in 2013. I very much hope that by the end of this year the reform process set out in the Global Political Agreement will have been concluded, and peaceful and credible elections held.

Given the momentous nature of 2013 for Zimbabwe it is perhaps not surprising that we have been able to attract such an excellent cast-list to today’s meeting. I know that the donors and organisations represented here today have not always seen eye-to-eye with the Government of National Unity. Indeed, some hardliners in Zimbabwe might wish that meetings such as today’s do not happen. But I very much hope that this kind of dialogue will become a more regular event and that one day it can take place in Zimbabwe itself.

This morning I am delighted that we will hear from my honourable colleagues from Zimbabwe. This presents an excellent opportunity to listen to, ask questions of, and engage with the views of those closest to the matters at the heart of today’s event.

The three parties of the GNU have a key role in determining Zimbabwe’s future and it is important that we are able to engage will all three together to develop a shared understanding of the situation in Zimbabwe and the role that the international community should play.

I am also pleased that so many of our SADC colleagues have been able to join us. As guarantors of the GPA, SADC’s role is crucial. SADC’s diligent work in facilitating discussion between the parties of the Government of National Unity played a huge role in delivering the peaceful and credible constitutional referendum this month. Their views this morning will provide invaluable guidance to the discussions that the donor community will be having in the afternoon sessions.

None of us must underestimate the complexities of the issues that we are discussing, nor should we exaggerate the roles that we can play. Zimbabwe’s future lies mainly in the hands of each and every one of its citizens. It is good that we are able to discuss and hopefully reach a shared view on the best way that we can support Zimbabweans and SADC as they work towards free, fair, and credible elections and a more stable and prosperous future for Zimbabwe and the entire region. But in doing so we must never lose sight of the fact that this process is, and must be, led from within the region. The role of those of us from outside of the region is to identify how best to broaden, deepen and coordinate our support for this process.

The discussions this afternoon will present an opportunity for us to further consider the best way to support the work being done by the Government of Zimbabwe to stabilise the Zimbabwean economy and tackle its external debt burden. This will include discussion of the ways in which we can offer assistance as Zimbabwe finds ways to capitalize on it abundant natural resources for the benefit of all of its people. But again – as with the political processes- we must be careful to take the role of offering assistance and allow the process to be led by those to whom the process matters most: Zimbabweans.

We will also seek to agree on the best way to use our development assistance, and the strengthening of our commercial ties, to help Zimbabwe accelerate its path towards prosperity.

Since the inception of the Inclusive Government the development support provided by donors represented here today has amounted to around US$2.6 billion. This has supported areas such as the delivery of basic services (health, education, social protection and water and sanitation), governance reform and economic development.

We need to discuss the best ways for this aid to be used to support Zimbabwe in building the strong, non-partisan state institutions that it needs to achieve a stable course of growth and wealth creation. And to move Zimbabwe closer to the day when it can become an aid donor, rather than an aid recipient.

In all of these discussions, any plans that are made will be based on the expectation that we will be working with a democratically elected government that reflects the will of the majority of Zimbabweans. And that all agreements reached will build on that and the international community’s commitment to support the Zimbabwean people in achieving a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future.

I hope that the conversations today will focus on the future and recognise the importance of looking ahead to what our relationship with Zimbabwe should look like on the other side of peaceful and credible elections later this year. We can’t ignore the past. But we must not let ourselves be hostages to history.

Once again I thank you all for being here and particularly those of you who have travelled from Zimbabwe and Southern Africa to share your invaluable insights and expertise. I am now delighted to hand over to the Honourable Ministers from the Government of National Unity and I very much hope you have an excellent and worthwhile day that will help lay further firm foundations for a bright future for Zimbabwe.

Thank you.

Published 26 March 2013