Bo-Me le bo-Ntate, Khotsong!

Programme Director, Hon. Minister, Your Excellencies, Bo Mme le Bo-Ntate,

It is an honour to deliver these remarks on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and of the UN family in Lesotho as we gather here to launch the Lesotho National Dialogue and Stabilisation Project. I believe that this project has the potential to play a catalytic role in Lesotho’s quest for comprehensive reform process. I would like therefore to thank you all for joining us this afternoon and to congratulate the Government and all the partners, national and international, that have joined together to make this project possible. I especially thank the Hon. Minister for Foreign Affairs for his leadership and passion for this project; and he and the Government Secretary for putting together a Government technical team which played a crucial role in the formulation of the project.

Hon. Minister, Excellencies, Bo Mme le Bo-Ntate

The Lesotho National Dialogue and Stabilization Project (LNDSP) which we are launching today is the result of several months of consultations, project formulation and fundraising.  This goes back to September 2017 when the Right Honourable the Prime Minister wrote to the UN Secretary General requesting UN’s support to Lesotho’s long-anticipated national reforms. Prior to this request, the majority of Lesotho’s political parties had, just days ahead of the June 2017 elections, pledged to prioritize reforms after the poll. I want to commend all the parties that joined the pledge and urge that they all uphold the letter and the spirit of that pledge through engaging in good faith for the good of all Basotho.

In its first response to Lesotho’s request, the UN availed a team of experts who consulted stakeholders and supported the Government to develop a reforms document titled, The Lesotho We Want: Dialogue and Reforms for National Transformation - Vision, Overview and Roadmap. As many of you may know, that document was endorsed by the Lesotho Cabinet and later by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It is my hope that all reform stakeholders in Lesotho can see the document for what it is: an important vision statement and exercise of leadership by the government; and one that can be enriched through a constructive engagement of all stakeholders.

The second response by the UN was seeking resources which could be deployed to initiate the national reforms. In this regard, the UN Peace Building Fund (PBF) was identified as a potential source of funding. The PBF was established in 2006 by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council at the request of the Secretary-General mostly to support post-conflict peacebuilding initiatives and post-conflict stabilization. Lesotho is not, by any measure, a post-conflict country and was therefore not an obvious candidate for PBF funding. I use this opportunity to commend my team at UNDP which worked closely with an inter-ministerial Technical Team and SADC and made a strong case for PBF’s support to Lesotho’s national dialogue and reforms as an important contribution to crisis prevention. I also thank the PBF team for its positive disposition towards Lesotho and recognition of the potential for long-term stabilisation through dialogue and reforms; and for backing that conviction with USD 2 million.

I must equally thank all the partners that have worked together to develop, and will be working together to deliver, the project. The Government of Lesotho is of course a key partner and will, at the end of the day, be held accountable for the success or failure of the national reforms. Leadership, coordination and facilitation by the Government will be critical for all aspects of this project.

For many years now, SADC has been a major actor in Lesotho’s peace and stability. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the UN warmly commends SADC’s support to Lesotho and looks forward to a fruitful collaboration in this project. I particularly thank Her Excellency the Executive Secretary Dr. Stergomena Tax and H.E. Ambassador Matias Matondo, Head of SAPMIL, for the excellent partnership that has developed in the context of this project. I am also gratified to note the recent appointment by the SADC Facilitator for Lesotho of His Lordship Justice Dikgang Moseneke and three South African Deputy Ministers to spearhead dialogue facilitation in Lesotho. Indeed, these appointments are very timely. Through the project we are launching today, we look forward to collaborating with the SADC facilitation efforts, especially in supporting the national dialogue.

Other project partners include UNDP, which has overall responsibility for the project results and management; the Lesotho Council of NGOs; the Christian Council of Lesotho; UN-Women; the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Each of the partners has a clear and important role in the project.

Hon. Minister, Excellencies, Bo Mme le Bo-Ntate,

I must make clear where this project fits within the broader reforms process. The project is intended to facilitate consensus-building and catalyse a conducive environment for inclusive and comprehensive national reforms in Lesotho. It is aimed at generating a national agreement on the content and processes of comprehensive political reforms and national reconciliation in Lesotho; support preparatory steps towards the reform of the security sector; and enhance the participation of Lesotho public in the dialogue through access to timely and accurate information.

This project therefore helps to set the stage for the reforms. It is what you might call in Sesotho “LIHOTETSO” or ‘kindle wood’. It is my hope that this project will indeed ignite the fire of consensus, commitment and a shared determination to carry forward with substantive reforms for the greater good of the country. Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher of the 19th century said: “It is not the path which is the difficulty; rather, it is the difficulty which is the path”. The reality is that reforms will not be an easy task but they are essential. That is more the reason why Basotho must all rally together for this important national duty of building the Lesotho We Want, both for ourselves and for the coming generations.

Hon. Minister, Excellencies, Bo Mme le Bo-Ntate,

This project is about dialogue and paving the way for the much-awaited reforms in Lesotho. Basotho do not need to be taught or lectured on how to hold dialogue. Lesotho has a historical, almost legendary, connection to the concepts and practice of peace and dialogue. The Great Founder of the Kingdom, King Moshoeshoe I, built the nation on a rich history and tradition of consensus, peace and diplomacy among Basotho and between Basotho and their neighbours. Indeed, the peace tradition of the Basotho is condensed in the famous words of King Moshoeshoe I: “KHOTSO KE KHAITSELI E AKA” (“Peace is my sister” – or brother).

You also have this beautiful saying that ‘BOHLALE HA BO AHE NTLOANA NGOE’: wisdom does not reside in one household or individual. This expression is truly at the centre of what the project is all about, which is to create space for Basotho to dialogue and agree on a peaceful and prosperous Lesotho.

It is my hope that this project provides an opportunity for Basotho to collectively exercise their rich tradition of dialogue in which every voice is heard and respected.

Program Director, Hon. Minister, Excellencies,

Bo Mme le Bo-Ntate

Allow me, as I conclude, to wish all Basotho stakeholders every success in the national dialogue and reforms process. I urge all stakeholders to give dialogue a chance and participate in good faith. It is possible that issues that appear difficult from the outset could be accommodated and subjected to the dialogue so that Basotho can pronounce themselves on them.

As always, the UN remains a partner in your development aspirations. The success of the national dialogue and agreement on the content and processes of the reforms will likely make it possible for other partners to join in to support the reforms. The success of this project would also herald a second phase of support by the PBF. Thank you all for your attention.

Khotso!!! Pula!!! Nala!!!

 

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