Press Release on SA Ambassador Lecture

UC Distinguished Lecture Series
“Nelson Mandela’s Leadership and South African Foreign Policy”
H.E. Ms. Robina P. Marks
South African Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos

On July 2nd, 2015, H.E. Ms. Robina Marks, South African Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, visited the University of Cambodia to give a lecture entitled, “South African Foreign Policy and Nelson Mandela’s Leadership.” About 100 UC students attended the lecture, held in room 509 on the UC Main Campus.

Ms. Samantha Smith, Advisor to the President at UC, introduced Ambassador Marks and highlighted some of her previous achievements in diplomacy and women’s rights. For example, she has represented South Africa at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, at the African Union Women’s Directorate and the Southern African Development Community Gender Secretariat. Additionally she has hosted several peace talks with women in countries that were emerging from conflict. She has held the post of Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos for 3 ½ years.

After the brief introduction, Ambassador Marks began her lecture. She informed students about the history of apartheid in South Africa, and the human rights abuses suffered as a consequence of this discriminatory policy. She illustrated the struggle of being classified as a black or white citizen and the consequences of this classification for finding a job, getting an education, and even simple things like finding housing or transportation. She further explained that those who fought against apartheid were often imprisoned, and sometimes would die in prison – with very suspicious official causes of death.

In 1994, the vote was opened to all citizens and Nelson Mandela, who had spent 27 years imprisoned on Robin Island off the coast of South Africa, was elected the first Black President of South Africa. Nelson Mandela is called the Father of the Nation in South Africa, for his spirit of reconciliation, peace and acceptance led South Africa out of the tumultuous past into an accepting nation with the fastest growing and strongest economy in Africa. Ambassador Marks quoted Mandela’s philosophy saying, “Resentment is like swallowing poison. Instead of killing your enemy, you only kill yourself”. The meaning behind this is what led South Africa out of an era of violence and oppression into an accepting and forgiving nation that promotes equality for all.

Following the history of South Africa, Ambassador Marks talked about South African Foreign Policy, explaining that it is based on 4 principles: 1. Africa and the African Union, meaning it is important to strengthen ties within Africa and promote solidarity and economic cooperation between African nations; 2. Enhancement of strategic partnerships, thus promoting mutually beneficial business and economic cooperation between all nations. She explained that there is a word called “ubuntu” which means, I am because you are, this concept drives the knowledge that all nations are connected and interdependent and it is crucial to foster relationships to promote growth and understanding; 3. Fair global governance system, which entails continuously reviewing and altering UN systems to promote fairness in governance in an ever changing interdependent global system; and 4. Strengthening Africa’s involvement in global economic diplomacy, thereby encouraging investment and business between different nations and strengthening economic and trade agreements globally.

The lecture was concluded with a question and answer session; where not only did students ask the Ambassador thoughtful questions – but the Ambassador also quizzed the students on the knowledge they gained throughout the lecture and provided small gifts for the winners. Ms. Samantha presented Ambassador Marks with a token of gratitude from UC, and the students were invited to take photos with the Ambassador.

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