EYASU SOLOMON:
Excellency, thank you accepting our interview and congratulations for this Gender Breakfast, you know in Africa women and politics…[inaudible] diplomatic engagement with Australia, how is the Australia relationship with Africa in terms of political and economic fronts?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:
The relationship between Australia and Africa is a very important one, and it is an important one on a number of fronts. First of all, of course, Australia has a lot of investment in Africa.

It is about US 45 billion dollars, and so as a consequence, that investment is about 200 Australian stock exchange companies that are investing here in about 600 projects in about 40 countries, so that is a considerable economic investment.

Of course, Australia also has bilateral trade with Africa and African countries – that is about 90 million dollars – and I think that there is scope for improvement there.

Then of course we have got our bilateral and multilateral peace keeping contributions, which is another half a billion dollars.

And then of course we have a very large diaspora in Australia. At the last census in 2011 it was about 420,000, but given our recent census my estimation is that that figure is higher.

So when you take that diaspora, many of them have come to Australia under our humanitarian program or as migrants and of course they have permanent residency and work rights.

That means the remittances that come from Australia to Africa, we think conservatively are around half a billion dollars a year. Now when you put all of that together you can see that Australia has great interests here in Africa, not just currently, but for the future.

EYASU SOLOMON:
As you know Australia promoted a climate diplomacy agenda for the globe, how is your integral approach with Africa COP 22 agendas?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:
Well Australia committed, as our Prime Minister indicated, to the Global Climate Fund. We also, of course, are Co-Chair of the Global Climate Fund, and Australia has worked very, very hard in that space, not only contributing ourselves but also in the work.

Can I give some specifics on that: of course as the Co-Chair and in the Pacific, we know that seven of the ten most disaster prone countries are actually in the Pacific area. So we have worked very hard during our term as the Co-Chair and we have been asked to continue as Co-Chair.

We have made sure that the Pacific has been better represented, and recently I attended a meeting of the Green Climate Fund Board in Samoa where three projects from the Pacific totalling over USD 100 million were approved.

Now, in the Pacific area, and particularly for those small states, and Australia is a strong supporter of the small states, we know how important it is to support those areas particularly as they deal with climate-related issues.

For us, it is really important to build resilience to do those practical things that will build the resilience.

For example, we are embarking on a regional strategy framework for disaster risk management in the Pacific area, which we think will be a very good framework for adopting in other parts of the world.

So not just in a global sense but also in a local sense at a practical, pragmatic level, we are doing things that we think are not only going to benefit our region but are going to have broader application in other areas where climate issues are of great importance.

EYASU SOLOMON:
I know US exit from NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). What will be Australia’s new foreign policy rendition with the United States according to Australia Pacific leadership?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:
Well, of course Australia and the United States have a longstanding relationship. We are part of the ANZUS Treaty, we have trade relations with the United States.

And so we will obviously be continuing our dialogue with the United States. We encourage the United States to remain active in the Pacific and my belief is that that will continue.

Certainly, our Foreign Minister has been active, our Ambassador has been active in the United States, and certainly our dialogue with the United States has been a good one.

The presence of the United States in the Pacific is a very strategic presence and I am sure that that will continue in years to come.

INTERVIEWER:
[Inaudible] …And Ethiopia has a strong bilateral and multilateral relationship, so Ethiopia needs strong support from Australia and a Pacific leader in terms of counter-terrorism.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:
Thank you. Australia, of course, has worked and continues to work with many different countries, particularly in relation to security issues. We work at the international level, but also, of course, Australia has an involvement in different operations that are happening here in Africa.

Our peace-keeping contribution is a considerable one – it is about 280 million dollars – and so that is not an insubstantial contribution.

Because of our different expertise and our military contribution, we also lend technical assistance; and we have, as I said, in the various missions around Africa, contributed not just military personnel, for example, we also have naval assets.

HMAS Arunta is occupied in one of the missions here. We contribute in different ways; internationally, multilaterally, and then, of course, in our different missions as well.

On the relationship with Ethiopia, I had a very productive discussion with the Foreign Minister, and he kindly attended the opening of the Australian Embassy here in Addis Ababa.

Australia has longstanding strong person-to-person links. Yesterday, I had the privilege to meet with Dr Catherine Hamlin and go to the Fistula Hospital. Now, that is a very strong example of those strong ties that bind Ethiopia and Australia.

It truly has put Ethiopia as a centre of excellence, and that hospital as a centre for excellence on the world stage for a very important condition and thousands of women have been helped as a consequence of that. Now that is one example of one of the contributions.

I went to visit another initiative of the Australian government, Retrak, where, as a former head of an organisation in Australia that looked after street kids, it was really good to see the work that is being done there, again by Australians, with a connection through the Anglican Church in Australia, doing a fantastic job there.

Today, we are going to an organisation called CURE, where Australians are working particularly in relation to assisting with clubfoot. At the economic level, at the personal level, at the health at the education level, we also have Australian Awards for Ethiopians.

But really importantly, let us not forget the Ethiopian diaspora in Australia and the contribution – not only that they make to the people-to-people skills, but importantly the remittances that come from the diaspora back to Ethiopia.

So, we see the relationship as an important one, that presence of the diaspora in Australia makes Australia want to continue our engagement and to enhance our engagement with Ethiopia.

EYASU SOLOMON:
[Inaudible]

INTERVIEWER:
Ethiopia has endorsed Australia for the candidature of the Human Rights Council, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia officially announced to the public media.

How is it going with your support in Africa, because as you know Ethiopia has a longstanding relationship with [inaudible] countries, starting from United Kingdom, so how do you see this, in addition to my colleague’s question?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:
In addition, if I can start with that one, we have been very encouraged by the strong support that we have got here in Africa.

Australia has been in Africa not just today, but we have been here for a long, long time. Indeed, particularly here in Ethiopia, our footprint here has been a very, very longstanding one so we have been very encouraged.

This is the first time that Australia is putting its candidature forward. This would be the first time that we had a country from the Pacific, and that is very important because the Pacific is a very, very large area.

It is important to ensure that we also have non-European voices; I respect very much the European voice on the Human Rights Council, but there are two positions. Two candidates are from Europe and one from Australia and the Pacific, and we think that would be a good role.

Australia has a good record in human rights – when we were on the UN Security Council we brought a very pragmatic, principled and practical approach to doing business and we would bring that same approach to that.

On the issue of gender, gender of course is very important; we are here today at a gender breakfast that is being sponsored by Australia.

On the question of renewables and climate, Australia has a lot of technical expertise. And of course we will, through our diplomatic channels, continue our discussions with the Ethiopian Government as to ways that we can deepen our ties, as I said, not just on the people-to-people links, but also economically, and look at other ways where we can progress our relationship.

Thank you very much.

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