Mr Frederik Willem de Klerk

Mr Frederik Willem de Klerk

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate & Former President of South Africa

About The Speaker

Frederik Willem De Klerk was state president of South Africa from 1989 to 1994. He abruptly pointed his country in a new direction in 1990 by opening negotiations with previously outlawed anti-apartheid organizations. F.W. de Klerk was one of the main architects of South Africa's constitutional democracy. During his presidency (1989-1994), he played a central role in initiating and managing the transformation process that helped to resolve centuries of inter-community conflict and create a basis for peace between South Africa’s many and varied communities.

He has received numerous national and international honours and honorary doctorates. In 1993, together with Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk received the Philadelphia Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize.

In January 2000, he published his autobiography “The Last Trek – a New Beginning” and the same year established the F.W. de Klerk Foundation. He makes numerous speeches around the world and actively participates as an elder statesman in international conferences on the promotion of harmonious relations in multi-communal societies, the future of Africa and South Africa and the challenges facing the world during the new millennium.

Tipping the Balance of History: Perspectives into Dilemmas of Leadership

25 March 2013

History has no rewards for those who have the right answers.

The importance of leadership has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history. Leaders, like Mikhail Gorbachev, with their transformational changes, remind us of the effect that one or a small group of political leaders can have on a society.

During Frederik Willem de Klerk’s presidency in South Africa (1989 – 1994), he initiated a paradigm shift in the modern history of South Africa, by opening the way for the first fully democratic election in 300 years, promising “a totally new and just constitutional dispensation in which every inhabitant will enjoy equal rights, treatment and opportunity”. He also released political prisoners including Nelson Mandela and together, they received the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace for their collaboration in ending the apartheid. Ironically, F.W de Klerk’s greatest achievement as a leader may well be his willingness to surrender leadership, when President Mandela was inaugurated in 1994.

In today’s times, there are also many leaders who are making difficult but critical decisions in order to re-write the history of their countries. Aung San Suu Kyi, Thein Sein and Xi Jinping are some examples of current leaders who are spearheading changes within their societies.

F.W. de Klerk believes that leadership is a process of relentless self-examination, involves values-based decision-making, acceptance of the need for real change, communication of a clear and attainable vision, the willingness to take risks, a sense of timing, the need to persevere, and acceptance that change is never-ending.

How do the current leaders in power know when to sacrifice and give in for the greater good? Do they possess the above qualities necessary for leadership? What does it take for them to achieve better lives and futures for their countrymen? Will the reforms in Myanmar and China take flight and come to pass?

Join F.W. de Klerk, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of South Africa as he discusses his views and perspectives on the current global leadership developments, and their impact and effect on Asia, based on his leadership experience in South Africa.