Notes following Media Briefing by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Wednesday 05 January 2011
South Africa on 1 January 2011 began its second term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2011 and 2012. South Africa will serve alongside the Permanent Five members, China, France, the Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States and elected members Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Gabon, Germany, India, Lebanon, Nigeria and Portugal.
South Africa in the conduct of its international relations is committed to garner support for our domestic priorities; to promote the interests of the African Continent; to promote democracy and human rights; uphold justice and international law in relations between nations; seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts; and promote economic development through regional and international co-operation in an inter-dependent world. We also strongly believe in the concept and practice of good governance, as one of several important tools and instruments at the disposal of nations in their conduct of world affairs.
In pursuance of these principles, the South African Government adheres to and strongly supports a multilateral, rules-based system. We approach our membership of the Security Council from the premise that the United Nations remains the most appropriate forum for addressing international challenges in the maintenance of international peace and security, which are best served through collective co-operation.
These principles will guide our actions, as we discharge our responsibility, alongside the other members of the Security Council, to make a meaningful contribution to peace, security and development, not only on our Continent, but globally. To this end South Africa will forge close partnerships and promote greater consultation with the other members of the Security Council in the conduct of its work.
Whilst the above principles and values that guide our international work are strong and sustainable we are cognizant of the fact that actual implementation is sometimes not straight forward. The environment in which we will be operating namely the Security Council is the body which has powers beyond any other. The power configuration is not in favour of the non permanent members and national interests sometimes override international commitments. The unfair use or abuse of diplomatic tools at members’ discretion can make the work of the Security Council very difficult.
For the first time the configuration of the Council in 2011 will reflect the membership of a potentially reformed Council. In addition to the Permanent Five, we will have the so-called Emerging Powers, some of which aspire to Permanent membership, as well as IBSA and BRICS represented in the Council. South Africa and Nigeria will at the same time also be members of the African Union Peace and Security Council, presenting a unique opportunity to bring greater alignment to the work of these two bodies regarding conflict on our Continent. South Africa will seek to strengthen co-operation between the G3 (Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa) in the Council, with the aim of elevating the African Agenda and the achievement of peace and security on our Continent and to coordinate efforts in this regard more efficiently. This is important in a Council where influence is unevenly distributed and certain members play a dominant role.
South Africa will continue its efforts to promote and enhance the Security Council’s cooperation with regional organizations, particularly the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. Closer co-operation between these two bodies will contribute to enhancing the convergence of perspectives and approaches in dealing with and responding to peace and security challenges on our Continent.
South Africa will actively contribute to the work of the Security Council by participating in its committees, working groups and other structures. These bodies assist the Council to explore issues in greater depth and to monitor and facilitate implementation of its decisions. In 2011, South Africa in line with its foreign policy priorities, will chair the 1540 Committee dealing with weapons of mass destruction and non-state actors and the Working Group on Conflict Prevention in Africa. South Africa will also serve as Vice-Chair of the Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia Sanctions Committees.
Security Council membership will also present an opportunity to contribute to reforming the working methods of the Security Council and to work towards the achievement of a representative, legitimate and more effective Security Council. Through our daily interactions with the P5 and other Council members, we will attempt to persuade and convince them of the need for the early conclusion of the reform process.
During our membership of the Security Council we will be cognizant of the Charter mandated roles of the different UN principal organs. We will continue to assert that the Security Council, which is entrusted with the maintenance of international peace and security, is but one of these albeit the most important one, because it may authorize the use of force. We will continue to assert the role of the other principal organs, such as the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the International Court of Justice and argue for vigilance in the Security Council usurping the mandates of these other organs. We remain aware that the formation of major power groupings will contribute to the quality of work that the Security Council will produce.
In our membership of the Council for 2011 and 2012, we will build on our achievements and lessons learned during our first term in 2007 and 2008. We will use the opportunity to consolidate the gains made during this term, but also be aware of the changes we need to make to improve our work to respond effectively to the global issues and challenges facing us.
South Africa will be serving in the Council at a time of great challenges, amongst them the holding of a referendum in Southern Sudan, the crisis in Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire, debates on the Iranian nuclear programme, the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question and the drawdown or exit of UN peacekeeping operations.
In the attainment of its objectives in the Security Council, Government will be consulting widely with all stakeholders on how South Africa’s participation at the Security Council can be enhanced and will take steps to ensure that our public is kept informed.
Questions and Answers Session:
Member of the Media: The most pressing issue , what is South Africa's stance on the Ivory Coast impasse? Should that matter come before the Security Council now, should the proposal by Ecowas for the potential use of force come before the Security Council, how will South Africa deal with that?
Member of the Media: I would like to know whether there has been any discussion between South Africa and China on the issue of UN Security Council reform. Conventional says that China is not that keen for reform. Has this been your experience? And what is the way forward on this?
Member of the Media: On UN Security Council reform, just give us the landscape in terms of the UK-France's support, China, and where discussions stand with the US as well, as well as Zimbabwe. It is a possible election year in Zimbabwe. Zanu PF and the MDC have indicated that they want elections, but what do you see the UN's role in terms of peaceful elections?
Member of the Media: What are the [unclear] themes that South Africa has identified, you know, on the UN Security Council for the next two years?
The situation in Côte d'Ivoire, we are all watching the developments there. Not unaffected. We are very much interested in finding a peaceful resolution of the problem the outcome of elections, which is actually where the crisis, emanated. We are working closely through the AU with Ecowas. Ecowas had held several meetings, and I don't remember them coming out clearly saying, they will use force. At the moment Ecowas, supported by the AU, are thinking that we should give diplomacy a chance to resolve the problems. People of Côte d’Ivoire are really don’t want to see bloodshed in their country. They want to give peace a chance and South Africa supports that kind of approach to the problem. I will be able to comment more in the next coming days, because there's some work that’s going on the ground, which seeks to give diplomacy a chance.
China, Mandy, you asked the question about whether China is enthusiastic about reforms. Remember, China, South Africa and other countries are members of BRICS. And one of the issues on the table of BRICS, is the reform of the UN and, in particular, institutions of global governance focusing on United Nations Institutions, specifically prioritising the United Nations Security Council. From our information, we don't remember China ever being hostile to us in [unclear] and we will continue to do that. We will continue to engage all permanent members , all non-permanent members and all other bodies that we belong to. But as I said earlier , we still believe that multilateralism is a key for all of us, in particular the developing countries, and we think it offers us an opportunity for multi-polarism.
The agenda of the reform is one of the issues that we will be focusing on and intensify on it. And as I said earlier in our statement, this is the first time that all countries that are pushing very hard for these reforms to see the light of day sooner than later, are for the first time all in the Security Council at the same time. I don't remember Zimbabwe being a priority on the agenda, but talking about Zimbabwe outside the Security Council, it is true that in Zimbabwe there is talk of elections. But before we talk about elections, it is true, through the information we received from our President's facilitation team, that all Zimbabweans have agreed that they will work for the adoption of their draft constitution and that there will be a referendum that would actually vote on the actual draft of the new constitution they have worked on.. So that's where matters stand.
I have almost over-emphasised the importance of the reforms to say South Africa will be working with all like-minded countries inside the Council and outside the Council for the acceleration of the reform agenda and in particular the reform of the Security Council. But also, as we said again, to work strongly and sincerely on the two committees that we have been asked to chair. So these are the other priorities that we have raised. But we also believe that the Security Council can do better in focusing on its mandate, with us working very much as part of that. But we also work for the maintenance of international peace, so that we can give space for development, particularly of the African Continent, which auger very well and it is very much in sync with our five key priority areas as a country..
Member of the Media: You talked about some of the upcoming big priorities or issues the Security Council will face. Two of those would be in Sudan and Iran. I was wondering if South Africa will pursue the removal of the genocide indictment for Al-Bashir if the referendum is successful in Sudan, firstly. And secondly, South Africa's response to sanctions for Iran has been fairly measured in the past. What do you see going forward in that regard?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well, on Sudan, I have gone to Sudan about a week ago, as a specifically envoy of the President, to show our support for the leadership of Sudan, both in the North and in the South. But the whole world, the international community, is watching the developments towards the preparation for their referendum, which is very much part of, almost like the last mile of the, the last but one mile of the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement. On behalf of our President, we got an assurance from both President Al-Bashir and President Salva Kir, that they will work for a very peaceful, free and fair referendum, which will auger well for the post-referendum cooperation, collaboration between North and South. And we believe that, we still continue to believe that shall be so. So, as this matter will also be sitting on the table of the Security Council, but we are also quite optimistic that despite all the challenges, besides the tension, that the political leadership in Sudan are very keen to see that this is concluded in an amicable manner. But, if it is peaceful, free and fair, it will also be opening up a way for future collaboration between the two sides. On Iran, we are for all countries being allowed to use nuclear power for peaceful means. And that is what we say. And also we are saying that the IEA need to be supported and capacitated so that it can do its work. So, we believe that the way forward is not just to target Iran as a country, but to make sure that all member states adhere to UN resolutions, but also that, as an international community, we need to strengthen and capacitate the IEA, but also continue to propagate for peaceful means or usage of nuclear power.
Member of the Media: Compliments Minister, and it is nice to see you energised from your trip from, in Brazil. On the question of South African Sudan, I mean, if everything goes well next week, we could see the formation of, I think, the 54th African state, and there are fears that this could trigger or really encourage other separatist movements in Africa to take advantage of that precedent and advocate for a separate state. You can mention Caprivi in Namibia and maybe Kabinda in Angola. Is that issue being given consideration by countries like Nigeria and South Africa [unclear] saying in the UN Security Council?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well Tshepo, compliments to you too. I hope you came back ready and energised to report to the South African populace, sincerely.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: What we see happening in Sudan is what the international community, including the AU, had accepted with the Naivasha Agreement at the beginning of 2005. So, what is unfolding is the conclusion of the implementation of an agreement signed in Avasha [phonetic], which was respected by the AU and the entire international community including the big powers. Now, African Union does not agree with the Balcanization of African countries. This unique case of Sudan was reluctantly accepted as the norm because the parties themselves has said so. Now, generally, African Union and its founding principles talk of the respect of colonial borders and discouraging Balcanization of African states. So I will not talk about secessionist movements. I don't have a mandate to talk for them. I will talk about what the AU principles stand for.
Member of the Media: Happy New Year, Minister. Your predecessor before South Africa went on the Council for the first time, had talks with her counterpart in the United States and it became clear that a lot of the agenda was laid out and the problem that we encountered with Myanmar came to light then. My question to you is, have you had talks with your American counterpart this time? And are there any items, are there any pitfalls that we should be looking for? And secondly, if you could perhaps expand on the lessons, you said, we will learn from, from our lessons from the first time around, if you could expand on that statement? Thank you.
South Africa has a lot of bilateral commissions and strategic dialogue partners around the world. So, throughout the year we have been consulting, we have been campaigning, we have been talking to them. That includes the United States of America. It just so happened that our scheduled meeting happened to have been on the 12th of December. I just want to remind you that, yes, coincidentally, there was another meeting prior to South Africa ascending to the seat of the United Nations Security Council prior to 2007/8 or December 2006. And the issue about Myanmar and the disagreement between America and South Africa never arose, because there was no disagreement. And still there is no disagreement on the matter. But what has been the matter then was, where was the matter and the issue of human rights go? I actually also want to remind you that at that time America had voluntarily pulled out of the Human Rights Council. America is back in the Human Rights Council and is working very well with other member states, including ourselves. They are consulting with us. We are consulting with them. We have never said to anyone that we are going to be agreeing on everything. We have also agreed that as much as we are strategic partners, there will be areas where we will agree to disagree. But neither was that meeting prior to 2008 raise a disagreement with America on the issue of Myanmar, or in the present. So, yes, we had a meeting. Yes, we discussed all issues of interest to both the countries. I thought you were going to be very interested in the fact that we also for the first time in history got 500 million of PEPFAR [phonetic], you know, signed off to support the South African government’s HIV-Aids programmes. So, that is one of the issues discussed and that is one agreement I signed on behalf of the government. So that was part of the agenda we were discussing in the US. Of course we also discussed what South Africa would want to see advanced in the United Nations Security Council. I have alluded to all those matters in our statement So, there is no outside agenda and priorities of South Africa outside that which I have already shared with you, which we have also shared with our partners in the United States.
Member of the Media: Is that dollars, Minister?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, : Yes. $500 million. When I was in America, then converting it to a very strong Rand, it was R2,3 billion, which was going to augment the R6 billion that South Africa as a country has already set aside to combat HIV-Aids.
Member of the Media: Is there a strategy to secure a permanent seat at the Security Council? And if so, what is that strategy ?
Member of the Media: Minister, To add to that, is there any hope of UN reform ?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Excuse me?
Member of the Media: Is there any hope of UN reform, Security Council reform in the next two years?
Member of the Media: Minister, only the South African role in peacekeeping efforts in Africa, I mean, the past few years, about two years ago, been seeing the scaling down of our peacekeeping efforts in Africa, largely due to political stability maybe, but you have been very reluctant to go beyond the Great Lakes like you were asked at the AU Summit, to provide to Somalia. So what is the thinking within the, President Zuma's administration about being actively involved in deploying troops in strife-torn areas? Thanks.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Okay. Well, the open secret on aspirations of the African Continent is that Africa, through the AU, we have been enthusiastic for a reformed UN and in particular the UN Security Council. And Africa as a block has come up with the Ezulwini Consensus, which we said through consultation that we shall have two permanent seats. We would want, we aspire to get two permanent seats for the African Continent. So that is what is still the standing of South Africa? South Africa is very much part of that process. Are we hoping to see any movement confirming the reforms in the next coming two years? If we had our way, this should have happened yesterday. if it is going to happen within these two years, let it be. One now retired diplomat, a friend of mine, and I wouldn't mention him by name, because he is now former, former, former diplomat, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, had said that one of his old friends had said that it should happen. But let's talk about reforms that had been happening in the past, well, in the past there was an initiative which collapsed, but in the most current past, 17 years this matter has been on the table for 17 years. How much longer should we wait? So, my response is, if it was going to have happened yesterday, fine, if not, if it was going to happen now, within this coming two years, maybe even better. So, yes, we will continue aggressively, pushing for the reforms in a manner that is collaborative and cooperative with both permanent members, non-permanent members serving currently and even member states who are outside the Council. What is South Africa's position, Tshepo, on peacekeeping. It is very much linked to our foreign policy of keeping Africa safe and secure, to allow development to take place. Because we believe Africa's time has come. So there is no scaling down of South Africa's commitment in peacekeeping efforts and initiatives. Let me remind the house here that there was never a formal request for South Africa to send troops to Somalia. What we have been receiving is logistical support requests from IGAD. IGAD had said in a formal sitting of the AU that they think they are able to marshall forces themselves in their own region. All they need from the international community, including South Africa, is support for this mission to take place. So, what is South Africa talking about? What are we thinking should be our contribution? Is that the resolutions of the AU, which we think there will be a formal resolution now, that has been proposed now with the forthcoming AU Summit, that the Mandate of AMISOM in Somalia need to be upgraded or changed or further enhanced through the UN and in particular the UN Security Council. So that they upgrade it from that, from just being almost like a security agency to just a secure important, you know, installations, but to move beyond that. What we are also sparring for and we have been propagating for is that focusing just on combating insurgencies in Somalia and pirates and so on, and so on, it is important. But we should be working for a political solution in Somalia, because problems of Somalia, pirates and all, are all emerging from the political instability and political problems there. So, are we scaling down on our commitments on keeping Africa peaceful and secure? No. In fact we think we should be doing more. But we will not do it in a haphazard way. We cannot invite ourselves. There are regional bodies that we respect. When people intervene or other bodies intervene in SADC, for example, we would want SADC to be consulted. If there is any intervention that is to happen in IGAD [phonetic] area, IGAD should be respected. If there is any intervention that should happen in Ecowas, it should happen in consultation with regional bodies, which are very strong and important regional blocks of the AU.