South African Government Foreign Policy and Decisions at the United Nations and influence by the new Membership of the BRICSA Group of Countries

National Assembly

For written reply

Question no: 550 (NW597E)

Mr NJJvR Koornhof (COPE) to ask the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation:

  1. Whether foreign policy and decisions at the United Nations will be influenced by our new membership of the BRIC group of countries; if so,

  2. Whether South Africa will in future vote or support new issues in a bloc with other member states of BRICSA; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?


I have addressed South Africa’s new membership of BRICS in various policy and media fora, and I would like to quote from such an address I made at SAIIA on 1 October 2010 which really highlights the underlying principles informing our foreign policy approaches;


The world we live in today has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War.  A new group of economically influential countries such as brazil, Russia, India and China are on the ascendancy, and are re-mapping the contours of political and economic power in the global system.

We are at the brink of a world envisaged in the Freedom Charter.  We are far more aware today of the importance of global interdependence than any time in history.  And it is evident that forging fruitful partnerships and a stronger global governance template requires cooperation between the developed and developing countries.

In his work, The Evolution of Cooperation, Robert Axelrod reminds us that, “friendship is hardly necessary for cooperation...  Under suitable circumstances, cooperation can develop even between antagonists”.  In this complex and fluid global system we live in today, nurturing conditions for cooperation is crucial if we are to construct a different global order where power is more diffused and responsibilities are appropriately shared.

History is replete with lessons of the dangers that failure to cooperate can generate, and with implications for future generations.  We will obviously not want to repeat these mistakes.  More will need to be done to turn the dream of a safe and better world into a reality, where developing countries have a greater say in decision-making.

In the past, the images of power and the pillars of international relations were largely constructed according to a narrow and one-sided template.  Despite their shared ideological outlook, our partners of the North were by and large inward-looking, viewed at each other as competitors, and failed to grasp new opportunities to provide enlightened leadership that would create new foundations of global governance.  They still viewed the world and economic relations very much in adversarial terms and as a zero-sum game.

Also, new challenges related to climate change, energy security, and those to do with coordination of trade and finance have become more salient today than ever.  The reality of interdependence is a reality in the global system.  We have shared concerns and aspirations.  Overcoming these challenges and achieving a safer and better world requires concerted efforts by both the developed and the developing world.

The simple lesson to draw from recent history as we come to terms with the geopolitical shifts expressed in the rise of emerging powers is that astute management of global interdependence and deepening of cooperation is essential for a strong and stable global governance mechanism.  Emerging powers are an important force in shaping the coordinates of a better global system, characterised by greater representation, fairness and equity.

Failure to cooperate can generate outcomes that have far-reaching implications for the future than those experienced by the advanced industrial countries in the early to mid 1990s.  It is abundantly clear that no country can sustain global governance on its own.  Not even a small group of like-minded can effectively address the complex cross-border challenges that confront us today.

Similarly, the apocalyptic image of the world that was painted by Samuel Huntington in his book , The Clash of Civilisations, where he suggested that fragmentation along civilisation lines could animate the forces of disintegration and conflict post-Cold War era, has not happened.  The force of cooperation trumps the tendencies of disintegration in the global society.

Difference does not have to lead to disintegration and conflict.  Cooperation is possible among friends and antagonists alike.  As we become acutely conscious of our shared challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us, the more prone we will be to strengthen the bonds of interdependence and cooperation.


2. I would to emphasise that South Africa takes foreign policy decisions at the UN based on its own domestic agenda which informs its foreign policy priorities.  South Africa approaches its role in the UN and notably this year as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on an issue basis and normally aligns with like-minded countries, depending on the issue at hand.  South Africa naturally cooperates closely with the BRICS Member States in the UN context and the BRICS Permanent Representatives have met to discuss issues of convergence, but also of divergence.

South Africa will obviously liaise closely with both its BRICS and IBSA partners on issues pertaining.  President Zuma has been invited to attend the Third BRICS Summit which the Chinese President will host in April 2011 and this will be the first opportunity for South Africa to interact with BRICS leaders at the highest level to discuss issues pertaining to the global governance agenda and specifically the UN.  It is practice that the leaders will issue a Joint Statement that reflects the priority issues that were discussed and agreed upon during the Summit meetings.

I would like to inform that South Africa issues regular statements at the UN together with India and Brazil in the context of the IBSA Dialogue Forum, of which recent statements are attached below as Annexure.  We also issued statements together with the African non-permanent Members of the UNSC, which is cited below.

I wish to emphasise that the issue at hand would inform whether we vote as a bloc whether it be through an intentional decision, or as sovereign like-minded countries or even as countries with divergent views.


New York, 25 September 2010

Press Release

The Minister of External Affairs of the Republic of India, HE Mr S Krishna, the Minister of External Relations of the Federal Republic of Brazil, HE Ambassador Celso Amorim, and the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, HE Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane met in New York on 25 September 2010.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism and to increased participation of developing countries in the decision-making bodies of multilateral organisations and institutions.  They reiterated the urgent need for the UN to be reformed so as to become more representative and reflective of the needs and priorities of developing countries, specifically the UN Security Council.

In this regard the Ministers recalled the urgent need to expand the Security Council in both its permanent and non-permanent categories, in order to increase participation of developing countries.  This will make the UNSC more broadly representative, efficient and transparent, would enhance its effectiveness and legitimacy, as well as the implementation of its decisions.

Ministers acknowledge the progress in the inter-governmental negotiations on Security Council reform so far.  The Ministers noted the development of “text-based” negotiations and called on all UN Member States to ensure that concrete results are achieved at the 65th session of the General Assembly.  In this regard, the IBSA countries reiterated their commitment to coordinate with each other and the broader UN membership with the aim to achieve genuine reform of the UN Security Council at the earliest opportunity.

The Ministers also noted the historic occasion in 2011 in which all three IBSA countries will serve on the UN Security Council.  They stressed the importance for IBSA to work together on the Security Council with the aim of making the Council more responsive and transparent.


The Minister of External Affairs of the Republic of India, HE Mr SM Krishna, the Minister of External Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil, HE Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, and the representative of the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, HE Ambassador Baso Sangqu, met in New York on 11 February 2011 to exchange views on the prospects for cooperation on issues currently on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council.

India and South Africa expressed their deep satisfaction with the debate promoted by Brazil, as President of the Security Council for the month of February, on the interdependence between development and security and its more importance for sustainable peace.

They, also, expressed great satisfaction with the concurrent presence of all three IBSA countries in the Security Council during the year 2011.  They reiterated the commitment of their countries to consult each other and coordinate positions on all topics relevant to the international agenda.  They expressed their willingness, as developing countries, to work closely together in order to bring their perspectives into the work of the Council.

They reaffirmed the key role of development strategies for the achievement of sustainable peace and security in countries in post-conflict situations, as well as in countries at risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict.  In this context, they recalled the importance of South South Cooperation, in particular projects carried out through the IBSA Fund, in Haiti, Palestine, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi and Sierra Leone, among other countries.

They welcomed the announcement of the results of the referendum in the Sudan on 7 February 2011.  Aware of the immense challenges that will be facing the peoples of the Sudan, IBSA wishes to announce their decision to support, through the IBSA Fund, the reconstruction and development of the Sudan, both North and South.  IBSA will consult with the relevant national authorities in identifying sustainable priority projects in this regard.

They reiterated their view that peacekeeping operations have a contribution to make in early peace-building activities and in providing an environment conducive to the implementation of development strategies, as a means to bring immediate peace dividends to afflicted areas and to contribute to a cooperative atmosphere for UN missions.  They also noted that when considering the deployment of a mission or in evaluating and renewing the mandate of current missions, the Security Council should work in close cooperation with the Peace-building Commission (PBC), with a view to developing a stronger synergy between the two organs. 

The three IBSA representatives emphasised the need for urgent reform of the Security Council, including an expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories of its membership, with increased participation of developing countries in both.  Such reform is of the utmost importance for the Security Council to reflect geopolitical realities and to enhance its representativeness, effectiveness and legitimacy that are needed to face contemporary challenges.  They committed themselves to maintain close coordination amongst the three countries and the broader UN membership to achieve substantial progress in the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform presently underway in New York.

At the end of the meeting, India, Brazil and South Africa expressed their commitment to increase IBSA consultations and coordination, both in New York and its capitals, on issues on the agenda of the Security Council.  They also agreed to resume discussions and coordination on Security Council issues during the VII Ministerial IBSA Joint Commission scheduled to take place in New Delhi, 7-8 March 2011.


New York The Permanent Representative of Nigeria, HE Amb U Joy Oguwu, the Permanent Representative of South Africa, HE Amb Baso Sangqy, HE Amb Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet of Gabon, HE Amb Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda as well as the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, HE Amb Tete Antonio, met today, Wednesday 10 November 2010 and took note of Africa’s representation in the UN Security Council following the election of Uganda in October 2008, Nigeria and Gabon in October 2009 and that of South Africa in October 2010, as non-permanent members.

They reaffirmed the need to cooperate closely on the Security Council as well as share experiences and approaches on issues on the agenda on the UNSC.

As African countries who form part of the Global South, Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda will, as the highest priority promote and champion the principles and objectives of the African Union Agenda on the UN Security Council; including striving to work to make the Security Council more transparent in its working methods.

The Permanent Representatives further reiterated the statement issued by the African Union during the 65th Session of the General Assembly in which the AU reaffirmed its commitment to multilateralism and to increase participation of developing countries in the decision making bodies of multilateral organisations and institutions.

Stressing the need for intensified collaboration, the Permanent Representatives underpinned the need for the Security Council to be more responsive and transparent in the execution of its mandate.

Agreement on the need to promote and enhance the UN Security Council cooperation with the AU Peace and Security Council was also identified as a priority.

The Permanent Representatives noted that the meeting convened by the Republic of Nigeria, proved an excellent conducive environment for all the Delegations to exchange views on issues of mutual concern pertaining to the UN Security Council.

10 November 2010, issued by the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of the Republic of Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and the AU Permanent Observer Mission in New York.

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