Statement by Ambassador Baso Sangqu, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa at the Joint Debate of the UN General Assembly on the “Report of the Security Council” and “Reform of the Security Council”
15 November 2012
We commend the President of the Security Council for the month of November, the Permanent Representative of India, H.E. Hardeep Singh Puri for presenting the annual report of the Council and for the delegation of Colombia under the leadership of Ambassador Nestor Osario, for preparing the report.
In October 2010, this Assembly elected and mandated South Africa to serve as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council. This is an honour that we carried out cognisant of the high responsibility that had been bestowed upon us. As our term on the Security Council draws to an end, we come here today to report to you, the member states that elected us to this body, to account and reflect on our contribution and assessment of the work of the Security Council.
As an elected member of the Security Council, my delegation was acutely aware of the limitations that come with being a non-permanent member of this body, but we were determined to play a meaningful and active role in the affairs of the Security Council.
In our experience, elected members of the Council are confronted by numerous constraints which results from the dominance, in the current configuration, that is derived from the permanency of the non-elected members. This dominance is experienced at the very start of ones’ tenure when the P5 allocates the Chairmanship of subsidiary bodies without themselves chairing any, and with little or no consultation with members concerned. It further permeates the daily work of the Council, as three of the permanent members are the penholders on almost every country specific file on the Council’s agenda. In addition, resolutions or decisions of the Council are often drafted in small groups and presented as a fait acompli to elected members. Whilst we support broad consultation by the Council, its decisions should be open to debate among all members of the Council.
Despite these limitations we believe that we have delivered on the mandate given to us by this body, our sub-region SADC and the African Continent. South Africa used its comparative advantage, derived from our experience during our first tenure on the Council and given our history of having been on the agenda of the Council. In addition our active work in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding on the continent of Africa and beyond has equipped us to insert ourselves actively in the deliberations of the Council. We maintain that elected members often come to the Council with the necessary expertise and knowledge that could benefit the work of the Council.
The annual report of the Security Council before us indicates the many areas where the Council remains engaged in resolving the conflicts all over the world, particularly in Africa. The transition from conflict to peace in countries like Somalia, Sudan, and Timor-Leste are testimony to what the Security Council can achieve when it assumes its Charter responsibilities. We are pleased that during the reporting period, the Council has also stimulated constructive debates on key global issues such as the peacebuilding, protection of civilians, women, peace and security and children and armed conflict.
South Africa is particularly pleased with the enhanced strategic cooperation between the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council. In this regard, South Africa piloted the adoption of Resolution 2033(2012) adopted during its presidency of the UNSC in January 2012, building on Resolution 1809 (2008) adopted during its Presidency in April 2008. The aims of these resolutions are to promote greater strategic coordination between these two legislative bodies and to secure predictable and sustainable funding for AU Peacekeeping Operations and to support post-conflict reconstruction and development on the Continent.
The positive impact of this strategic coordination is evidenced in the subsequent adoption of resolution 2046 on Sudan and South Sudan in which the AUPSC Roadmap for dealing with the outstanding CPA and post secession issues were endorsed by the UNSC. The ongoing consultation between the Council and the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, which is playing a leadership role is resolving post-CPA issues, continues to benefit the Council in addressing this matter. The result of this strategic coordination was rewarded when the two parties, who were almost at the brink of war, signed a Cooperation Agreement on 27 September dealing with all these outstanding issues.
With regard to Somalia, we recall the meeting of the UNSC on 11 January 2012 under South Africa’s Presidency of the Council, in which the President of the AUPSC participated, as well as IGAD Member States that culminated in the adoption of resolution 2036 authorising the increase in AMISOM’s troop levels. This landmark resolution and the increase in AMISOM’s troop levels severely disrupted Al-Shabaab thus creating a conducive security environment for ending the political transition in Somalia culminating in the election of the new President and Cabinet.
South Africa is pleased that the annual consultations between the UNSC and the AUPSC have become more structured and effective. In this regard, we are of the view that greater strategic coordination between the UN and the AU will enhance the effectiveness of the UNSC in addressing challenges to peace and security on the continent of Africa.
We are confident that this continued cooperation and unity between the two Councils could be of immense benefit in respect of addressing the challenges we face in the DRC, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and the wider SAHEL region.
Despite these positive developments, my delegation remains concerned about the tendency in some cases, where the UNSC is selective in picking elements of decisions of regional organisations that advance the national interest of some members. This selectivity and double standards has been visibly demonstrated when the AU’s Roadmap was undermined and ignored by the implementers of resolution 1973(2011). Furthermore the Arab League views on the Palestinian Question are conveniently being ignored whilst its views on Libya and Syria have been fully endorsed. It is important that the principle of subsidiarity is respected if we are to establish better synergies in enhancing cooperation, especially on the Continent. We therefore call for greater consistency from the Council in engaging with regional bodies.
We remain concerned that the Security Council has not succeeded in bringing about any positive change in the situation between Israel and Palestine. The failure of the Council to find a lasting solution to this crisis has denied hope to the millions of Palestinian and Israeli’s. We also regret that the Council has delegated it responsibility to the Quartet which is moribund in handling this matter. South Africa is most disappointed that the UNSC could not reach consensus to support Palestine’s bid for membership of the GA or to visit Palestine. In our view, the Council’s failure to act on this matter contributes to continued instability in the region thereby giving rise to the tragic events of the past few days in Gaza.
We remain convinced that the credibility of the UNSC will continue to be challenged when the human rights of Palestinians and the people of Western Sahara continues to be ignored for decades. This harms the credibility of the Council as the guardian of international peace and security.
The past year has seen some improvement of the working methods of the Council. An encouraging development has been the use of the “informal interactive dialogue” which has allowed the Council to interact informally with individual member states, the PBC and sub-regional and regional organisations. A further improvement in the working methods of the Council is the fact that elected members have become pen-holders, such as Germany on Afghanistan and South Africa on Timor-Leste and have also led and become co-leads during UNSC missions to countries on its agenda. Under the able Chairmanship of Portugal, the Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions has been active in promoting greater transparency and efficiency in the work of the Council. Issues being addressed such as pen-holders, chairs of subsidiary bodies, preparation of the annual report and monthly assessments are modest but meaningful steps towards improving the work of the Council.
We welcome these positive developments and encourage the Council to defend the important advances made and pursue further improvement of the working methods. However, we reiterate the view that cosmetic changes to the working methods does not advance the fundamental need for reform of the Security Council and the expansion of its membership in both the permanent and non-permanent categories.
The reform of the Security Council remains one of the most urgent challenges facing the United Nations today. We are grateful for you statement extending to member states the promise of your assistance to the revitalisation of the General Assembly “including in the reform process”.
We hope, Mr President, that the reform process will not be treated as one of many issues that you will give consideration to, but that you will see it as the vast majority of member states see: a priority whose urgency should not be understated.
We wish to express our pleasure at the reappointment of Ambassador Zahir Tanin, the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, as facilitator of the intergovernmental negotiations. We are confident in his leadership and assure him and you of our full support as we try to make progress in the negotiations.
After many a high and low, we find ourselves today in the need of a breakthrough to recapture the momentum of 2009 to reinvigorate the intergovernmental negotiations. My delegation is concerned that since the launching of the intergovernmental negotiations in February 2009, we have relapsed into the Open-ended working group mode of restating positions.
We are convinced that the current text before us, while a useful reference document for the positions of member states and groups of member states cannot help nudge us towards concrete results. What is needed is a process or an initiative that could lead towards convergences. We believe that the various exchanges in the eighth round of negotiations have illustrated areas where convergences and compromises could lie, and in the main the majority of states and groups of states are calling for expansion in both categories. The Africa Group and L69 to which we belong share this view.
The call for expansion in both categories is based on our belief that the fundamental objective of this reform is to ensure that the Council, consistent with the UN Charter values of universalism, collective responsibility, fairness and equity, is broadly representative and reflects the current state of world affairs. These values would be inconsistent with having a Security Council in which Africa remains unrepresented in the permanent category. In this regard, we thus call upon the facilitator to produce a shorter text, on the basis of the positions of the overwhelming majority of member states. We would encourage the facilitator, when producing this text, to be guided by his own assessment that expansion in both categories enjoys the support of the majority of member states.
Discussions on the reform of the Security Council have gone on much too long. This is the time to show that we are all committed to giving effect to the call of our leaders in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document for fundamental reform. It is our collective responsibility to conclude these negotiations in a just and expeditious manner.
I thank you.