Media Statement

24 October 2017

South African statement on the occasion of UN Day

Today, 24 October, marks the 72nd anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations (UN) Charter in 1945, and is commemorated internationally as UN Day.

As a founding member state of the UN, South Africa joins the entire world in celebrating the many achievements of the UN throughout its illustrious history.  South Africa also wishes to use this opportunity to recommit itself to the principles and purposes of the UN, as espoused in the Preamble of the Charter.

The 72nd Anniversary of the UN coincides with the year-long O.R. Tambo Centenary celebrations culminating in gala events on 27 October 2017, the day O.R. Tambo would have been 100 years old.  O.R. Tambo, South Africa’s foremost diplomat, from the beginning of the international solidarity campaign recognised the importance of mobilising the UN against apartheid.  Some of the highlights include, the establishment by the General Assembly of the Special Committee Against Apartheid (1962), the declaration of apartheid as a crime against humanity (1973) with the adoption of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, the suspension of South Africa’s membership to the United Nations for 30 years (1974-1994), and in 1989, following the adoption of the Harare Declaration, the UN adopted at its sixteenth Special Session, "Declaration on Apartheid and its Destructive Consequences in Southern Africa”.

It is therefore no surprise that following the advent of democracy in South Africa, multilateralism, specifically the UN became a centre of gravity of South Africa’s multilateral diplomacy. South Africa has consistently advocated for the primacy of multilateralism through a global governance system that is fair, equitable and representative; the promotion of peace and security through global disarmament, pacific settlement of disputes and the promotion of good governance; the promotion of human rights; and the fight against poverty through the promotion of sustainable development.

At the recently concluded General Debate of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, President Zuma highlighted the significance of the UN Charter and the urgent need to transform the global economic power relations that are unjust and perpetuate the growing gap between rich and poor. President Zuma noted that failure to do so would undermine the international communities’ ability to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality as espoused by the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Today the growing trend of populism coupled with rising nationalist sentiments and protectionism poses a serious challenge to multilateralism in general and the UN in particular.  This shift is partly fuelled by the unequal spread of the benefits of globalisation thus bolstering and not redressing inequality, which erodes respect for universal norms resulting in the rejection of a rules-based international system.  These developments makes it more urgent than ever before that the UN adapts and transforms, including through the reform of the Security Council, which still reflects the outdated power relations of 1945.  The historical injustice against the African Continent as reflected in the structure of the Security Council should finally be corrected, we believe that this organisation will benefit greatly from our Continent’s full participation in the Security Council, as permanent members.

Together, we have a special responsibility to carry forward the vision and the mandate of the UN, for future generations. For South Africa, a strong and effective UN remains central to our vision of securing a better quality of life for all our people, Africa and the world at large.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, 082 884 5974

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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