Media Statement

1 March 2022

Statement by South Africa at the Emergency United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Ukraine

South Africa remains deeply concerned by the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. We welcome the commencement of talks between Ukraine and Russia. We hope that these discussions will lead to a diplomatic solution that will result in a sustainable political solution.

South Africa is of the view that this armed conflict, like all others, will result in unnecessary human suffering and destruction with global ramifications. In situations of conflict, the most vulnerable tend to suffer most, during and post the conflict.

It is regrettable that at a time when the world is struggling to emerge from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seized with a conflict that will further delay the world’s recovery. UN Secretary-General, Guterres reminded us of this when he stated that the conflict will have a huge impact on the “global economy in a moment when we are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and so many developing countries need to have space for the recovery”.

The UN was founded after the horrors of the Second World War, with the aim of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. It is for this reason that the Charter of the United Nations enjoins all member states to settle their disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace, security, and justice are not endangered.

We stress that peace is best built through diplomacy and dialogue within the framework of the institutions of global dialogue, especially the United Nations. It is important for all nations to respect and uphold the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law and the provisions of the UN Charter.

The UN is now in its 76th year of existence and the events of the last two weeks have again reminded us of the urgent need to reform the UN, especially the UN Security Council, which is long overdue. We need a Council free from the legacy of the Cold War so that it can genuinely be the space where the community of nations comes together to resolve conflict and build a more just and peaceful world.

South Africa always appreciates the value that dialogue has in averting a crisis and de-escalating conflict. This is in line with our strong commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflict. In this regard, we also urge the Security Council to utilise existing tools at its disposal in support of the pacific settlement of disputes. We also believe that the Good Offices of the UN Secretary-General could make a positive contribution in finding a lasting solution to this conflict and should be utilised.

We urge all parties to approach the situation in a spirit of compromise, with all sides upholding human rights, abiding by their obligations under international law and international humanitarian law.

A diplomatic solution to the problem should address the security concerns of the parties.

South Africa continues to support and encourage regional initiatives such as the Minsk Agreements, and we welcome the work of the Normandy Format, the Trilateral Contact Group and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

This meeting is being held under the Uniting for Peace Formula, which requires the General Assembly to meet if, and when, the Security Council is unable to act, however it remains necessary for the Security Council to exercise its responsibility fully in the current situation.

The situation in Ukraine should not be allowed to affect negatively other priorities of the international community and the rest of the work of the United Nations.

We furthermore note with concern that not all situations of conflict have received the same attention, indeed whilst there is this focus on Ukraine, long-standing situations that the Security Council is seized with continue without resolution. It is necessary that we devote equal attention to other long-standing conflicts where the UN Charter and human rights are being violated.

In conclusion, South Africa endorses the statement issued by the African Union Commission expressing concern at the treatment given to African nationals and people of African descent at the borders of Ukraine, some of whom are not allowed to cross and move to safety. We urge European countries to take steps to resolve this situation as all people have a right to cross international borders during times of conflict.

Statement delivered by Ambassador Mathu Joyini, South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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