DEPUTY PRESIDENT ZUMA'S STATEMENT TO
THE UNITED NATIONS
26 June 2000
SOUTH AFRICAN STATEMENT TO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL
ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. "WORLD
SUMMIT FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND BEYOND: ACHIEVING
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL IN A GLOBALISING WORLD"
PRESENTED BY DEPUTY PRESIDENT ZUMA
The President of the General Assembly,
The Secretary General of the United Nations,
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
With the advent of democracy in South Africa six years
ago, the newly elected government, together with the
people of our country, inherited a distorted system
of governance, with institutions that were in direct
conflict with the imperatives for sustainable economic
growth, social development and our reintegration into
the world economy and community of nations.
We were faced with the daunting challenge to transform
our country, in a sustained and deliberate manner, in
order to address the deeply entrenched poverty affecting
millions of our people; a racially polarised society
in terms of wealth distribution and opportunities; and
a brutalised society with intolerably high levels of
violence, corruption, social disintegration and moral
When South Africa joined the community of nations in
signing the Copenhagen Declaration in 1995, it was another
critical point in our history as a young democracy.
Our commitment to address poverty, promote social integration,
create an enabling environment for social development,
promote full employment, build the capacity of our people
and mobilise resources for social development, held
special significance for us, as they still do today.
Through the rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution,
and the relevant institutions such as the Human Rights
Commission, Gender Commission, the Constitutional Court,
Public Protector, etc., we have ensured the protection
and promotion of human rights and restoration of the
dignity of all its peoples.
Critical in all this, are the public-private partnerships,
including the joint negotiating forums like National
Economic, Development and Labour Council - NEDLAC, that
have created the space for the engagement of all social
partners in new development partnerships.
State institutions are also being restructured the
enable them to promote an ethos of service, accountability,
transparency, and eliminate corrupt practices at every
Mr President, great strides have been taken in ensuring
free access to health care for children under 6 years
of age and pregnant women; our social security benefits
are now accessible to all who are eligible irrespective
of race or sex.
However, many challenges still remain, and amongst
the most critical is the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has
the potential to reverse all of our gains. It is clear
to us that there is a direct link between HIV/AIDS and
poverty. The incidence of poverty provides fertile ground
for the exacerbation of this pandemic.
It is therefore of grave concern to us that vital health
care and medication remain out of reach for the people
that need it most, many of which are in the South and
particularly in Africa. We therefore urge the international
community to integrate the ethics of human development
into trade negotiations and ensure that the existing
trade and patent regimes are not skewed in favour of
the corporate sector at the expense of the most vulnerable
sectors of our populations.
Our commitment to address poverty, promote employment
and build human capacity is evident from the initiatives
we have taken to prioritise education, including the
problem of illiteracy and skills development.
Our commitment to address racism and inequality is
unquestionable. We will be holding a national conference
on racism in South Africa later this year and will also
be hosting the United Nations Conference on Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Related
Intolerances. The links between the Beijing Declaration
on women and the World Social Summit Development Commitments
needs to be reinforced as women, children and the elderly
still bear the brunt of poverty, and social and economic
The translation of our vision and goals into concrete
and sustainable programmes requires an enabling regional
and global environment. There is no question that peace
and stability are prerequisites for economic growth
and sustainable development. We cannot continue to address
issues of social and economic development without addressing
the question of wars and conflicts raging around the
We are therefore committed to the resolution of conflicts
through dialogue and to building capacity for conflict
prevention and management in our sub-regions and on
the continent as a whole.
However, our capacity to deliver on our social commitment
to improve the lives of our people in many of our countries,
is seriously hampered by crippling debt servicing and
repayments. South Africa therefore reiterates its support
for debt relief for the highly indebted and poorest
nations, most of which are in Africa.
In this regard, Mr. President, South Africa's development
trajectory cannot be separated from that of its neighbours
in the Southern African region nor from the continent
as a whole. While much can and is being done to strengthen
our domestic response to our persistent problems, international
agreements on free and fair trade and the promotion
of peace and justice are also critical.
Economic growth in the region has not been sufficient
to create sustainable jobs, for the region, job creation
and job security remain major challenges.
Resource constraints have seriously limited the region's
ability to promote job creation even through labour
intensive public works programmes. Much needed investments
in infra structural and rural development initiatives
have been set back by external debt and macro economic
Our commitment to address poverty, promote employment
and build human capacity in also evident in the initiatives
we have taken to prioritise education. In this regard
we are reviewing our educational system to ensure that
knowledge and skills are relevant for a more globally
integrated world and at the same time is also able to
address the problems of illiteracy and access to opportunities
for poor people.
Together with the ratification and implementation of
international human rights instruments in countries,
we would like to see mechanisms to monitor the implementation
and protection of such rights. While we all accept that
good governance is essential for the protection and
promotion of human rights, we cannot forget that this
requires the setting up of relevant institutions within
an enabling legal framework.
These institutions require substantial human, material
and financial resources. Many nations of the South do
not have the necessary resources for these and would
need sustained technical and financial assistance.
Since the last Summit, overall levels of Official Development
Assistance have declined with most donor countries not
meeting commitments made in Copenhagen.
Donor countries need to be sensitive to the specific
needs of recipient nations and honour aid commitments
on the basis of development priorities.
We are concerned at the trend in our forums which seems
to attempt to water down and renege on commitments made
in the Beijing and Copenhagen Declarations. We certainly
cannot remain silent or be party to the systematic reversal
of the gains made in Copenhagen and Beijing. We therefore
urge countries and participants to implement commitments
taken in Copenhagen, Beijing and now Geneva.
To us, as developing countries, the Copenhagen Declaration
and the Beijing commitments were significant steps in
addressing the legacies facing our nations and remain
important in our endeavours to create a better life
for our people.
Heads of State and Government
South Africa commits itself to the 20/20 initiative
on social development. We urge all countries to work
towards the fulfilment of this important objective.