Address by Deputy Minister Pahad on the Occasion of UN Day, Diplomatic Guesthouse, Tshwane, 24 October 2005

The Executive Director of the UNFPA ( UN Population Fund), Ms Thoraya Obaid,
Resident Coordinator of the UN in SA, Ms Scholastica Sylvane Kimaryo,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes in SA,
Government and private sector representatives,
Members of the media,

On behalf of the Government of SA, I would like to say "Happy Anniversary" to the UN ! It is my pleasure to host this reception to mark the occasion of UN Day.

We meet at a time when the importance of multilateralism, and the many challenges humanity faces, has never been so pertinent.

It is appropriate to recall the importance of the UN because we in SA, to a large extent, owe our successful transition to democracy to the tireless and consistent efforts of the UN and many of its Member States in support of our struggle for freedom.

On UN Day we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the UN, on 24 October 1945. A new global institution emerged from the aftermath of WW2, in order, in other words of the Preamble to the Charter :

  • "…… to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom "

These are exactly the enduring values and principles for which South Africa stands. They are enshrined in our Constitution. We therefore join with many nations around the world in making known the achievements of the UN and reaffirming our ongoing critical support for the work of the UN system as a whole. In doing so, we are also very mindful of the current global context, of the pressing need to enhance the authority and efficiency of the UN, as well as its capacity to effectively address the pressing challenges of the 21st Century.

On 23 September 2003, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, launched a process on the critical need for reform of the UN. The SG put it poignantly, when he said :

" …. we have come to a fork in the road. This may be a moment no less decisive than 1945 itself, when the UN was founded. At that time, a group of far-sighted leaders, led and inspired by Franklin D Roosevelt, were determined to make the second half of the 20th Century different from the first half. They saw that the human race had only one world to live in, and that unless it managed its affairs prudently, all human beings may perish. So they drew up the rules to govern international behaviour, and founded a network of institutions, with the UN at its centre, in which the peoples of the world could work together for the common good. Now we must decide whether it is possible to continue on the basis agreed then, or whether radical changes are needed ".

As you may recall, the SG established 3 groups of Eminent Persons to analyse the need for change in the light of the challenges being faced by the UN system.

Drawing on these three Reports, in March 2005, the SG presented his recommendations for a package of significant reforms in the UN, entitled, :

"In Larger Freedom - towards development, security and human rights for all".

A draft Outcome Document was presented to the Millennium Summit, convened in order to conduct a comprehensive review of the implementation of all the commitments made in the Millennium Declaration. The urgency of the need for decisive action by the rich and developed countries is starkly highlighted by the recently published UNDP Human Development Report 2005, which says :

"As governments prepare for the 2005 Summit, the overall report card on progress makes for depressing reading. Most countries are off track for most of the MDGs. Human development is faltering in some key areas, and already deep inequalities are widening. Various diplomatic formulations and polite terminology can be found to describe the divergence between progress on development and the ambition set out in the Millennium Declaration. None of them should be allowed to obscure a simple truth : the promise to the world's poor is being broken."

"This year, 2005, marks a crossroads. The world's governments face a choice. One option is to seize the moment make 2005 the start of a 'decade for development'. If the investments and policies needed to achieve the MDGs are put in place today, there is still time to deliver on the promise of the Millennium Declaration. But time is running out."

"The Summit is the moment to mobilise the investment resources and develop the plans needed to build the defences that can stop the tsunami of world poverty. What is needed is the political will to act on the vision that governments set out five years ago."

As the UNDP report underscores, reform of the UN requires that Member States display far-sightedness, in much the same profound spirit as the Organisation's founders did 60 years ago. Unfortunately, this capacity stands in sharp contrast to the parochial myopia, the global short sightedness that characterised the preoccupations of some Member States in the run-up to the Millennium Review Summit.

President Mbeki in his address to the General Assembly in New York on 15 September 2005, said:

"One of the points that stands out sharply from the review is that in truth we have not made the decisive progress we thought we would make with regard to the critical issue of the reform of the UN. We have therefore had no choice but to postpone to a later date the decisions we should have made."

He went on to add that :

"Yet another fact that stands out sharply from the review is that our approach to the challenge to commit and deploy the necessary resources for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals has been half-hearted, timid and tepid."

The global situation has been dominated by many negative developments.

The Outcome Document correctly says: "We reaffirm our commitment to work towards a security consensus based on the recognition that many threats are interlinked, that development, peace, security and human rights are mutually reinforcing, that no State can best protect itself by acting entirely alone and that all States need an effective and efficient collective security system, pursuant to the purposes and principles of the Charter."

"The reason we have not made the progress we should have, during the last 5 years, is precisely because we have not as yet achieved a ' security consensus'."

We have not achieved that "security consensus" because of the widely disparate conditions of existence and interests among Member States of the UN as well as the gross imbalance of power that define the relationship among these Member States.

Since the founding of the UN in 1945, we have come to realise that it is an essential instrument through which multilateral processes can be brought to contribute meaningfully to the solutions to humanitarian problems and challenges.

Many countries have set themselves the objective of guarding against weaknesses in the current global approach to multilateralism. The absence of a balance of power in the current global system is leading to an increased move to unilateralism, which we cannot countenance. Indeed, South Africa believes that the UN and its specialised Agencies should be at the centre of international co-operation aimed at tackling global problems. It is the UN system that must provide the framework in which multilateral co-operation can take place.

Today, we live in an age of unprecedented opportunities and challenges because of globalisation. Our time is one of extraordinary problems and challenges, both natural and man-made. The need to improve global governance is therefore paramount. Extreme poverty, the need to protect the environment, to deal effectively with terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global warming, the protection of basic human rights, and the resolution of conflicts through effective peacekeeping - are all urgent challenges. In addition, pandemics such as HIV/AIDS are threatening whole societies.

The situation in the Middle East, Iraq, Darfur are also part of these global challenges that call for immediate and coherent international action. They call for a strengthened and more effective UN, with practical action and achievable outcomes. The peace and security, the health and economic opportunity, the liberty and dignity of billions of people in the world who are marginalised, depend on it.

One positive aspect of the 59th General Assembly was that it "reaffirmed our commitment to strengthen the UN with a view to enhancing its authority and efficiency, as well as its capacity to address effectively the full range of challenges of our time".

With regard to the contentious issue of the reform of the Security Council it said:

"We support early reform of the Security Council as an essential element of our overall effort to reform the UN, in order to make it more broadly representative, efficient and transparent, and thus further to enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions. We commit ourselves to continue our efforts to achieve a decision to this end and request the General Assembly to review progress on the reform set out above by the end of the year".

Sadly some of the powerful countries use their power to perpetuate the power imbalance in the ordering of global affairs. As a consequence of this, we have not made the progress of the reform of the UN that we should have.

Discussions on outstanding issues, inter alia: the Human Rights Council; the Peacebuilding Commission; the right to intervene the definitions of terrorism and the restructuring of the Secretariat has started.

South Africa will continue to strive to ensure that the UN lives up to its name and has a future as a strong and effective multilateral organisation, enjoying the confidence of the peoples of the world, and capable of addressing the matters that are of concern to all humanity.

Failure to achieve these objectives will make our world a very dangerous one.

Thank you.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs

Private Bag X152

24 October 2005

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