Statement by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation at the High Level Segment of the 13th session of the Human Rights Council, Monday, 01 March 2010, Geneva

Mr. President,
High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanathem Pillay
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the honour, on behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, to convey to you, Mr President, and members of your Bureau our collective gratitude for your excellent stewardship over the business of this Council in the last nine months. Similarly our appreciation goes to the Ambassadors of Nigeria, Romania and Mexico including members of their bureaus for their unwavering commitment towards the successful conclusion of the Council’s Institution-Building mechanisms. May I also express my delegation’s appreciation to the High Commissioner for her tireless efforts in executing the mandate of the Council. In this regard, I wish to assure you of my delegation’s cooperation, support and commitment in the stewardship of this Council.

It also gives me great honour on a personal note to deliver my first address to this High-Level Segment of the Human Rights Council since my assumption of the important portfolio of International Relations and Cooperation in the fourth administration of our democratic dispensation.

On the 11th February this year South Africa celebrated a watershed moment in our history when Nelson Mandela was released from prison 20 years ago. He walked out of prison because of the struggle of the people of South Africa and the international community, including the United Nations Human Rights machinery. This struggle culminated in our freedom on 27 April 1994 which marked the advent of democracy and good governance, enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity and equality, the rule of law and the quest for universal justice. We therefore wish to assure the international community of our continued commitment in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Mr President,

The purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations impel us to promote global solidarity and to act towards one another in the spirit of concrete international cooperation. My government would like to express sympathy and condolences to the people of Haiti and Chile who have been visited by natural disasters.

We are encouraged by the outcomes of the Copenhagen UN climate change conference. However, we see these outcomes as an important step for the international community to work towards a legally binding instrument. Climate change impacts negatively on the environment, especially in developing countries, where livelihoods are threatened, thereby also contributing to an environment where human rights and fundamental freedoms cannot be fully realised. We stay convinced that the international community will have to respond to the challenges of climate change.

We created this Human Rights Council in 2006 as the principal United Nations human rights body with the mandate to promote, protect and fulfil all the universally recognised human rights. We did so in affirmation of our consensus reached at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 that “human rights are the legitimate concern of the international community”. It is also paramount to underline that the United Nations General Assembly, been fully cognisant of all the factors that led to the demise of the erstwhile Commission on Human Rights (CHR), adopted a resolution which clearly instructed that our actions should collectively seek to address all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal footing and with the same emphasis. We hope that the Council will continue to make progress towards the realization of that mandate.

Mr President,

We believe in the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights on the same par and with the same emphasis as the civil and political rights. The South African Constitutional dispensation and the accompanying adjudications by its Constitutional Court bear testimony to that conviction, which has given international impetus and momentum to the universal acceptance of the notion of justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights. The current Administration led by President Jacob Zuma has prioritised, among others, the creation of descent jobs, access to education and health facilities, and rural development and food security. These priorities, we believe Mr President, will assist our country in ensuring the practical enjoyment of socio-economic rights for our people.

The recent international financial meltdown poses a real threat to the aspirations of developing countries since it will impact negatively on the ability of their peoples to realize their right to development. The Global South continues to face serious challenges of poverty and underdevelopment, as well as improving the quality of lives of their citizens.

It is for this reason that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 remains a paramount preoccupation of all the developing countries. It therefore becomes singularly imperative for this Council to concentrate even more on all those resolutions which are MDGs-related, especially in view of the upcoming Review Summit later this year. To this end, we urge the international community, especially the developed North to honour their commitments made at all international conferences and summits.

If this Council is to avoid going the same route of credibility deficit as its predecessor, then it is incumbent upon the Council to ensure that its operations, methods of work and approach, is firmly predicated on the accepted norms and standards provided for under international human rights and humanitarian law. I wish to underline in this regard that domestic law and jurisprudences of individual countries should not be a substitute for the fundamental tenants of international human rights and humanitarian law. We urge the Council to be vigilant in ensuring compliance with existing human rights treaty law.

We strongly believe in the inextricability between all human rights, namely, economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights. The First World Conference on Human Rights held in Tehran in 1968 adopted the Proclamation of Tehran, which emphasised that the enjoyment of civil and political rights which is not underpinned by the accompanying and socially empowering economic, social and cultural rights, are meaningless. We are also in this regard inspired by the momentous consensus of our universality Conference at Vienna in 1993 which underlined that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.

Mr. President,

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance continue to bedevil our societies. In a quest to eliminate these scourges, my government hosted the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in 2001, that adopted by consensus, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (the DDPA), which provided a solid basis for the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We urge all countries to accelerate implementation of the DDPA, and to identify other strategies as this struggle intensifies. In this regard, my delegation in collaboration with the African Group as well as Brazil, will be presenting a resolution on “Anti-racism in Sport”, as South Africa’s contribution to highlighting the challenges that we still face in eliminating these scourges.

Mr President,

Undoubtedly, one of the key focus areas for this Council in the next year will be the review processes of this Council instructed by the General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006. We therefore have another chance to seriously work at finding mutually consensual approaches to the international human rights agenda. Failure is not an option.

Our Government shall continue to engage constructively in all Council review processes. Pertinent issues which should not escape our attention in the impending review processes of the Council include, among others, the following:

• The status of the Council vis-a-vis the Third Committee
• The adoption of standard and uniform modalities for the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism of the Council.
• The establishment of an Ethics Committee composed of independent and eminent personalities in the context of the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate-holders.
• The proper realignment of the relationship between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Council bearing in mind the provisions of the UNGA framework resolution 48/141;
• The accessibility of the Council to those who need it most, i.e. the victims of grave violations of human rights, the usually cash-strapped Non-Governmental Organisations from the Global South; and
• The funding of the programmes of OHCHR from the regular budget of the United Nations. The perception that OHCHR is a donor-driven organisation should be eliminated.

Mr. President

South Africa believes that priority be afforded to the situations affecting women, children and persons with disabilities. We need to do more to ensure that the rights of these vulnerable groups are promoted and adequately protected. To this end, consistent with the priority that our Government attaches to the rights of vulnerable groups in our society, we have created a fully-fledged, dedicated Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, to emphasise the need for equity and access to development opportunities for these groups. The creation of this Ministry is heralded as one of the major achievements for vulnerable groups in our country in their quest for emancipation, non-discrimination, non-sexism, advancement and development. My cabinet colleague who is responsible for this Ministry will be leading our country’s delegation to the Fifty-Fourth Session of the Commission on

Despite our domestic challenges of lack of adequate resources, we remain committed to fulfilling our international treaty obligations. We will soon be completing our domestic processes for the ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

Mr. President

Last year we supported and applauded the convening of the 9th Special Session following the incursion of the Israeli Defence Force into the Gaza Strip. Similarly, we applauded the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission into the Gaza, which documented the grave and systematic violations of human rights of the Palestinian people. At the time, we urged the Council and its special procedures mechanisms to implement the recommendations contained in the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission into the Gaza and to follow-up such implementation on an annual basis to ensure that the Council’s efforts to combat impunity are reinforced, and contribute to the restoration of the Council’s credibility. We still look forward to seeing concrete results of the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission.

A few weeks ago, Israel refused to allow an independent investigation – and this is a development that we regret. We would like to urge the Israeli government to cooperate with the international community in this regard.

We also hope that the Council will be more resolute in addressing the recommendations contained in the report of the High Level Fact Finding Mission on Gaza, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone. To this end, it becomes imperative to uphold the applicable provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In conclusion, my government expresses its appreciation for the support extended to my delegation by members of the Council, as well as its observers and other stakeholders during its tenure as a member of the Council. We look forward to working constructively with members of the Council after our exit from the Council in June 2010.

Mr. President, may I take this opportunity to congratulate the 31 nations who have qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup to be hosted in my country in three months time. As a country we stand ready to welcome all soccer supporters from all the global corners. Let us make this event which will be hosted for the first time in Africa a global success. It is Africa’s turn, KE NAKO!!!

I thank you Mr President.

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