Keynote Address by Deputy Minister Marius Fransman, MP to United Nations Country Team Retreat Reception, 08 February 2011, 18h30, The House of JC Le Roux, Stellenbosch

Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in South Africa,
Dr Agostinho Zacarias;
Heads of International Organizations in South Africa;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen, friends of the United Nations.

Allow me firstly to extend a warm word of welcome to all members of the United Nations Country Team and other resident and non-resident international guests present here tonight, many of whom I may be meeting for the first time since my appointment in the International Relations and Cooperation portfolio. I hope that your stay here has been a wonderful experience and that you have been able to enjoy a bit of the South African hospitality. I look forward to an exciting, fulfilling and mutually beneficial relationship and assure you of my utmost support in your diverse endeavours.

It is my great pleasure to address you this evening on Government leadership to improve the understanding of the role of the United Nations (UN) in South Africa. We meet at a time when there is a state of flux in the governance structures in some parts of our continent reflected in the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the imminent cessation of North and South Sudan, the on-going tensions in Ivory Coast to mention but a few. These and other similar global developments place in sharp relief the relevance of our topic tonight.

Perhaps we have entered an era where more than ever before the relevance of the founding objectives of the United Nations is being called upon to guide global government leadership and institutions in our quest for a just, human, dignified and peaceful co-existence of nations. This would of necessity require a review in itself of the way in which nation-states relate to the UN, the on-going assessment of the relevance of UN structures, institutions and functions; and the extent to which we have succeeded or failed to make the UN work for all member states. As we negotiate these spaces and its underlying realities, tensions and contending and sometimes conflicting interests, we are cognizant of the broader goal of the well-being of humanity entrusted to our global leadership.

Perhaps then it is not too far-fetched to reflect on the words of Mahatma Gandhi when he said:

“The things that will destroy us are:

 Politics without principle;
 Pleasure without conscience;
Wealth without work;
Knowledge without character;
Business without morality;
Science without humanity;
And worship without sacrifice.”

Now my reflection tonight is intended to focus on Government leadership to improve the understanding of the role of the United Nations (UN) in South Africa. I am sure that you would agree with me that such a reflection cannot take place in isolation of what Ghandiji called the danger of politics without principle. Our approach cannot be dictated by the logic of “if you don’t like our principles, we have others.” Rather our engagement with the UN, its system and institutions in South Africa must be reflective of the many faces of South Africa in the global space; a sovereign entity in its own right, a member of SADC and its institutions, a leading member of the AU and its institutions and programmes, a member of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM), its membership of global institutions and trade blocks-the latest being BRICSA-these and many others define the principles that guide government leadership and the understanding and engagement with the United Nations in South Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen; let’s then reflect on the landscape of engagement and the many dimensions of our interaction with the UN in South Africa. As the custodian of South Africa’s foreign policy, and the entry point to the Government for the UN system on all policy matters affecting the UN country presence, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) takes the lead in managing the overall relationship between Government and the UN system. It discharges this responsibility within the context of the work of the International Cooperation, Trade and Security (ICTS) cluster of Government. In delivering on this responsibility, DIRCO is mindful of numerous declarations, decisions, resolutions and other UN outcomes to which South Africa is a party as a Member State of the UN. In this regard, DIRCO places great emphasis on key principles underpinning national ownership and leadership, including, accountability, coherence, alignment, harmonization and System-wide Coherence.

When it comes to country-level operational activities for development, and the relationship of individual UN Funds, Programmes and Specialized Agencies with the various line Departments with which they deal in terms of programme and project implementation, the components of the UN Country Team (UNCT) in South Africa deal with those Departments directly. Perhaps it is worthwhile to consider to what extent DIRCO plays or should play in ensuring effective monitoring and evaluation of these programmes and engagements to ensure that the policy perspectives and objectives are realised and optimised.

 Through the different entities operating in South Africa, the UN engages with Government across a wide spectrum of issues. For Government, it is critical that the operations of the UNCT are efficient, effective, directly relevant and closely aligned with South Africa’s national priorities. The five top priorities for Government are job creation, education and skills, healthcare, rural development, and the fight against crime and corruption. Government has further defined the focus to 12 critical performance outcomes that reflect the development impact we want to achieve, each articulated in terms of measurable outputs and key activities to achieve these outputs.

The following goes to the very heart of any understanding of the relevance of the UN operational activities for development in South Africa. The 12 performance outcomes identified by Government are:

  1. An improved quality of basic education;
  2. A long and healthy life for all South Africans;
  3. All South Africans should be and feel safe; there should be decent employment through inclusive growth;
  4. A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path;
  5. An efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network;
  6. There should be vibrant, equitable, sustainable rural communities with food security for all;
  7. There should be sustainable human settlements and an improved quality of household life;
  8. A responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government system;
  9. Environmental assets and natural resources which are well protected and continually enhanced;
  10. A better Africa and a better world as a result of South Africa's contributions to global relations; and
  11. An efficient and development oriented public service and an empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship.

Government’s priorities are clearly articulated. DIRCO’s leadership in managing the relationship between Government and the UN system is fully informed by existing UN agreements and requirements, as well as South Africa’s own normative context in our efforts to build a developmental state. Some of the key UN outcomes to which South Africa is a party, which I referred to earlier, include the Comprehensive Policy Review of operational activities for development of the UN system, a General Assembly resolution, guidelines and principles adopted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Monterrey Consensus of 2002.

 The principles which underpin these UN outcomes include developing countries bearing primary responsibility for the design of their development priorities; national ownership and leadership of developing countries in guiding efficient, effective and coherent support for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); flexibility in responding to national development requirements; the centrality of developing national capacities; and the need for the alignment of international support to developing country priorities, plans and strategies, in order to ensure relevance. These principles are also enshrined in numerous ministerial declarations of the Group of 77 and China over the years, as well as the outcome documents of the two South Summits of 2000 and 2006, held in Havana and Doha, respectively. 

The Joint Evaluation Report on the Role and Contribution of the UN System in South Africa, which was conducted between September 2008 and March 2009, assesses the relevance and effectiveness of cooperation between South Africa and the UN system using as its the conceptual framework the overall objectives of South Africa’s foreign policy, as captured in Outcome 11, namely to work towards “a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better world.”

The joint evaluation was forward looking, seeking to identify the “ideal” model for the relationship between South Africa and the UN system.  Some of the conclusions contained in the Report on the joint evaluation are quite sobering, both for Government as well as for the UN. Missed opportunities need to be corrected on both sides. Clearly, closer collaboration and coordination is required in order to maximize the mutual benefits of the relationship. Government is committed to provide ongoing leadership in this regard.

Subsequent to the completion of the Joint Evaluation Report, the UN Resident Coordinator proposed that representatives of the UNCT and Government undertake a joint study tour to other middle-income countries, to learn how they structure their relationships with the UN system. DIRCO endorsed the proposal, being of the view that the study tour could provide valuable pointers on how to better structure UN programmes and maximize relevance and benefit. The study tour could also facilitate the development of a new United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

Once the modalities thereof have been finalized between Government and the UNCT, the completed joint study tour will contribute to the finalization of Government-wide positions on the implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Evaluation Report, following which Government will be in a position to engage with the UN on how these recommendations could best be implemented.  There may also be implications for the future operations of the UN in the region – but I do not wish to pre-empt the consultation processes that needs to take place, both within Government and between Government and the UN. Suffice it to say for the moment that the recommendation of the joint evaluation team for the development of a unique model of “Delivering and Receiving as One” may hold promise for the strengthened partnership we seek to develop between Government and the UN system.

What, then, is the value-added support of the UN system in South Africa? Quite simply, the UNCT, in working with national, provincial and local authorities, as well as civil society, should support and enhance, in a coherent manner, the effectiveness of Government’s development efforts. Government’s objectives are aimed at securing a better quality of life for all citizens in South Africa. In practical terms, this means, for example, ensuring that everyone has a roof over his or her head, can go to school, has enough food and an adequate income and can access effective health and other basic services. The collective expertise of the UNCT should support Government’s development objectives through multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder actions and processes that take into account the relative comparative advantage, mandate, field presence and strength of each Fund, Programme and Specialized Agency. Government is investing heavily in the achievement of South Africa’s development objectives, in the priority areas I mentioned earlier. One way, for example, in which the UN might help, is to focus on generating knowledge and information for policies and programmes through access to the best ideas that are out there, to support Government in achieving the goals we have set and maximize impact from our collective investment.

Over the next year, Government and the UN system will collaborate in a number of groundbreaking ways in order to strengthen the role and relevance of the UN operational activities for development in South Africa. This will inevitably entail significant change, moving away from past practices. Government has clearly communicated its priorities. This is something we have consistently done since our historic transition to democracy in 1994. To maintain its relevance, the UNCT should not wait to be told what it should be doing. Rather, the UNCT should be engaging with Government on how best it could position itself to effectively and efficiently support what Government is already doing, no more and no less.

This will be a busy year. Following the joint study tour and the completion of Government’s internal consultations, we will work together to interrogate how best to implement the findings and recommendations of the Report on the joint evaluation into the contribution of the UN system for South Africa. Our objective will be to maximize the mutual benefit of our relationship. Following approval by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of a request from the UNCT for a further extension of a year of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), we will begin negotiations on a new UNDAF. Government will also be giving effect to the development of a closer partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in order to give effect to a joint statement of intent that Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and UNDP Administrator Helen Clark signed in May 2010. These processes will, I have no doubt, fundamentally transform the way we do business.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, friends of the UN, working together is something we are all accustomed to. The challenge lies in finding innovative ways of responding to new challenges and pushing the frontiers of possibility. In this we are well served by the diverse body of knowledge and experience that the UN can draw upon from its engagements with other nations. True to the South African and indeed African spirit we will work to define and redefine the myriad ways in which we connect with UN family for it is by definition an intrinsic part of defining who we are. We are resolved to intensify our efforts to continue to do so. From the side of Government, the UN can expect strong and bold leadership, as we continue to build on the many synergies that exist between us.

In a few days time President Jacob Zuma will open the second year of our fourth session of parliament since the dawn of democracy in 1994. His State of the Nation Address will undoubtedly affirm South Africa’s place in the global community of nations. This is a historic moment as this year marks the 99th anniversary of the ANC, an organisation which leads the government and which has since its formation in 1912 up to the present been struggling for socio-economic equality among the people of South Africa. The political freedom which was attained in 1994 still begs for complete economic emancipation. In this respect the UN family and its institutions have a pivotal role to play in South Africa just as it did for decades in the anti-apartheid struggle.

Finally I want to conclude with a quote from our elder statesman Nelson Mandela in his address to the UN Generally Assembly on 3 October 1994 when he said: “We stand here today to salute the United Nations Organization and its Member States, both singly and collectively, for joining forces with the masses of our people in a common struggle that has brought about our emancipation and pushed back the frontiers of racism.” 

Today on this occasion I want to invoke the spirit of what Madiba said and call on you to “join forces in a common struggle that will bring about our  emancipation” as we push back the frontiers of poverty, inequality and under-development confronting us, particularly the millions of rural and urban working class masses.

I thank you.

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