Deputy Minister Marius Fransman’ keynote address at the University of Pretoria on the topic “The United Nations and Regional Challenges in Africa: 50 Years After the Death of Dag Hammarskjöld” – July 13, 2011

Professor Cheryl de la Rey, the Rector of the University of Pretoria,
Your Excellency Peter Tejler, the Ambassador of Sweden to South Africa,
Madame Graça Machel,
Fellow panel members, Ambassador Dumisani Khumalo, Carlos Lopes,
Jan Nordlander, Jan Pronk,
Representatives of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation,
Our Moderators for the Session Prof Maxi Schoeman and Henning Melber,
The staff and students of the University of Pretoria and the Embassy of Sweden,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We meet on the eve after the birth of Africa’s newest state and the UN’s latest member state. Few things can symbolise so closely the intimate and intricate relationship between the role of the UN in Africa in general and particularly her role in addressing regional challenges.

At the outset I want to say that I feel greatly honoured to have been invited to participate in this Seminar, especially organized around such an important topic that relates to the United Nations and its historic association with the Continent of Africa. Allow me to express my words of appreciation and those of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to the joint organizers of this Seminar, i.e. the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Pretoria; the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation; and the Embassy of Sweden resident here in Pretoria.

I believe it would not be out of place on this occasion to also acknowledge the role of Sweden and its people, in our liberation struggle and the continued support in the democratic era in a myriad of ways. Strengthening this valuable relationship in the context of the broader regional challenges in Africa could perhaps be the best tribute to life and ideals of Dag Hammarskjöld.

Programme Director, ladies and gentlemen, I feel even more humbled to have been requested to speak not only on the United Nations and its long relationship with the African Continent, but more so to reflect on the contributions of one of the UN’s best diplomat and former Second Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld.

As we meet here today and take time to reflect on the legacy of this great man, we are encouraged by his selfless dedication to “serving the family of nations” and his open rebellion against the often-times unfair “influence of big powers”. It was Hammarskjöld that who said he will “remain in his post as a servant of the United Nations in the interest of all those other nations”. Fifty-years after his death - we who still remain behind – can only applaud and live the values that Hammarskjöld espoused.

As South Africa, we find areas of convergence between Hammarskjöld’s values of peace-building, security and respect to human rights – and the values that underpin our foreign policy. As DIRCO, our argument is that there will never be sustainable development in Africa in the absence of peace, and vice versa. In the same breath, we can also associate ourselves with Hammarskjöld argument that “without the recognition of human rights we shall never have peace, and that it is only within the framework of peace that human rights can be fully developed.”

We read with much appreciation on the level of philosophical intellect of   Hammarskjöld, especially his assertion that the “UN Security Council exists primarily for settling conflicts; whilst the UN Economic and Social Council exists primarily to eliminate the causes of conflicts by working to change these economic, emotional and social conditions, that create these conflicts”.

Programme Director,

Multilateralism remains important in our foreign policy, as the growing complexity of international interaction in almost every sphere of human life, makes it imperative for us to reconcile and harmonize the frequently conflicting interests of countries. Our vision remains that of building an African continent that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united - which contributes to a world that is just and equitable. In our participation within the multilateral system, we embrace the space in the knowledge that it affords us an opportunity to significantly contribute to the promotion and protection of multilateralism and the respect for international law.

We take particular interest in the strengthening of effective partnerships between the UN and regional organisations, in particular the African Union in the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as the intensification of our shared work. Our brief history within the multilateral system attest to the fact that we have already undertaken programmes in conflict prevention, resolution, management and post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building in African countries such as Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, the DRC and elsewhere.

Founded on October 24, 1945 among the rubbles of two devastating World Wars, the UN was established with the aim of stabilizing international relations and to give peace a more secure, global foundation.  Despite the inevitable ongoing global challenges being faced by humankind, the UN system has achieved a remarkable degree of success in so many important areas.

Among these successes that have left a lasting legacy, are: maintaining peace and security; helping to prevent nuclear proliferation; helping to provide humanitarian aid to refugees and other victims of conflict; promoting democracy, development and human rights, especially the rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups; protecting the environment; and generating and maintaining worldwide commitment in support of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)  - the goals that underpin our collective vision of a development strategy for a better, more prosperous and secure future.

Programme Director,

South Africa remains a committed participant in the multilateral system, principally because, amongst others, we seek to promote a culture of collective responsibility and collective responses in dealing with challenges of the contemporary world.  We have committed ourselves to working with other like-minded member-states towards improving the working methods of the Security Council – in order to make it a more legitimate, accountable, transparent, representative and effective international body.

Like Hammarskjöld whose views oftentimes left his audience bewildered by his honesty and desire to positively change the working of the United Nations, so does South Africa aspire to amend the rules formulated in the past by specific interest groups, whether political or institutional – because we believe some of those rules have been rendered irrelevant by the march of time. Despite the attempt by some to paint us as non-conformists, our approach is neither intended to be confrontational towards the major economic powers of the world or towards institutions of global governance. It is also not amounting to “ganging-up with the weak and poor against the powerful and rich”.

Our view instead is that, we believe that rather than complaining to ourselves, we would be better-off engaging those that hold different viewpoints and following different value-systems, no matter how unpopular our ideals may seem today. Just like Hammarskjöld’s views in the early 1950s, we believe we owe this not only to ourselves and the generations that came before us, but most importantly we owe this to the generations that will come after us, who will wonder how we were able to turn a blind eye to in-equality, unfairness and injustice.

South Africa remains ready to forge alliances with other interested nations, in a thorough analysis of these global systems and rules created over time – that we believe dis-advantage us and perpetuate inequality and unfairness. We draw our courage from what Nelson Mandela said in his Autobiography “The Long Walk to Freedom” that I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
These words of wisdom  deeply inform the honestly with which we pursue our search to find equitable solutions to the political, social, economic and security challenges that confront our modern day global environment.

Programme Director, ladies and gentlemen,

We want to believe that Dag Hammarskjöld, who passed-on seeking to find a peaceful solution to the unrest, which followed the Independence of the former Belgian Congo in 1960, will be proud to know that South Africa picked-up his baton and ensured that the Democratic Republic of Congo eventually embraced peace, despite the challenges. He will also be relieved to know that the DRC was, as we speak, busy preparing to hold its second democratic elections and that South Africa is helping her. When last year the DRC celebrated 50 years of Independence from Belgium, it was a confirmation of Dag’s work and the enduring nature of his impeccable legacy of the triumph of peaceful resolution of conflict within a multilateral framework.

In the past decade the winds of change have swept across the African continent, leaving behind an Africa that is a lot more stable than it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. For example, in the 1980s there were only four democracies, and parts of the continent took on an image of a war zone. Many countries had written off the African continent as a lost cause with little hope that it could ever rise from the ashes.

With time, a number of countries, individually and collectively, started to take initiatives aimed at creating political stability, promoting social cohesion and respect for cultural diversity. At our last count in early 2010, at least 30 African countries had acceded to the African Peer Review Mechanism. In the year 2010, we also witnessed more than 20 African countries celebrating their 50th Years of Independence from Colonialism, Apartheid and political subjugation. These are the living testimonies of the seeds that Hammarskjöld planted those 50-odd years ago.

South Africa has and will always regard the African continent as the centerpiece of its foreign policy, to which it should mobilize a significant amount of resources towards peace-making, peace-building, peace-keeping and post-conflict reconstruction. This is because our vision is that of an African continent that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.
Our view is that, our Non-Permanent Membership of the Security Council would, amongst others, present South Africa with an opportunity to promote the African agenda; promote our national priorities; and advance the maintenance of international peace and security for socio-economic development to prosper. It would also afford South Africa an opportunity to significantly contribute to the promotion and protection of multilateralism and the respect for international law; including heightening the profile of our country as a champion and agent of change towards making our continent and the world better.

This would be a continuation of South Africa’s firm resolve of strengthening effective partnerships between the UN and regional organizations, in particular the African Union in the maintenance of international peace and security. Similarly, being a member of both the UNSC and AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) presents an opportunity for South Africa to continue its efforts of bringing greater alignment to the work of the UNSC and that of the AU, especially, the AUPSC. Membership in these two organs would enhance South Africa’s resolve of strengthening effective partnerships between UN and regional organizations, in particular the African Union in the maintenance of peace and security.

We look back with appreciation at the theme of the 65th session of the General Assembly on “reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance”, which as South Africa, we felt resonated with what our global citizen, Nelson Mandela, said about this body on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, that (and I quote):
The United Nations has to reassess its role, redefine its profile and reshape its structures. It should truly reflect the diversity of our universe and ensure equity among the nations in the exercise of power within the system of international relations in general, and the Security Council, in particular”.

In closing and notwithstanding the above, our role in the Security Council during 2011 until 2012 will seek to support and take forward, some of the views, vision and values that Dag Hammarskjöld sought to pursue during his time. Our approach will be informed by and resonate with the central thrust of our foreign policy, which stands on four pillars – that is:

  • Promoting and advancing the interests of our continent, including the SADC sub-region;
  • Working with countries of the South to address challenges of underdevelopment, our marginalization in the international system, and promote equity and social justice globally;
  • Work with countries of the North to develop a true and effective partnership for a better world; and
  • Do our part to strengthen the multilateral system, including its transformation to reflect the diversity of our nations, and ensure its centrality in global governance.

Let me take this time to thank the organizers of this seminar for inviting the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to participate and learn from all the various inputs by other speakers. DIRCO remains ready to partner with our non-state actors in the exchange of views and the sharing of ideas.

I want to invite this forum to consider that the most dire regional challenges that we are confronted with is not very different from the priority focus areas that Africa’s oldest liberation movement (nearly 100 years old) the African National Congress has identified here in South Africa. These challenges are:

  • Job Creation
  • Eradicating poverty
  • Health and Education
  • Land reform and Rural Devolopment
  • Uprooting crime and corruption

It is in the measure that we address the impact of what we do on the lives of ordinary citizens, that history and future generations will judge us. In this respect the legacy of Dag Hamerskold lives on in the daily struggle to improve the quality of life of the people of Africa.

I thank you!


OR Tambo Building
Private bag X152

13 July 2011


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