Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, at the High Level Segment of the 22nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Monday, 25 February 2013, Geneva

Mr. President,
Madame High Commissioner, Ms Navi Pillay
The President of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Vuk Jeremić,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to deliver this statement on behalf of the Government and people of South Africa. My delegation congratulates you, Mr President, and members of your Bureau, on your election as office bearers of this Council.

From the inception of democracy in South Africa, human rights have been central to our foreign policy. In this context, South Africa’s foreign policy regards human rights as inherent to all human beings, irrespective of race, gender, sex, birth, marital status, ethnic origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. For South Africa, justiciable economic, social and cultural rights are inextricably linked with civil and political rights. The current Administration, led by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, has prioritised the creation of decent jobs, access to education and health care facilities, rural development and food security, among others.

Mr President,

It is critical that the Human Rights Council (HRC) is seen as an independent mechanism for the entrenchment of the human rights culture throughout the world including Africa. For this to happen, the impartiality of the Council is critical. In serving as an agency for the promotion and protection of human rights globally, the HRC must not be compromised. In conducting itself, the HRC must at all times show balance in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 60/251. In discharging its mandate, the Council should remain a credible arbiter and deal with all global human rights concerns in a balanced manner. There should be no hierarchy. Economic, social and cultural rights should be on an equal footing and be treated with the same emphasis as civil and political rights.

Mr President,

With regard to the anti-racism agenda, my Government has placed a high premium on our leadership in the work of the Council to eradicate racism in all its manifestations. Whilst we have made some progress in the fight against racism, more needs to be done in addressing contemporary manifestations of racism, which are still prevalent in many parts of the world. My delegation looks forward to continue working with this Council in pursuit of Elaborating Complementary Standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Also, as part of our work on the anti-racism agenda, we will contribute positively to the work and the success of the Decade of People of African Descent which will commence later this year.

South Africa’s commitment to fighting discrimination arises out of our own experiences and is embedded in our Constitution which includes vulnerable groups. My Government is firmly committed to the eradication of gender-based violence and the protection of the rights of the gay and lesbian community. Furthermore, the consolidation of our democracy over the last 19 years is accompanied by efforts to regenerate respect for human values.

To address the challenges faced by Women, Children and People with Disabilities, my Government established a Ministry to deal with these issues. My government has just accredited UN Women’s Regional Representative in Pretoria as further proof of its serious intent. Similarly, we have set up a National Task Team, comprising of representatives from Government and civil society, to respond to the challenges faced by the gay and lesbian community. We will continue to encourage dialogue within and outside the Council whilst respecting the views of all.

Mr President,

This Session of the Council convenes at a time when the international community still grapples with many global challenges, which include climate change, economic and financial crises, food security, poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, all of which have serious implications for the work of the Human Rights Council. The MDGs provide us with benchmarks and targets for addressing questions of poverty, disease, gender empowerment, as well as access to education and healthcare. My Government places high priority on the MDGs and has integrated them in its development plans across all sectors.

Mr President,

We remain concerned at the continued suffering of the Palestinian People. We are gravely concerned by the construction of further settlements, which would seriously undermine the possibility of the two-state solution and the viability and territorial integrity of the future Palestinian State. 

South Africa 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. South Africa urges the Council 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.

The Human Rights Council has been seized with the issue of Sri Lanka for some time now. We urge the Sri Lankan Government to speedily implement all the recommendations of the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission). We also urge the Government of Sri Lanka to engage in a process of reconciliation and speedily address the Tamil question in a credible and inclusive manner.

We deplore the senseless violence that continues unabated in Syria, from whatever side it comes.  South Africa regrets that the UN process led by Lakhdar Brahimi has been unable to find a political solution to the crisis. We urge all parties to stop the violence and enter into negotiations without preconditions.

Mr President,

The 2005 UN Reform reaffirmed that States and Non-State actors, alike, must be held responsible for human rights violations. The issue of Business and Human Rights is a thorny issue in the international human rights system, in so far as human rights violations are concerned. Within the UN, South Africa will continue to advocate for a legally binding normative framework in this area to regulate cases of human rights violations. South Africa’s Chairmanship of the Open-ended Working Group on regulatory framework on activities of Private Military Security Companies (PMSCs) is informed by all these developments.

Mr President,

As part of compliance and strengthening Human Rights, on the 31st May 2012, South Africa presented its Second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report and my Government continues to place great importance to this Mechanism and its universality of application, which remains its hallmark characteristic.

SA has also hosted more than 10 Special Procedures and Mechanisms, inclusive of regional ones. South Africa continues to recognise the need to improve its human rights obligations and the practical enjoyment of human rights of its citizens, hence this cooperation. 

Mr President,

The state of the budget of the OHCHR is of great concern to my delegation, as this has the potential to impede the valuable work of this office. We continue to advocate for the funding of OHCHR programmes from the regular budget of the United Nations, as this will eliminate politicisation of the programme of this critical Office. The earmarking of funding for certain programmes - at the expense of others - should be discouraged, as it creates disparities in the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mr President,

In conclusion, Mr President, South Africa was born of the collective effort of the global citizenry. As a product of global collective action, democratic South Africa cannot but believe in multilateral structures, particularly the UN system. At the heart of this is an effective HRC that has credibility in rising to all challenges and is funded in a manner that does not distort its mandate.
I thank you Mr President.


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