Statement by H. E. Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation at the High-Level Segment of the 28th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Tuesday, 03 March 2015, Geneva, Switzerland

Mr President,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take this opportunity, at the outset, to congratulate you, Mr. President, and the Bureau, on your election. I would also like to extend my congratulations to the new High Commissioner, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and we wish him all the success in the execution of his mandate.

Mr. President,

15 years ago, as we were ushering in the new millennium, the international community made solemn commitment to the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals. As we now embark on the intergovernmental process of defining a new Post-2015 Development Agenda, we should all be mindful that investment in the unfinished work of the Millennium Development Goals must continue. We must build on the successes of the MDGs, keeping in mind the Millennium Declaration ensuring that we once and for all eradicate poverty, create decent jobs and address income inequalities.

Therefore, it is imperative that the Human Rights Council gives priority to all human rights, ensuring a balance between civil and political, and economic, social and cultural, including the right to development. Socio-economic rights are very much the core business of this Council especially with respect to women, girls and the youth.

It is critical that the Human Rights Council (HRC) is seen as an independent mechanism for the entrenchment of a human rights culture throughout the world. 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.

Mr. President,

South Africa joins the international community in celebrating 50 years of the adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. For South Africans, 2015 also marks 60 years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter which embodies fundamental principles and values that are also enshrined in our Constitution.

The International Decade for People of African Descent, which commenced on 01 January 2015, presents us with an opportunity to reinforce these efforts. We, thus, call on all Member States to support its Programme of Activities, to ensure that the aspirations of People of African Descent and all our own aspirations to create a world free of racism are realised. To this end, South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, will continue to champion our efforts to combat the scourge of racism, and support the work of the Follow-up Mechanisms of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Mr. President,

On the 20th of March, this Council will, for the first time, be commemorating the International Day on the Elimination of Racism by having a debate on the State of Racial Discrimination Worldwide. This event coincides with the historic commemoration of the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960, which was an important landmark in the mobilisation of the international community in supporting us, the people of South Africa, in our struggle for freedom. We thank the OHCHR for highlighting the importance of this subject and invite all to re-dedicate themselves to fight all forms of racism.

Mr. President,

As we celebrate 20 years of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, while acknowledging all the important strides, we must admit that a lot more still needs to be done in ensuring empowerment and emancipation of women, including equal remuneration for equal work done.

We should also recognise the continued multiple and diverse challenges that women continue to face. Africa firmly believes that there is a direct link between emancipation and empowerment of women and poverty eradication. It is in this respect, that the AU Summit declared 2015 as the year of women’s empowerment and development towards the African Agenda 2063.

Mr President,

The consolidation of democracy in my country and the Continent continues as a foundation for the entrenchment of human rights. To this end, democratic South Africa held a successful election, which ushered in the 5th administration that is committed to solidifying the foundations of the last 20 years on human rights, paying particular emphasis on economic and socio-economic rights entrenched in the Bill of Rights and are justiciable.  Since then, successful and credible elections have been held in Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia. All these have been declared free and fair, with the latest being elections just held in Lesotho.

Mr. President,

As a nation we are committed to building a society that is diverse. The birth of a nation is never an easy task. We began the journey by removing all forms of legislative and institutionalised discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, culture and sexual orientation. South African condemns violence against women, children, the elderly and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. These attacks are despicable and they must be stopped.

In this International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the just cause of the Palestinian people and further pledge our solidarity with them and call for resolute action. We reiterate our principled and longstanding support for their right to self-determination and the achievement of their legitimate national aspirations. We continue to be appalled by the indifference of certain powers to the carnage visited on the People of Palestine, with women and children massacred before us. 

We are encouraged by the recent developments in Sri Lanka and recognise that it is only the people of Sri Lanka that can determine their destiny. The international community should stand ready to support them.

In conclusion Mr. President,

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, South Africa reiterates its belief in multilateralism and the rules-based global system of governance. South Africa also affirms its support for the work of this Council and the Office of the High Commissioner. We believe that this Council will be judged by the extent to which it makes an impact on the people on the ground.

I thank you, Mr. President.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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