Statement by Ambassador JM Matjila Director-General, DIRCO and BRICS Sherpa BRICS Foreign / International Relations Ministers’ Meeting on the margins of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA70), New York, 29 September 2015, 16h00-17h00
I would like to convey our warm appreciation to our host and Chairperson for today’s meeting, in respect of the excellent preparatory arrangements that have been undertaken as well as the customary hospitality shown to us.
We meet at a crucial point in our common efforts to ensure a more equitable world order that is better able to address the development needs and challenges of our respective peoples. During this 70th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, we have adopted Agenda 2030 setting out the Sustainable Development Goals and targets. Two weeks ago, the General Assembly also adopted a negotiating text for United Nations Security Council Reforms. In Africa, we have adopted Agenda 2063 and its first 10 Year Action Plan. These developments all provide a sound basis for our work going forward. In this regard, we thank the BRICS members for supporting us in our role as Chair of G77 plus China.
It is of vital importance that we have an inclusive, transparent and representative multilateral system in order to better address the urgent global challenges of sustainable development today, recognizing the universality and central role of the United Nations, and reaffirming our commitment to promote and strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations system. It is in this context that we call for continued efforts to reform the United Nations, including the revitalization of the General Assembly and a comprehensive reform of the Security Council, which correspond to the collective interests of developing countries. South Africa prioritises the transformation of the system of global governance to make the system more responsive to the needs of the developing countries and ensure fair representation in global governance structures.
In this regard, Honourable Ministers, South Africa would like to thank BRICS members for supporting the position that Africa deserves to be in a reformed and expanded UN Security Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories.
South Africa welcomes the outcome document of the post-2015 development agenda. We are particularly pleased that the outcome document recognises that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. It is good also that BRICS ensured that the unfinished business of the MDGs was carried forward into the SDGs to ensure a continuum of development. We are pleased further that the outcome document recognises the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities. For developing countries, it is important that our different national realities, capacities and levels of development, as well as respect for our national policies and priorities are taken into consideration.
In terms of the upcoming climate change talks under the COP21, the mandate from Durban is to adopt an internationally legally binding instrument under the UNFCCC. We therefore require a multilaterally agreed and rules-based approach to climate change covering the post-2020 period that is applicable to all. While the precise legal form of the agreement has yet to be decided, it is important to emphasize that a mere political agreement amongst the so-called “major economies”, or one that foresees nationally determined actions alone, would be unacceptable to South Africa and in our view to other developing countries. As BRICS, we need to work out the correct sequencing in Paris, particularly to reflect on the timing of the Heads of State involvement in the process, as well as their role.
In an environment of volatility in financial markets, declining commodity prices and rising downside risks to the global economic outlook, South Africa is committed to working together with our BRICS partners, in particular in the context of preparations for the forthcoming G20 Summit, to ensure strong collective policy action to raise growth, mitigate risks inherent in the current global and financial situation and to promote the sustained growth and resilience of the global economy.
We are particularly mindful of continuing sluggish global growth, reflecting a further slowdown in the economies of many developing countries and a weaker than expected recovery in developed country economies. It is therefore very important that, as BRICS countries, we work together to leverage our participation in the G20 to promote the economic interests of emerging market and developing countries. This is especially important for Africa. We should also work more proactively together to make use of the high-level platform provided by the G20 to influence the global economic agenda and to advance global economic and financial governance reforms.
In terms of intra-BRICS cooperation, we wish to extend our warm appreciation to our Russian Chair for its vigorous implementation of the Ufa Action Plan. We can confirm that our relevant Ministers will attend the meetings of Industry, Migration, Communications and Energy, amongst others. We look forward to hosting the Heads of the Competition Authorities in Durban in November.
Furthermore, we are working on seconding and nominating interim experts to the New Development Bank to assist with its operationalization requirements in areas where we have comparative expertise, notably in the legal, strategic and financial fields. We are also advancing on the establishment of the African Regional Centre, having already identified its temporary location. Following Cabinet’s recent endorsement of the selection of a permanent domicile, a roadmap and the related modalities are being finalised in this regard. A team, under guidance from our Cabinet, is currently working towards finalising our first project proposals for consideration by the NDB. We are very excited that these institutions will in the near future become a clear demonstration of our common BRICS resolve to address our own developmental needs.
Our relevant authorities are also preparing our input to the proposed Road Map for the Strategy for a BRICS Economic Partnership. We are very pleased that our BRICS Business Council as well as business communities will partner with our Governments, to ensure that we launch exciting joint ventures going forward. From a South African and African perspective, projects that will support our continental and regional infrastructure and industrialization objectives are key priorities.
Looking at global and regional political issues, there can be no lasting peace in the Middle East region as long as Palestinians are denied their inalienable right to a state of their own. The UN Security Council, as the custodian of world peace, must rise to the occasion and assume ownership of this peace process. Parties to the conflict must be urged to return to the negotiating table without any pre-conditions and engage in genuine dialogue. The issues that have proved to be stumbling blocks need to be addressed and could include the immediate halt to settlement construction, the immediate lifting of the blockade on Gaza, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and the full recognition of the borders existing on 4 June 1967. These issues must be elevated and resolved as a matter of priority. As friends of Palestine, we must further urge Palestinians to form a cohesive collective solidarity front for negotiations and set aside their differences.
We welcome the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached in the Iran nuclear talks. We further welcome the announcement that the IAEA and Iran have concluded a roadmap to resolve outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme by the end of the year.
In respect of Syria, dialogue remains the only option to end the violence there. In our approach to Syria, we must draw lessons from Iraq and Libya, which is why President Zuma has categorically stated that support for those that seek to effect regime change in Syria, including non-state actors and terrorist organisations, is unacceptable. It is also why we say that the arming of various groups by foreign powers is dangerous, particularly when no inventory of weapons is kept. Lastly, we must campaign to preserve institutions of governance to avoid chaos, including mass migration, and the creation of a lawless vacuum to be occupied by terrorists. Wanton acts of terror have forced thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in neighbouring and other countries. We urge European countries to welcome these refugees, and call on the world community to provide humanitarian assistance to the refugees and internally displaced Syrians.
In respect of the recruitment and radicalisation of particularly young people to take part in acts of terror, particularly by ISIS, our country remains vigilant, although the numbers in South Africa are low compared to what has been witnessed in Europe. A comprehensive and holistic approach is the only way to deal with this growing threat. In this regard, the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly, provides a comprehensive framework in guiding our efforts.
In respect of Ukraine, all Parties agree that the Minsk Agreement should be fully implemented, which is a UN Security Council endorsed resolution.
In Africa, it may be recalled that President Zuma has requested support for the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises from our BRICS partners and this initiative has to be operationalised. South Africa, on behalf of the SADC region, has offered to host the AMANI AFRICA II Field Training Exercise next month. This will bring into operation, the African Standby Force as one of the pillars of the African Peace and Security Architecture. I am aware that a meeting on peacekeeping will be hosted by our Chair and we will ensure that our relevant experts participate to further discuss modalities for cooperation. We thank China for the pledge of US$ 100 million announced by President Xi to assist Africa’s capacity to respond to crises.
With regards to cybercrime, South Africa is of the view that there is a void created by the lack of an international instrument dealing with this. It is no longer prudent to think that bilateral, technical cooperation agreements alone will eradicate crimes committed online. Furthermore, the lacklustre approach towards this challenge is a further impediment to finding a global solution. Regarding the Budapest Convention, South Africa agrees that this Convention can be useful in elaborating an international instrument at the UN. At the regional level, the African Union also has an instrument; the AU Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection. Both these conventions have their merits and can be utilised to elaborate an effective international instrument that can be accessed and owned by Member States equally. It is in this context that South Africa advocates for an international, legally binding instrument on cybercrime. Our colleagues, the BRICS National Security Advisors remain seized with these issues, as appropriate.
In conclusion Chair, we take note with appreciation of Prime Minister Modi’s statement at the Ufa Summit where he proposed initiatives such as strengthening our gender focus, creating a BRICS agricultural research centre, addressing fresh water supply, strengthening our sporting ties, and hosting a BRICS film festival. We eagerly anticipate the briefing from India on the preparations for the 8th Summit, as well as the new areas for cooperation that the incoming Chair will further develop.
I thank you.
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