Statement by Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, on the occasion of the Ministerial General Debate of the 18th Non-Aligned Movement Summit themed: “NAM Baku Summit: Upholding the Bandung Principals to ensure concerted and adequate Response to the Challenges of the Contemporary World,” 23 October 2019
I would like to start by expressing my sincere gratitude to the Government and people of the Republic of Azerbaijan for the warm reception extended to me and my delegation.
Let me also join other delegations on behalf of the Government and people of South Africa in congratulating the Republic of Azerbaijan as the Chair of 18th NAM Summit.
Our appreciation and gratitude also go to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the outgoing Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, for its commendable leadership and stewardship in having guided and strengthened our work since the 17th NAM Summit held in September 2016.
South Africa welcomes and fully subscribes to the theme of this Summit: “Upholding the Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of the contemporary world.”
The theme is both timely and apt, particularly given the current international relations climate characterised by unilateral actions undermining a coordinated approach to addressing current conflicts and crises in the world.
It is tempting to look inward for solutions to the prevailing challenges of our times, yet, what is required is more cooperation and coordination through forums such as this Movement to address shared challenges that continue to face the developing world.
Sixty-four ago, in April 1955, the leaders of 29 countries gathered in Bandung to participate in the first Asia-Africa Conference. The outcome of this landmark gathering crafted a new ethos to govern international relations known as the Bandung Spirit, which embodied the formulation of “Dasa Sila Bandung,” or the Ten Principles of Bandung – in the efforts to promote peace and cooperation in the world, including the fora of the United Nations. The Bandung Principles represent the vision for a world where “the voice of reason” could be heard on international affairs, as then President Sukarno of Indonesia put it.
The establishment of the NAM is a remarkable accomplishment. Since its initiation, the Movement has worked persistently for peaceful settlement of regional conflicts, and made tremendous efforts for the establishment of a new international political and economic order that is fair and rational.
In spite of all the efforts of the past 64 years since the adoption of the Bandung Principles, today’s world is a far cry from what the leaders of the 1st Bandung Conference envisioned. We have seen regression and push back towards our efforts to find multilateral, collective and just solutions to prevailing conflicts.
Sixty-four years on, we have avoided major international conflicts, but are witnessing a proliferation of intra-state and cross-border conflicts, as well as new emerging threats that are global in nature, causing humanitarian crises and instability in many regions, and affecting the most vulnerable, namely women and children.
South Africa, like many NAM members, remains deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Palestine. Demolitions of property, continued illegal settlement expansion and construction, forced evictions and collective punitive measures will not bring peace. Our Movement must continue to urge for a negotiated settlement to this long-standing conflict.
Our Movement must also remain seized with the issue of Western Sahara. We call on the UN Secretary-General to appoint a personal envoy on Western Sahara.
This should help give fresh impetus to the negotiation process following the resignation of the previous envoy, Mr. Horst Koehler. We firmly believe that the resolution to this long-protracted issue lies in the implementation of UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, which call for the organization of a referendum on self-determination for the Western Sahara.
NAM should reiterate the need for the Saharawi people to exercise their right to self-determination and freedom in accordance with the Bandung Principles and the United Nations Charter on the granting of independence to colonial territories and peoples, hence the urgent need for a self-determination referendum.
Furthermore, we also reiterate our steadfast solidarity with the Government and People of Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe while condemning the continuation of unilateral sanctions against these countries.
South Africa would like to take this opportunity to congratulate fellow NAM members Indonesia, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Sudan and Venezuela for being elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the term 2020-2022.
The successful candidatures and election of NAM member countries to the organs and bodies of the United Nations and other international organisations is due to the mutual support and solidarity among NAM Members.
The Movement should be repositioned to be at the centre of global governance where the needs of our people are addressed. In terms of global governance, we must continue to assert the pre-eminence of the United Nations. The UN is the only universal, credible and legitimate institution of global governance where our Movement enjoys an undisputed majority. Therefore, we must resist efforts to divide us and use us as surrogates in battles that detract us from championing the needs of our people.
The Movement should therefore redouble its efforts towards reform of the UN and its main bodies. The configuration of the Security Council is untenable in today’s world and requires urgent reform if it is to be credible and relevant.
In conclusion, Chairperson,
As we take stock of what we all have achieved under the banner of the Non-Aligned Movement, we are proud that since Bandung, NAM became a home for developing countries, as it demanded the resolution of international tensions and wars. It called for peace and disarmament, inspired by the principle of non-alignment, which is closely linked to the concept of the centrality of multilateralism.
We are grateful for the role NAM has played in the decolonisation of our continent of Africa and the struggle against apartheid in our country. NAM has brought a new appreciation to the important principle of the sovereignty of states. More than anything, NAM brought back our pride as a people, worthy enough to enjoy the rights contained in the Charter of the United Nations, which all human beings should enjoy.
I thank you.
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