Statement by Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at a Public Lecture on South Africa’s two-year non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), 05 April 2019, Durban
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to begin by thanking you for joining us today at this public lecture convened by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in collaboration with the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).
We value these interactions as they allow us an opportunity to engage with you on our foreign policy priorities. We hope that through these engagements, you would gain a better understanding of our priorities, and we in turn could benefit from you perspectives.
Our discussion today will focus on the key priorities of South Africa during our tenure as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2019-2020.
We have chosen for our tenure the theme, “Continuing the Legacy: Working for a Just and Peaceful World”. The legacy that we wish to continue is:
(i) Firstly the legacy of President Nelson Mandela whose values and commitment to peace were commemorated in 2018 during the centenary of his birth. We will thus be guided by Madiba’s legacy to contribute to peace, justice and reconciliation; and.
(ii) Secondly, the legacy we began with our work on the Council during our previous two terms, in particularly strengthening the cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations and advocating for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
The majority of the issues on the Security Council’s agenda are related to peace and security on the African Continent. Thus, our term will also present an opportunity to work towards the African Union’s goal of “Silencing the Guns” on the Continent by 2020.
South Africa will utilise its tenure on the Security Council to promote the maintenance of international peace and security by advocating for the peaceful settlement of disputes and inclusive dialogue. We will continue to encourage closer cooperation between the United Nations Security Council and other regional, sub-regional and continental organisations. Our second year (2010) at the UNSC coincides with our chair ship of the African Union and we hope to bring more effective synergy between these organisations.
In 2020 it is the twentieth anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security initiated by our neighbour Namibia. We will thus emphasise the role of women in the resolution of conflict. It is clear that the effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda directly contributes to the objective of long-term global peace and security. South Africa will also seek to ensure that a gender perspective is mainstreamed into all Security Council resolutions in line with the afore-mentioned Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security.
The United Nations Security Council was created in the aftermath of a devastating world war with the intention of containing global warfare and resolving it through dialogue rather than further conflict. While it can be argued that the Council has successfully averted another world war, conflicts persist. The Council’s agenda today is filled with many conflict situations, several of which have been raging for decades.
Millions of people all around the world live in conditions of war, instability and underdevelopment. Children go to bed hungry and destitute every day. Thousands of Palestinians, Somalis, Saharawi’s, Syrians, Yemeni and Rohingya civilians amongst others live in refugee camps with very little hope for a better life.
The actions of humankind are often at the core of much of the suffering in the world today. Protracted conflict, brutal acts of terrorism, transnational organised crime and the degradation of the environment to name a few, are largely man-made crises.
What is clear is that when countries work collectively, setting aside there narrow national interests and putting the lives of innocent civilians first, they have been able to make a positive contribution to resolving conflict and war.
Our own country, South Africa, is a case in point. Apartheid South Africa was on the agenda of the UN Security Council for a considerable period of time. But for the collective global action and international solidarity by governments and citizens across the world, including Security Council sanctions, pressure was brought to bear on the Apartheid regime. This pressure contributed immensely to the birth of democracy in South Africa. The role of the UN and the international community in the fight against Apartheid is important to recall as we celebrate 25 years of democracy this year and commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death by hanging of the anti-apartheid stalwart Solomon Mahlangu tomorrow 6 April 2019 by the apartheid regime.
The world today is unfortunately characterised by much greater levels of poverty and inequality in both the developed and developing world. This has given rise to right wing populism and narrow nationalism, increasing geopolitical divisions and the pursuit of narrow nationalist interests. There is a rise in racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, and extremism in both the developing and developed world. This has made it more difficult to respond to transnational challenges. States are interdependent and even the most powerful countries cannot achieve security, nor maintain prosperity and ensure sustainable development for their people by acting unilaterally or in isolation.
South Africa thus continues to believe that multilateralism will continue to be a key aspect of international relations and that collective action is required to mitigate the geo-political interests that threaten global sustainable development, good governance and security. A multilateral system based on international law that fosters greater interdependence and mutual cooperation is the only way in which we can successfully address these difficulties.
Despite our criticism of the current archaic UNSC system which was designed more than seven decades ago we have remained committed to the United Nations and its ideals. We believe that whilst the composition of the permanent members of the UNSC must change to reflect the current global governance realities and changes we will continue to participate within the UN system and continue to agitate for change from within. This is why we chose to put our name forward to be elected on the UN Security Council. As civil society we call on you to partner with us in pushing for the necessary changes in order to ensure that the UN in general and the UNSC in particular begins to reflect the developing world and countries of the South more equitably.
We are grateful for the confidence that the international community has shown in our candidature for the Security Council. We were endorsed by our sub-region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as our continental body, the African Union (AU), before being overwhelmingly elected by the UN General Assembly to serve as an elected member of the Security Council.
As we commence our term on the Security Council, we are cognisant that elected members of the Council face a distinct disadvantage. This is because we join an organ of the United Nations, which comprises five permanent members that have been on the Council for over 70 years and who have the right to a veto. Against this background in November 2018, South Africa and Sweden hosted an unprecedented meeting of elected members of the Council in Pretoria to discuss mutual cooperation and better coordination. This meeting recognised that in the face of growing divisions amongst the permanent members, elected members have a crucial role to play to ensure that the Council is able to fulfil its mandate.
Our term on the Security Council also presents an opportunity for South Africa to continue to advocate for the improvement of the working methods and the comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including the reform and expansion of the Council.
We have just begun the 4th month of our current term on the Council. In this brief time, the Security Council has met almost daily to address a myriad of issues that have been deemed threats to international peace and security. These include the situations in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Yemen, Syria and Palestine.
As a member of the Council, South Africa participated in all these deliberations advancing the values of our Constitution and our Foreign Policy imperatives.
I wish to touch on a few issues that have dominated discussions in the Council since we took up our seat.
The matter of the DRC was one of the first and most important issues considered by South Africa on the Council during January 2019, following the holding of elections on 30 December 2018. South Africa was among those Council members that resisted any attempt by some members of the Security Council to prejudge the outcome of the election. South Africa supported the completion of the internal processes and the right to self-determination of the people of the DRC. We also welcomed the peaceful outcome and the conduct of the election given the challenges on the ground.
Last Friday, South Africa voted in favor of the Security Council resolution renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping Mission, known as MONUSCO. In our view, the renewal of the MONUSCO mandate is a significant undertaking by the Security Council in supporting the Government of the DRC in addressing the security challenges particularly in the eastern part of the country. The development and prosperity of the DRC is not only paramount for the DRC, but for the region and the continent at large.
Regarding the recent events in Venezuela, South Africa has maintained its principled position of calling on countries and regional groups not to interfere in the internal processes of a sovereign state or to be used as a tool for unconstitutional regime change of an elected government. South Africa emphasizes the need for political dialogue and to address the dire humanitarian situation on the ground. South Africa’s approach to Venezuela is premised on support for inclusive political dialogue to resolve the political crisis in the country, and to support any legitimate efforts to provide humanitarian support to alleviate the hardships experienced by the people of Venezuela.
On the issue of Palestine, South Africa has reiterated our grave concern about the continued disregard for the prevailing and long standing Middle East Peace Process and attempts to prejudge final status issues particularly with regard to the borders, and the status of Jerusalem through unilateral actions.
On Syria, South Africa has encourages dialogue, and has consistently called upon the parties to pursue a political solution, and support a political settlement of the Syrian issue. South Africa thus believes that the only sustainable solution to the Syrian question remains the achievement of a political solution through an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue aimed at achieving a political transition reflective of the will of the Syrian people with guaranteed protection for all groups in Syrian society.
During the month of April, the Security Council will be considering the renewal of the UN Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO). As you may be aware, South Africa recently successfully hosted the SADC Heads of States Solidarity Conference with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. We reiterated our commitment, for a just, acceptable and lasting solution to the situation in Western Sahara. This solution should meet the aspirations and will of the people of Western Sahara so that they may be able to realize their right to self-determination. In this regard, we will call on the Security Council to extend the mandate of MINURSO and to include as part of this mandate a human rights monitoring component. We fully support the political dialogue facilitated by the UN Special Envoy, Horst Kohler and urge the Kingdom of Morocco and the POLISARIO Front to engage faithfully in this process without preconditions.
I wish to conclude by reiterating that we look forward to working with all members of the Security Council in unity and solidarity in achieving global peace and security and ultimately a better life for all of humanity. We are ready to be part of those committed to shaping a better, more peaceful, prosperous and just world through multilateral cooperation that is based on international law.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
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