Media Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor on South Africa’s Presidency of the United Nations Security Council, 18 November 2019
Members of the Media,
Welcome to this briefing in which we will provide an overview of the outcomes of South Africa’s Presidency of the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC) in October and the progress achieved in our thematic areas.
The theme we had chosen for our term on the Council, is “Continuing the Legacy: Working for a Just and Peaceful World”.
The focus was on conflicts in Africa; Cooperation between the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN); the question of Palestine and advancing the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.
The UNSC had over 80 agenda items in October. This included the following: a debate on Peace and Security in Africa: Mobilising the youth towards silencing the guns by 2020; a debate on Peace and Security in Africa: the centrality of preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and resolution; the Security Council field visit to Juba, South Sudan; and the Joint Consultative Meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Most of the Council’s programme of work is pre-determined and based on reporting cycles of various peacekeeping missions, special political missions and mandate renewals. The Security Council discussed the UN peacekeeping efforts in Abyei (Sudan/South Sudan), the Central African Republic, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel/Syria, Kosovo, Mali, and Western Sahara. The Council adopted resolutions renewing the mandates of the UN Missions in Abyei (Sudan-South Sudan), Western Sahara and in Darfur as well as authorisation for intercepting vessels suspected of migrant smuggling off the Libyan coast.
Other country specific situations discussed were Burundi, the Great Lakes region, Colombia, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. South Africa also hosted and participated in side-events during the Women, Peace and Security Week, focussing on advancing the protection and promotion of women during conflicts and the role of women as peacekeepers. Minister Mapisa-Nqakula and I participated in these meetings.
The main deliverable we sought and achieved during South Africa’s Presidency of the Security Council was the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2493 on Women, Peace and Security. The unanimity of the resolution was important as it served to rebuild consensus in the Council on WPS agenda. The WPS agenda, and especially its recommendations on the human rights of women, has been challenged by many delegations over the last few years. The fact that South Africa as the pen-holder for Resolution 2493, steered through a strong consensus-based resolution strengthens the potential for increased accountability by member states for the implementation of all the resolutions that make up the WPS agenda.
Resolution 2493 recognises that as we approach the 20th anniversary of the landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), there are gaps in the implementation of the commitments to protect and advance the rights of women in situations of armed conflict. Women continue to be marginalised in peace processes even though they are the most affected by the devastating consequences of conflict. Resolution 2493, emphasises the implementation of all previous UNSC resolutions to ensure that member states commit to redoubling their efforts to advance the WPS agenda. The Resolution encourages regional organisations to consider convening meetings in the lead up to the 20th commemoration of resolution 1325 with the participation of governments, relevant stakeholders and civil society to review the implementation of the WPS agenda in their respective regions. The Resolution strongly encourages Member States to create safe and enabling environments for civil society organisations that protect and promote human rights, to carry out their work independently and without interference. The Resolution also calls for a report on the progress and setbacks in the WPS agenda and proposes recommendations to address new and emerging challenges.
The adoption of Resolution 2493 was followed by an open debate on the WPS agenda.
The theme of the debate was: “Towards the successful implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Moving from commitments to accomplishments in preparation for the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325”. I chaired the meeting.
The debate which supported the intent and content of Resolution 2493 and included statements and interventions from women from countries in conflict stressed the need to make progress on the full and meaningful participation of women in mediation, negotiations, peace talks, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. The need to ensure sexual and reproductive health rights for women and girls who are victims and survivors of sexual violence was also emphasised. Many interventions highlighted the important role of civil society, in particular women’s organisations in implementing the WPS. Overall Member States, regional organisations and sub-regional organisations were encouraged to continue developing well-budgeted action plans to implement the WPS agenda.
Other Key UNSC Meetings and Initiatives by South Africa
a. Debate on Peace and Security in Africa: Mobilising the youth towards silencing the guns by 2020
On 2 October, the Security Council held a debate on Peace and Security in Africa: Mobilising the youth towards silencing the guns by 2020. The debate focused on the positive role played by African youth in peace processes. Notably, Aye Chebbi, the AU’s Youth Envoy recognised the need to draw on the positive role of the youth in peace processes to avoid them being susceptible to participation in negative activities. South Africa stressed the importance of focussing on the positive role the youth could play, and also emphasised the need to address the socio-economic conditions underpinning violent conflict and creating opportunities for youth concerning employment and participation in mediation efforts and peacebuilding.
b. Debate on the centrality of preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and resolution in the context of peace and security
On 7 October, the UNSC held a debate on Peace and Security in Africa: the centrality of preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and resolution in the context of peace and security.
The debate highlighted that support from the UN and its regional partners in Africa is crucial to addressing the root causes of conflict and galvanising locally initiated and owned peace efforts. The overall focus of the debate was on the importance of prioritising the peaceful settlement of disputes and on deploying preventive diplomacy tools at the disposal of the Council such as the Good Offices of the Secretary-General.
c. Annual Joint Consultative meeting between the UNSC and the AU Peace and
South Africa led the UNSC delegation to Addis Ababa for the 13th Annual Joint Consultative Meeting between the members of the UNSC and AUPSC as well as the 4th Informal Seminar between the two Councils from 21-23 October 2019. The 4th Informal Seminar discussed the Silencing the Guns in Africa objective and modalities for conducting joint field missions in Africa. The Consultative meeting considered the situations in Libya, South Sudan, and the implementation of the Central African Republic (CAR) Political Agreement. Both the formal and informal meetings are meant to strengthen cooperation and build synergies on approaches to address issues on the agenda of both Councils.
d. UNSC Visit to Juba
Due to the UNSC visit to Addis Ababa, South Africa proposed, undertaking a field visit to Juba, South Sudan on 20 October. The visit was co-led by South Africa and the United States (the lead-country in the UNSC on South Sudan). The purpose of the visit was to primarily demonstrate the UNSC’s support for the peace process in South Sudan and to urge parties to the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) to resolve outstanding issues to allow for the peaceful formation of a Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity by the 12 November 2019 deadline for completing the pre-transition period of the R-ARCSS.
Council members expressed their support for the revitalised peace process. They indicated that the outstanding issues should not halt progress and called on President Kiir to redouble his efforts and show leadership in addressing all outstanding issues. They implored him to reach out to the opposition, and find compromises in addressing the issues of unification of forces and other pending matters.
Scheduled UNSC Meetings Utilised by South Africa to advance its priorities
i. Middle East, including the question of Palestine
The Security Council held its quarterly briefing on the Middle East, including the question of Palestine on 28 October. South Africa chaired the meeting. The Council was, inter-alia, briefed about continued violations of international law by Israel as it continues expanding its illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, thereby diminishing prospects for final status negotiations, which should result in a two-state solution in accordance with UN resolutions.
South Africa reaffirmed that unless the occupation of Palestine and the resultant conflicts that arise out of the occupation are justly resolved, then sustainable peace in the Middle East will be difficult. Our statement also underscored the fact that conflict that arises due to the occupation of Palestinian territories are asymmetrical with power and control skewed to the Israeli government and its security forces. The asymmetrical nature of the conflict that arises out of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories means that we have to place more responsibility on the Israeli government to end the occupation in accordance with international law, including numerous Security Council resolutions to this effect.
ii. Cooperation between the United Nations and regional organisations (UN-AU
On 30 October, the Security Council held a briefing on the cooperation between the UN and regional organisations with particular focus on UN-AU Partnership. Minister Mapisa-Nqakula presided over the meeting.
Council members reaffirmed the importance of the partnership between the UN and the AU in conflict prevention, management, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. It was noted that the coordination between the two organisations on peace and security matters has resulted in positive returns in recent months in respect to the Peace Agreement which was brokered in the CAR between the Government and 14 armed groups; the successful facilitation of the Transitional Government in Khartoum; and a common understanding on the way forward in South Sudan regarding the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity. All members expressed support for sustainable, predictable, and flexible funding for AU-led peace support operations authorised by the Security Council. Some members of the Security Council, including the US and the UK underscored the need for certain conditions to be met before UN assessed contributions can be utilised to support AU-led peace support operations.
iii. United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
On 30 October, the Security Council adopted resolution 2494 extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by 12 months until 30 October 2020. The resolution was adopted by 13 votes for and 2 abstentions. South Africa and Russia abstained, as we did in April 2019, as we were of the view that the text of the resolution was not balanced and fundamental principles of the UN Charter, such as impartiality of the UNSC and self-determination were being undermined with qualifiers such as “realistic” and “compromise”. In addition, South Africa raised concerns about the negotiation process, which is different from other resolutions in that the Group of Friends, made up of five countries, (US, UK, Russia, Spain, France) and not the entire UNSC membership negotiates the MINURSO resolution before it is presented to the Council, virtually as a fait accompli.
WPS Week Side-Events
1. Advancement of an Inclusive, Sustainable and Transformative Peace and Security Agenda: Women in Peacekeeping
On 28 October, South Africa hosted a side event entitled “The Advancement of an Inclusive, Sustainable and Transformative Peace and Security Agenda: Women in Peacekeeping”, which was co-sponsored by Canada, Ghana, Namibia, Norway and Tanzania. The event was chaired by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
2. Twenty years of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Delivering on Implementation
On 29 October, South Africa, the AU and UN Women co-hosted an event themed “Twenty years of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Delivering on Implementation”. The focus was on the strides made by the AU, particularly its success in encouraging African countries to adopt National Action Plans, it’s Continental Results Framework on implementing the WPS Agenda, and the joint solidarity missions it has undertaken with the UN to countries affected by conflict.
3. 10-year anniversary of the establishment of the mandate of sexual violence in conflict
On 30 October, South Africa co-hosted with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the mandate of this Office. I delivered opening remarks at the event and also participated in a media stakeout.
The event provided a platform for victims and survivors of sexual violence in conflict to share their experiences and to also make recommendations, which included a request to countries to strengthen their justice mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable, and for social, medical and legal assistance to be provided to survivors. Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence was launched during the event to assist with the rehabilitation and reintegration of survivors in their communities. South Africa’s team in New York supported by DIRCO Multilateral successfully implemented a very packed agenda as president of UNSC – I wish to congratulate all of them.
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