Address by Deputy Minister Alvin Botes to the Ambassadors of the African Group of the UN Human Rights Council, 25 February 2020, Geneva

Your Excellency Chair of the African Group, the Ambassador of Congo-Brazzaville,
Your Excellency the Ambassador of the African Union,
Your Excellency the Coordinator of the African Group, the Ambassador of Burkina Faso,
Excellencies and Distinguished Representatives here present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Permit me to express my appreciation to you for the warm reception accorded to me here this morning and for the opportunity to address you following South Africa’s assumption of the Chairpersonship of our august continental Organisation, the African Union (AU). Allow me the reiterate South Africa’s appreciation for honouring us with this important responsibility.

I take this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to Egypt for the manner in which it discharged its responsibilities to the continent in the same position last year, and congratulate the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for being elected to Chair the AU in 2021. South Africa is committed to supporting all members of the AU as we work to advance the African Agenda. We also pledge our support to Burkina Faso in effecting coordination to cohere our efforts.

Chairperson,

Our Chairship of the African Union coincides with the 30th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. We are therefore mindful of the sacrifices the continent made for our freedom, and wish to renew our commitment to a foreign policy based on the respect for, promotion, protection and practical enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The human rights our people enjoy they too wish for all Africans.

It is for this reason that South Africa has therefore prioritised the following issues during its Chairship:

(a) supporting the African economic integration through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA);

(b) Infrastructure development;

(c) Promoting gender equality and women empowerment through women economic and financial inclusion, elimination of gender based violence, and promoting the participation of women in peace and security;

(d) Promotion of democracy and good governance through the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM);

(e) Promotion of peace and security in Africa by silencing the guns; and

(f) deepening collaboration between the African Union and the United Nation.

As far as the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment is concerned, we are taking concrete measures in addressing the plight of women by strengthening institutions and accountability to ensure their full and effective participation in the continent. South Africa has also committed to prioritise the development of an AU Protocol on Violence against Women. We maintain that the next legal instrument guiding African nations on women empowerment should prioritise amongst others the financial and economic inclusion of women, and closing the wage gap through equal pay for work of equal value.

Chairperson,

South Africa is heartened by the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement and firmly believes that it holds tremendous potential for the economic development of our continent. We congratulate Ghana as the new home of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat and call on delegations to support this important common effort we are embarking upon.

South Africa is of the view that a united and well-coordinated African Group here in Geneva can best defend and support the decisions and processes of the African Union.

Chairperson,

Human rights in Africa are intertwined with conflict resolution. This is essential if we are to advance all human rights of our people, build prosperity for all Africans and meet their basic needs.

It may be recalled that the Group prepared the mandates of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), and the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance are up for renewal. We request the full weight of the Group behind the resolutions during this session of the Council.

We request you to support our proposed initiative of a high-level meeting on the margins of the 76th Session of the General Assembly to review progress made since the 2001 WCAR and chart a way forward.

Chairperson,

In closing, as we marshal our efforts to silence the guns and promote and protect the human rights of all Africans, I wish you as the African Group fruitful deliberations and much success in the year ahead.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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