Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Video Teleconference (VTC) Security Council Meeting on Peace Operations and Human Rights, 7 July 2020

Mr President,

The Minister of Defence of Germany, HE Ms Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, it is an honour to have you, your Excellency Chair this debate. We view this debate as important not only due to its focus, but also because it is the first time that the Council discuss the topic of Peace operations and Human Rights under the agenda item Peacekeeping.

Mr President,

My delegation is grateful for the briefings received from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, Mr David Shearer; as well as civil society representative, Mr Senga Dismas Kitenge, President Groupe LOTUS based in Kisangani, DRC.

Mr President,

Our deliberations today are taking place at a time when the world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted all of us, irrespective of our levels of development and whether we are experiencing conflict or not. However, countries in conflict, where UN peacekeeping operations or Special Political Missions have a presence, would require additional support to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the population’s human rights as well as political and socio-economic rights.

Mr President,

The inclusion of human rights elements in numerous mission mandates established by the Council reflects its general acceptance of the relevance of human rights to peace and security efforts.

South Africa notes with concern that the subject of these human rights elements has not escaped the political dynamics of the Security Council as it continues to be politicised and applied selectively. While some members of the Security Council advocate for the importance of the human rights component in Peacekeeping Missions, it is regrettable that the same vigour and enthusiasm is conspicuously absent in other Missions, such as the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

Mr President,

We must not put ourselves on the wrong side of history by allowing our narrow interests to trample over the interest of the majority of world citizens this Council is mandated to serve, particularly those in conflict during this global crisis. The Council should commit to implement protection of civilians mandates of peacekeeping missions, when required, in accordance with the UN Charter, mission mandates, and applicable international law without fear, favour or prejudice.

Mr President,

In line with the principles under the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P), an initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General to refocus peacekeeping with more targeted mandates; make peacekeeping operations stronger and safer as well as mobilise support for political solutions and better equipped and trained forces, South Africa wishes to highlight that the pursuit of sustainable political solutions should guide the design and deployment of UN peacekeeping operations. The lasting progress in strengthening security, national reconciliation, the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development needs to occur in parallel.

Mr President,

Indeed, the host country bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians. In this regard we wish to stress the contribution that peacekeeping operations, where mandated, can make to international efforts to protect civilians and to promote and protect human rights. The protection of women and children as the most vulnerable in these contexts is paramount. Such protection can be enhanced through the involvement of women and girls to the peace-building process which remains undervalued and under-resourced, leaving a vital tool regarding transformative change and sustainable peace underutilised.

Mr President,

The inclusion, training and support to the seven missions with women protection advisers responsible for monitoring, analysing and reporting on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) including in UNMISS, MINUSCA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, UNAMID, UNSOM and UNSMIL is a step in the right direction.

The creation of gender units in nine Peacekeeping Operations within the leadership team to ensure that women’s rights and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda are mainstreamed into all mission activities is a welcome progress as we mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark 1325 Resolution and Beijing + 25. 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.

Mr President,

Peacekeeping operations is mandated to monitor and report, however if human rights violations fall outside of the scope of the protection of civilians, it may be difficult for Peace Operations to intervene; without the appropriate mandate. Sharing of best practices and lessons learnt amongst Council members is important and the experiences of the major TCC/PCC about integrating human rights aspects of the mandates into the work of an operation on the ground is crucial.

In conclusion, Mr President, South Africa wishes to highlight the positive contributions Special Political Missions and Peace Operations can make in their peacebuilding mandates in sharing expertise in building institutions responsible for the promotion of human rights in collaboration with host countries. This approach can go a long way in peacebuilding and peace sustenance efforts including in promoting human rights when working in tandem with national authorities and civil society including grass roots community-based organisations.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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