Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on the implementation of Resolution 2532 (COVID-19 Pandemic), 9 September 2020

Mr President,

I thank you for convening this meeting to allow the Security Council to be informed on the implementation of Resolution 2532 (2020).

I would also like to thank the Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ms Rosemary DiCarlo; the Under Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Mr Jean-Pierre Lacroix; and the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr Mark Lowcock, for their comprehensive briefings.

South Africa notes with concern that the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, in order to focus due attention on the COVID-19 pandemic and attempts to mitigate its impacts, has not been broadly respected by parties to conflict.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an added burden to countries affected by conflict due to the numerous restrictions resulting from it, that may derail progress in achieving the necessary milestones in political processes. Regrettably, in some countries where the call for a global ceasefire was initially respected, tensions have risen once again, and the gains made in achieving political settlements are being undermined.
 
In fact, we are also concerned that some armed groups as well as terrorist groups have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to intensify their activities and launched armed attacks, including on civilians.

South Africa therefore reiterates its support for a global ceasefire and cessation of hostilities and urge parties in areas of conflict to heed this call and prioritise efforts to consolidate durable peace and stability. We also welcome and support the continued efforts and work of the Special Representatives and Special Envoys of the Secretary-General in advocating for a cessation of hostilities.

Mr President,

We commend the continued efforts of the United Nations peacekeeping missions to protect the safety and health of peacekeepers. We further welcome the swift action and mitigation measures taken by the United Nations peace missions to ensure that peacekeepers do not become a contagion factor on the ground. We also commend the efforts of peacekeeping missions to support host countries in tackling the pandemic while continuing to carry out their mandates.

Mr President,

The humanitarian situations in many countries in conflict have worsened due to the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Resolution 2532 (2020) calls for a humanitarian ceasefire in order to allow for the safe delivery of, and access to, humanitarian assistance. In this regard, we call on the parties to conflict to ensure unhindered access to humanitarian assistance in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Mr President,

We note the provisions for exemptions in the various sanctions regimes to allow access to humanitarian aid and are cognisant of the improvements to fast track applications for humanitarian exemptions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is apparent that the impact of sanctions and its resultant socio-economic effects are preventing countries to effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This is exposing already vulnerable civilians, including refugees, migrants and Internally Displaced Persons to additional difficult conditions. We therefore call on Council members to continue their efforts to improve the fast tracking of exemptions in order to enable access to humanitarian assistance.

Furthermore, the broader impact of unilateral coercive measures, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, is exacerbating the suffering of ordinary civilians. It is for this reason that South Africa reiterates its support for the Secretary-General’s call for the lifting of sanctions measures in order to allow these countries to adequately address the effects of the pandemic.

Mr President,

It is vital that the Security Council remains steadfast in its support of countries experiencing armed conflict, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also important that it continues to pursue inclusive dialogue, the implementation of political agreements and providing assistance for solutions aimed at conflict prevention, as part of its responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

In conclusion, Mr President,

The pandemic has illustrated, now more than ever, that it is imperative for countries to cooperate closely in the face of global public health and other emergencies in solidarity with one another. The continued efforts to enhance a coherent and coordinated response by the entire United Nations system to address the pandemic, remains paramount.

In this context, South Africa reiterates its strong support for the leadership role of the World Health Organisation and its Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, in dealing with the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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