United Nations

Office in South Africa
Metropark Building
351 Francis Baard Street
PRETORIA
0001
Tel: (012) 354 8025
Website: www.un.org.za

HISTORY AND PRESENT STATUS

South Africa was one of the original 51 founding members of the United Nations (UN), which came into existence on 24 October 1945 (United Nations Day is celebrated annually on 24 October).

The UN was established to end human suffering through the prevention of war, the promotion of human rights and the advancement of socio-economic development.  The Charter of the United Nations and the UN as the only universal inter-governmental organisation, remains the cornerstone of the rules-based international system. Since its inception, the membership of the organisation has grown to 193 States.

The UN General Assembly decided on 12 November 1974 to suspend South Africa due to international opposition to the policy of apartheid.

During the late seventies and early eighties UN Security Council sanctions were instituted against South Africa and it was barred from officially participating in almost all United Nations related bodies. Financial support was also given by the United Nations to national liberation movements. Both the PAC and ANC obtained observer Missions at the UN with UN financial support.

The democratic elections in South Africa on 27 April 1994 paved the way for the complete normalisation of South Africa's relations with the UN. Since then South Africa has participated actively in all aspects of the work of the organisation.

As a UN Member State, South Africa has demonstrated its commitment to multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations in the system of global governance. South Africa has consistently proposed steps towards a stronger and more effective United Nations, including enhancing its role, within the limitations of the Charter in the maintenance of international peace and security, promotion of human rights and the emphasis on sustainable development. 

In addition, South Africa has been actively involved in the reform processes of the United Nations, especially the UN Security Council. After 75 years of existence, the United Nations has made a number of strides in terms of reforms. However, the reform of the Security Council still remains elusive. South Africa has called for the urgent and comprehensive reform of the Security Council.

South Africa has also played a leading role in the negotiations  and eventual adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, amongst other key international instruments.

In recognition of the late President Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom, South Africa tabled a resolution in the UN General Assembly on 10 November 2009, declaring 18 July "Nelson Mandela International Day". Since then, the UN and the international community have continued to annually observe 18 July by dedicating time in community service in memory of the life’s work of Nelson Mandela.

To mark the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, South Africa in conjunction  with the UN, convened a Nelson Mandela Peace Summit in September 2018, which adopted the Nelson Mandela Decade for Peace (2019-2028) as a contribution to the strengthening of multilateralism and to advance the values and principles of Nelson Mandela, as well as those of the Charter of the United Nations.

South Africa is currently serving a third term as an elected member of the UN Security Council for the period 2019-2020. The theme for South Africa’s term is: “Continuing the Legacy: Working for a Just and Peaceful World,” which resonates with the legacy of President Nelson Mandela whose values and commitment to peace were commemorated in 2018 during the centenary of his birth. The theme also reflects the intention to build on the legacy of South Africa’s first two terms on the Council (in 2007-2008 and 2011-2012).

Since assuming its seat on 1 January 2019, South Africa has been using 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. In this regard, South Africa has endeavoured to play a leading role on African issues discussed by the Security Council, as well as actively engaging on issues outside the continent, including the possibility of playing a bridge-builder role. South Africa continues to encourage closer cooperation between the Security Council and other regional and sub-regional organisations, particularly the African Union. South Africa further emphasises the role of women and youth in the resolution of conflict and has been active in promoting the women, peace and security agenda.

Also see the United Nations web site: www.un.org

RELEVANT TREATIES AND PROTOCOLS

Please contact the Department's Treaty Section, located in the Chief Directorate: Legal Affairs.

GENERAL COMMENTS

Since 1994, South Africa took up its responsibilities as an active member of the UN and sought to participate in all aspects of the UN, including by serving in its principal organs. The principles that motivate South Africa’s action derive from a firm belief in multilateralism – especially a global governance system that is fair, equitable and representative; the promotion of peace and security through global disarmament, the pacific settlement of disputes and the promotion of good governance; the promotion of human rights; and the fight against poverty through the promotion of sustainable development. South Africa believes that a purposive system of multilateralism is necessary to deal with contemporary global challenges.

The General Debate, which takes place during the opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in September each year, is one of the most important fora available to Heads of State and Government to address issues of international, regional and national significance. The delegations of Member States typically pursue the priorities and policies enunciated during the General Debate throughout the rest of the Session.

South Africa has attended all the UNGA sessions at Head of Government and Ministerial level since 1994 and used the opportunity to provide an assessment of the current global and continental peace, security and development challenges, as well as to lay out South Africa’s vision for a peaceful, just and prosperous Africa and world.

South Africa continues to partner with the UN in addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment through the implementation of the SDGs. South Africa’s National Development Plan is aimed at achieving the SDGs and complements South Africa’s efforts to support peace, development and security on the continent and the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

One of the tangible expressions of South Africa's support for the United Nations is its policy of paying its assessed contributions to the UN in full, on time and without preconditions.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa