Statement by Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the High-Level Commemorative Meeting to Mark the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement, 12 October 2021
HE Mr Aleksander Vučić, President of the Republic of Serbia and co-host of this commemorative meeting,
HE Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement,
I wish to express my delegation’s sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Serbia, for hosting this High-Level Commemorative Meeting to mark the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the hospitality extended to me and my delegation since our arrival in this beautiful city of Belgrade.
We would like to express our appreciation to the Chair of our Movement, Azerbaijan, for the excellent work they continue to carry out – of coordinating and steering the activities of this glorious Movement.
We are indeed honoured that we are able to meet here in Belgrade, where the first Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement took place, and to commemorate the milestone of 60 years of the illustrious existence of this gigantic Movement.
Excellencies not have a permanent secretariat, the administrative responsibility of capturing all the documents and statements delivered at NAM Summits have rested on the Chairs of NAM. Since 1961, there have been 18 Chairs with Uganda taking over as the 19th Chair of NAM in 2023. South Africa would like to propose that a single website be created where all NAM documents since 1961 could be found. In the age of digitisation of information, this is important that the history of this Movement not be lost. This could be maintained and run by each chair in office,
South Africa was not part of the NAM at its creation. However the movement was instrumental in galvanising international solidarity against the racist Apartheid regime. Shortly after South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994, we had the privilege of chairing the Movement and participation in the work of the NAM remains a key priority of our foreign policy.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the African Union’s (AU) Constitutive Act. The commemoration reflected on the key factors that facilitated the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) founded in 1963 to the AU established in 2002 as its successor.
You will recall the role that Africans played in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, and its existence over the years.
This provides us with an opportunity as we commemorate 60 years of NAM’s existence, to locate, in the same context, the struggles of the African people for decolonisation, economic independence and sustainable development.
The world has changed since Marshall Tito, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Jawaharlal Nehru, Ahmed Sukarno and Kwame Nkrumah, first met to reflect on issues of international relations, peace and security, conflicts and development.
We are here today presented with an opportunity to look back and reflect on our common achievements of the past 60 years and agree on a shared vision of the Movement’s role for the next 60 years.
One of the most critical questions that have been raised, concerns the relevance of NAM in today’s globalised world.
This Movement was formed at the height of the Cold War, and adopted the important principle of non-alignment.
It is NAM that brought the concept of non-alignment closer to the concept of the centrality of multilateralism. Made up of 25 countries at its formation, it has today grown to 120 members.
As we take stock of what we all have achieved under the banner of the Non-Aligned Movement, we are proud that since Bandung, NAM became a home for developing countries, as it demanded the resolution of international tensions and wars. It called for peace and disarmament, inspired by the principle of non-alignment.
We are grateful to the role that NAM has played in the decolonisation of our continent of Africa and the struggle against Apartheid in our country.
The NAM brought a new appreciation to the important principle of the sovereignty of states. More than anything, the NAM brought back our pride as a people, worthy enough to enjoy all the rights contained in the United Nations Charter – which all human beings enjoy.
As we celebrate 60 years of a sometimes turbulent and trying history, which culminated in the liberation of so many, we shall not stand oblivious to the challenges that lie ahead of us all. As we begin our next 60 years, including moving forward towards our Centenary, we are inspired by the words of our icon and statesman President Nelson Mandela, during the 1998 NAM Summit:
“We commit ourselves to work tirelessly for the eradication of poverty and under-development”. He went further to say that as NAM “we need to encourage the peaceful resolution of conflicts within and between countries, to defeat terrorism and vigorously pursue the objective of nuclear disarmament”.
True to these words, spoken more than two decades ago, the Non-Aligned Movement will have to tirelessly deal with the challenge of global pandemics such as COVID-19; poverty and underdevelopment; peaceful resolution of conflicts; terrorism; climate change; respect for human rights; issues of disarmament; the quest for self-determination and remain steadfast in our condemnation of unilateral coercive measures.
The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination has been called for by this Movement for as long as it has been in existence. We have a responsibility as members of NAM, to spare no effort in finding a just, lasting and peaceful solution in terms of the relevant United Nations resolutions. There can be no global peace or justice until the Palestinian people are free from occupation and are able to exercise the rights for which this Movement stands.
South Africa reiterates its position that the people of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination in line with the relevant African Union decisions and UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. We welcome the appointment of Mr Staffan de Mistura as UN Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. It is vital that the political process be resuscitated under his leadership in order to break the current political impasse. A key priority for the Personal Envoy should be to get the parties to recommit to the 1991 ceasefire agreement and to move the parties towards a mutually acceptable negotiated settlement resulting in the long outstanding referendum that will realise the right of the people of Western Sahara to their self-determination.
South Africa further affirms its solidarity with the peoples of Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. As NAM we should continue to call for the immediate lifting of all unilateral sanctions against these fellow NAM countries that have caused untold damage to their economies and people. At a time when resources and assistance are needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to save lives, these sanctions have not only remained but have been intensified and this is a grave violation of international law.
All these issues will require us to continue to contribute to the strengthening of multilateralism and ensuring that the UN remains at the centre of global governance.
These are the challenges of our time and the future. We have to define a common vision to deal with these various challenges. We need a Movement that is ready and confident, willing to redouble its efforts in a manner that will prove to the sceptics, that NAM represents the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated that, only through our solidarity and support for each other, would we be able to avert, or minimise a resurgence of COVID-19, as we can see happening elsewhere in the world.
NAM’s response to COVID-19 in particular, has strengthened the unity within the Movement. Vaccine nationalism has, unfortunately, taken hold with the developed world vaccinating its populations at rapid speed whilst developing countries are largely left behind. NAM has been at the forefront of calls for equitable distribution of vaccines.
In this regard, we reiterate our call for a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS Agreement to allow more countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
As NAM, we should continue to call upon the international community – for the sake of all humanity – to support and work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, in leading the fight against this pandemic.
South Africa would like to take this opportunity to also congratulate the Dr Tedros and the WHO on the malaria vaccine breakthrough. The world’s first malaria vaccine endorsed by the WHO is a game-changer in combating the disease on the African Continent. This decades-long collaborative partnership between the WHO and African countries has led to resolving and bringing solutions to some of our health problems.
Twenty-seven years after our liberation in South Africa, we remain indebted to the role that NAM has played in our struggle against Apartheid. For this reason, my country will continue to contribute to the strengthening of this august Movement, in order for it to discharge its historic responsibilities.
South Africa is of the firm view that NAM remains relevant in today’s inter-connected world and this high-level meeting provides an opportunity to re-affirm the principles that have guided this movement in the past 60 years. Indeed, it also provides an opportunity to consolidate unity, coherence and solidarity of our Movement as we march towards the future.
In an effort to strengthen multilateralism, NAM will have to remain resolute in its call for the reform of Institutions of Global Governance, in particular the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the United Nations.
We should continue to contribute to the debate on the reform of the UN in general, and the Security Council in particular. The current anachronistic composition of the Security Council and the lack of representation of Africa in the permanent category are unsustainable.
The Security Council has to be reformed as a matter of urgency to reflect the current global realities, for it to remain relevant and maintain its legitimacy.
The Movement has to remain at the forefront of the struggle for the advancement and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms; gender equality and women empowerment. In this regard, we should take advantage of the review of the Human Rights Council and find ways to improve and strengthen the Council to make it more responsive, effective and efficient.
The scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related intolerances remain a challenge to this day.
We have to continue to ensure that the fight against racism remains on the agenda of the international community, and the UN, in particular.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Durban Declaration and its Programme of Action remains the main programme in the fight against racism and NAM should continue to call for its full and effective implementation.
Throughout the 60 years of NAM’s existence, disarmament and peace has been a basic principle of non-alignment. We must remain resolute in our commitment towards disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
South Africa believes that the Non-Proliferation Treaty should remain the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation regime, leading to an eventual world free of nuclear weapons.
The lack of concrete progress in the area of nuclear disarmament, however, remains of great concern. The unequivocal undertaking by Nuclear Weapon States should be honoured, as it is only through nuclear disarmament that comprehensive non-proliferation may be achieved. True security cannot be achieved by expecting Non-Nuclear Weapon States to forgo nuclear weapons while Nuclear Weapon States do not disarm. The integrity of the Non-Proliferation Treaty cannot be safeguarded by only focussing on the security interests of some States.
It is further important that States’ inalienable right to nuclear material, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes is realised and not be subjected to unwarranted restrictions.
In this context, South Africa continues to support the full and effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the “Iran Nuclear Deal.”
The Non-Aligned Movement should continue to be a significant and major player in UN peace-keeping operations. We must therefore, as a collective, remain steadfast in ensuring that the UN peacekeeping operations at all times adhere to the guiding principles of peacekeeping and that all peacekeeping mandates support and complement political processes and strategies.
As developing countries, our overriding objective is to fully implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda on sustainable development. The NAM therefore adds an important political voice to that of its sister body, the Group of 77, on the need to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development, leaving no one left behind.
There are several key upcoming international conferences related to sustainable development, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), where we need progressive and ambitious outcomes that include massively scaled-up and appropriate means of implementation support for developing countries.
During times of COVID, where there is no uniformity as to whether meetings are in-person, online or in-person, we also need to ensure that all developing countries are able to participate effectively and be fully represented, without any discrimination.
The next 60 years will be long, rough and bumpy, but the same resolve and principles that sustained us until now will see us through. The NAM, based on its tried and tested principles, remains a progressive force of the South and more than ever relevant in today’s world.
We would like to take this opportunity to inform this august gathering that the people of South Africa will next year, in January, celebrate the 110th anniversary of the African National Congress – the oldest political movement in Africa. Throughout its existence, the ANC drew its inspiration from the liberation and decolonisation struggles of NAM Member States.
I thank you!
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