Intervention by Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, on Item 2: The Commonwealth Response to Global Challenges on the occasion of the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Meeting, 14 October 2020
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Developmental Affairs of the United Kingdom, Mr Dominic Raab,
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland,
Foreign Affairs Ministers,
High Commissioners and Distinguished Guests,
Allow me to begin by congratulating the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Chair-in-Office for arranging this first ever virtual Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting to deliberate on global challenges facing the Commonwealth.
As we meet here today, we are in the throes of a global crisis – the Coronavirus pandemic. In this crisis, people across the world have extended the hand of solidarity to people in other nations and humanity has been galvanised into action.
We have formed international partnerships to ensure there is equitable access to medical equipment and supplies. Many nations have set up extensive social support systems to protect citizens whose jobs, businesses and livelihoods have been threatened.
Our response to the COVID pandemic has demonstrated the heights that can be attained when we work in the spirit of friendship and solidarity. We, as the Commonwealth family should through our solidarity, build a common and inclusive future in the aftermath of COVID-19.
As the African continent, our response to the Coronavirus has been swift and effective.
We have a continental strategy to fight the pandemic being driven by the regional economic communities. The African Union has established a COVID-19 Response Fund and launched a ground-breaking African Medical Supplies Platform to ensure all countries have access to the necessary equipment and supplies.
South Africa fully supports the Commonwealth Statement on COVID-19. As a country, we are committed to working constructively with the Commonwealth family and our international partners to address COVID-19 and its impact.
In recognition of the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) both at home and globally, South Africa appreciates the efforts of the Commonwealth Secretariat and its partner in establishing the ‘No More Campaign’ initiative and commends the development of the Pan-Commonwealth digital portal. South Africa supports this initiative and will continue to participate in ongoing engagements in this area.
Given that COVID-19 has exacerbated global levels of gender-based violence, it is now more than ever important that member states develop gender-responsive policies and programmes matched with the appropriate budget.
The year 2021 marks the Commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA). It is befitting that as Commonwealth member states, we join, organise and support with high-visibility various initiatives, in particular those to be organised by the United Nations Human Rights Council during its forty-sixth session and the General Assembly during its 76th Session.
This year will be remembered for the massive groundswell to push back the frontiers of racism under the umbrella of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. As a country that has known too well the anguish of institutionalised racism, South Africa supports the demands for swift action against racism, whether committed by individuals, companies, officials or a state. In view of the current situation, South Africa supports the Commonwealth Statement on Anti-Racism.
We need to work together to address the climate change crisis. As we rebuild in the aftermath of this pandemic, we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient developmental path.
The global recovery effort must place climate change adaptation, mitigation and support at its centre – in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and other multilateral environmental commitments. In this regard, South Africa welcomes the Commonwealth Climate Change Programme established to focus on strengthening the resilience of Commonwealth countries to the negative impact of climate change.
Though we currently face daunting challenges, we have the solidarity and friendship upon which the Commonwealth family was build.
South Africa reaffirms its commitment to the ideals and the principles of the Commonwealth Charter and will spare no effort to work with the other 53 members of our family to bring about a more just, peaceful and equitable world. May our cooperation deepen and may our solidarity endure.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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