Statement by Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation at a Public Lecture on Creating a Secure and Peaceful world: Key priorities during South Africa’s tenure in the UN Security Council – 22 February 2019, Cape Town.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to begin by thanking you for joining us today at this public lecture convened by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in collaboration with the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO).
Our discussion today will focus on the key priorities of South Africa during our tenure as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2019-2020.
As we stated when we began our term in January on the Security Council, we will be guided by the legacy of President Nelson Mandela whose values and commitment to peace were commemorated in 2018 during the centenary of his birth. The majority of the issues on the Security Council’s agenda are related to peace and security on the African Continent. Thus, our term will also present an opportunity to work towards the African Union’s goal of “Silencing the Guns” on the Continent by 2020.
South Africa will utilise 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. We will continue to encourage closer cooperation between the United Nations Security Council and other regional and sub-regional organisations, particularly the African Union. We will further emphasise the role of women in the resolution of conflict. South Africa will ensure that a gender perspective is mainstreamed into all Security Council resolutions in line with Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security. The twentieth anniversary of this landmark Resolution, initiated by our neighbour Namibia, will be also commemorated during our term in 2020.
Millions of people all around the world live in conditions of war, instability and underdevelopment. Children go to bed hungry and destitute every day. Thousands of Palestinians, Somalis, Saharawis, Syrians, Yemeni and Rohingya civilians live in refugee camps with very little hope for a better life.
The actions of humankind are often at the core of much of the suffering in the world today. Protracted conflict, brutal acts of terrorism, transnational organised crime and the degradation of the environment to name a few, are largely man-made crises.
The United Nations Security Council was created in the aftermath of a devastating world war with the intention of containing global warfare and resolving it through dialogue rather than further conflict. While it can be argued that the Council has successfully averted another world war, conflicts persist. The Council’s agenda today is filled with many conflict situations, several of which have been raging for decades.
What has been clear is that when countries work collectively, setting aside narrow national interests and putting the lives of innocent civilians first, they have been able to make a positive contribution to resolving conflict and war.
Our own country, South Africa, is a case in point. Apartheid South Africa was on the agenda of the UN Security Council for a considerable period of time, but through eventual collective global action, including through Security Council sanctions, pressure was brought to bear on the Apartheid regime, which contributed to the birth of democracy in South Africa. The role of the UN and the international community in the fight against Apartheid is important to recall as we celebrate 25 years of democracy this year.
The world today is unfortunately characterised by a rise in populism and nationalism, increasing geopolitical divisions and the pursuit of narrow interests. This has made it more difficult to respond to transnational challenges. States are interdependent and even the most powerful countries cannot achieve security, nor maintain prosperity and ensure sustainable development for their people by acting unilaterally or in isolation.
South Africa thus continues to believe that multilateralism will continue to be a key aspect of international relations and that collective action is required to mitigate the geo-political interests that threaten global sustainable development, good governance and security. A multilateral system based on international law that fosters greater interdependence and mutual cooperation is the only way in which we can successfully address these difficulties.
It is for this reason that we have remained committed to the United Nations and its ideals and why we chose to put our name forward to be elected on the UN Security Council.
We are grateful for the confidence that the international community has shown in our candidature for the Security Council. We were endorsed by our sub-region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as our continental body, the African Union (AU), before being overwhelmingly elected by the UN General Assembly to serve as an elected member of the Security Council.
As we commence our term on the Security Council, we are cognisant that elected members of the Council face a distinct disadvantage. This is because we join an organ of the United Nations, which comprises five permanent members that have been on the Council for over 70 years and who have the right to a veto. Against this background in November 2018, South Africa and Sweden hosted an unprecedented meeting of elected members of the Council in Pretoria to discuss mutual cooperation and better coordination. This meeting recognised that in the face of growing divisions amongst the permanent members, elected members have a crucial role to play to ensure that the Council is able to fulfil its mandate.
Our term on the Security Council also presents an opportunity for South Africa to continue to advocate for the improvement of the working methods and the comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including the reform and expansion of the Council.
Next week will mark two months since we assumed our seat at the Security Council in New York on 1 January 2019.
In this brief time, the Security Council has met almost daily to address a myriad of issues that have been deemed threats to international peace and security. These include the situations in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Yemen, Syria and Palestine.
As a member of the Council, South Africa participated in all these deliberations advancing the values of our Constitution and our Foreign Policy imperatives.
I wish to touch on two issues that have dominated discussions in the Council since we took up our seat.
Firstly, the matter of the DRC was one of the first and most important issues considered by South Africa on the Council during January 2019, following the holding of elections on 30 December 2018. South Africa was among those Council members that resisted any attempt by some members of the Security Council to prejudge the outcome of the election. South Africa supported the completion of the internal processes and the right to self-determination of the people of the DRC. We also welcomed the peaceful outcome and the conduct of the election given the challenges on the ground.
Secondly, regarding the recent events in Venezuela, South Africa has maintained its principled position of calling on some countries and regional groups not to interfere in the internal processes of a sovereign state or to be used as a tool for unconstitutional changes of government. South Africa emphasised the need for political dialogue and to address the dire humanitarian situation on the ground. South Africa’s approach to Venezuela was premised on support for inclusive political dialogue to resolve the political crisis in the country, and to support any legitimate efforts to provide humanitarian support to alleviate the hardships experienced by the people of Venezuela.
I wish to conclude by reiterating that we look forward to working with all members of the Security Council in unity and solidarity in achieving global peace and security and ultimately a better life for all of humanity. We are ready to be part of those committed to shaping a better, more peaceful and prosperous world through multilateral cooperation that is based on international law.
I thank you.
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation