Proposed interventions by Minister Ntshavheni
General trends in international relations: New opportunities and threats
As I am taking the floor for the first time, let me congratulate the Russian Federation for hosting the 11th International Meeting of High-Ranking Officials Responsible For Security Matters and the hospitality extended to me and my delegation. On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, we welcome the opportunity to share our views and insights on this important topic which requires both our individual and collective action.
The world we live in is changing at a very fast pace bringing with both challenges and opportunities for humanity, as individuals, countries, regions and the global society in general. Climate change, unprecedented levels of migration as a result of conflicts and wars, and the pursuit of economic opportunities, and the adoption of ICTs amongst others, are creating both new opportunities for development and threats against nation states. These changes are worsening the development trajectory of developing countries, particularly in Africa and South Africa to be specific.
The global response to the Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed to the government and people of South Africa and the African continent that if the global community were committed to the eradication of disease in Africa, concerted efforts would have been made to develop affordable vaccines for diseases such as Malaria, Ebola, Typhoid and others that continue to plague our continent and people.
In addition, despite Africa being the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the global community were non- committal to pleas to finance, in reasonable and affordable terms, of the economic recovery and reconstruction programmes in Africa through participation in the investment initiatives of African governments, including South Africa. As the situation, over 60% of South Africa’s youth is unemployed making them susceptible to mobilisation for nefarious agenda.
Still recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that shrunk South Africa’s economy to 2016 levels with severe implications for employment and the fight against poverty. South Africa has, in the last 3 years, annually suffered severe floods that devastated public and economic infrastructure in 3 Provinces and reversed the strides made with regard to improving food security, eradication of poverty and unemployment, and creating an equal society.
Just to indicate that these floods were not limited to South Africa but affected other countries in Southern African, and that their impact on soil structure is forcing a redesign of the spatial plans. Therefore, although South Africa is able to use space technology for accurate weather prediction over a longer period of time, the need to redesign spatial plans and the extent of the mass displacements of families, the resettlement programme cannot be completed in a short time.
With the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and South Africa’s position of demanding a respect of the multilateral system, non-alignment and advocating for a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the conflict, we have witnessed attempts to mobilise the South African society against the non-alignment position taken by the government. We are observing claims that the government of South Africa is not able to resolve the economic challenges facing the country because the government has chosen wrong allies, base on the refrain that ‘whomever is not with us, he is against us’.
We must also indicate that attempts to force South Africa to choose sides is not new in recent years. With the emergence of digital economy as the driver for global development, South Africa has chosen to adopt technology neutrality meaning we adopt the best and affordable technologies as we position our country for digital transformation. However, South Africa continues to receive pressure to reject technology products from the People’s Republic of China and other countries who are deemed not appropriate by a unilateral system.
With the high youth unemployment and rising cost of living, the inability to speedily relocate floods impacted households, the country is witnessing unprecedented levels of anti-government mobilisation by non-profit organisations and business. The government’s decision of non-alignment and the pursuit of multilateral system is projected through propaganda as a pro-Russia posture. However, as a government we remain steadfast that no country will dictate South Africa’s choice of friends, similarly, we will not inherit another country’s enemies and we are firm on our belief on the peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts.
South Africa remains committed to the principles of sovereignty of nations, irrespective of size, sovereignty must mean the same thing for all of us. Sovereignty must not be exposed to narrow national or regional interests, and all nations must have confidence and receive equal treatment in the multilateral system for both censure and enforcement. The primacy of the multilateral system is important now more than ever because the global security threats are multifaceted and dynamic to such an extent they solutions require cooperation amongst nation states.
In the coming years and decades, humanity will face more intense and cascading global challenges ranging from disease to climate change to the disruptions from new technologies and financial crises.
These challenges will repeatedly test the resilience and adaptability of communities, states, and the international system, often exceeding the capacity of existing systems and models, we will therefore need each other as nations and when this time comes, the world will also need a prosperous Africa free of conflicts and wars so that Africa does not become a brewing ground for terrorism and an exporter of illegal immigrants and refugees.
This calls on nations the world to not only contribute to the resolutions of conflicts in Africa but to invest in the economic development of the continent, and of course, South Africa stands ready to receive such investments. A prosperous South Africa and Africa means a reliable partner in the protection of the sanctity of a multilateral system against the hegemony of one country.
Equally, it is in the interest of South Africa and Africa in general, that the ongoing war in Ukraine ends. In the past few months since the outbreak of the war, South Africa has been impacted by the rise of energy prices, food, and inflation and negatively affecting the cost of living in our country and region and continent. South Africa will continue to support efforts to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and as a country and a global player, we believe that such a conflict should be ended through peaceful negotiations and engagement.
South Africa and other Africa nations are standing ready to facilitate the negotiations given the lessons we learnt during the negotiations that led to the creation of free and democratic South Africa. We are encouraged to know that the Russia Federation is equally committed to finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict and restore an environment of peace with her neighbours.