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Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini: DIRCO-UN seminar on South Africa in the multilateral world

10 Dec 2019

Keynote address by Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, Deputy Minister Of International Relations And Cooperation, on the occasion of the DIRCO-UN seminar on “South Africa in the multilateral world,” DIRCO, O.R Tambo Building.

UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas,
Director-General, Mr Kgabo Mahoai,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Panellists,
Ladies and gentlemen,  

It is my honour and privilege to welcome Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in South Africa and all of our distinguished guests and panellists, to this critical and timely Seminar titled: “South Africa in the Multilateral World.”

We meet today at a very befitting time, when South Africa and the world, is observing Human Rights Day. The 10th of December marks a significant day, in which the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Today also marks the last day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. 

This seminar is therefore important as it also finds expression in our foreign policy outlook that is predicated on the values of Ubuntu, a humanist philosophy that emphasises the interconnectedness of the whole of humanity and the shared responsibility that all people have towards each other.  It is based on an African belief in our inter-connectedness and the unique role each individual has to play to ensure that the community can function harmoniously.

Moreover, it moves foreign policy from an abstract form to something tangible that our people can see and benefit from. As such, today’s session will provide an important platform to share ideas with our experts and provide insight on how South Africa and the United Nations can cooperate to contribute to stronger multilateral relations, as well as to the current global discourse which is experiencing significant political dynamics, volatility and uncertainty. Additionally, it will provide the impetus needed to foster cooperation in the creation of mutual sustainable development for our people and the world in which future generations will benefit.

Ladies and gentlemen,  

Discussions on multilateralism are incomplete if they are not associated with the tremendous role the United Nations and the international community at large, played in supporting us to achieve freedom.  This year, South Africa celebrates its 25th anniversary as a democratic state.                                                                                

The contribution that the United Nations has made to the people of South Africa, through its role in the dismantling of the inhumane and oppressive system of apartheid, will always be hailed and appreciated.  We have in many ways sought to honour these solidarity-based contributions through reciprocating in creating a just world order that respects multilateralism and has a humane face – a face of empowered women and girls, of men and boys, free from war, living with human security.  

Our work must always reflect this commitment to return the privilege of international solidarity with attention to the plight of those who seek refuge, democracy, freedom and peace and there is no better partner than the United Nations to assist us to reach these goals.  

Ladies and gentlemen,  

This seminar also takes place at the time when multilateralism is confronted with the re-emergence of inclinations towards nationalism, popularism and unilateral action by world powers.  It is crucial therefore, that states rally behind cooperation and multilateralism to circumvent the dire effects that unilateralism may have on the growth, development and security of our nations.

The current challenges faced by the world and the transnational nature of new and emerging threats to global peace, security and development, render it impossible for states to effectively respond individually, thus requiring collective action. The United Nations is as relevant a platform, as it was at its inception on 24 October 1948 to tackle challenges facing the world. Multilateralism remains the only way to achieve equality, common purpose and action in world affairs today.

The United Nations as a system of global governance has made an immense contribution in maintaining international peace and security, fostering cooperation among states, promoting development, the adherence to the rule of law and respect for human rights.  It has also played a pivotal role in educating and informing the global community about challenges the world currently faces.

In this regard, South Africa will continue to defend and promote the primacy of the United Nations as a system of global governance through which current challenges facing the international community, including in the areas of peace and security, sustainable development and human rights, could be resolved.

Ladies and gentlemen,  

This year, South Africa began its third tenure as a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year period (2019-2020). 

South Africa’s third term on the UN Security Council is projected to build on President Nelson Mandela’s legacy of working towards a peaceful, just and prosperous world, and by serving as a bridge-builder, bringing together divergent perspectives and resolving impasses, which undermine the ability of the Council to act where needed. 

Significantly, our term in the Security Council will further coincide with our chairship of the African Union (AU) in 2020.  Through the support of the AU Peace and Security architecture, a review of the roadmap, as well as strengthening cooperation between the AU and the UN, South Africa will use its chairship of the AU and its term on the Security Council to move the African Continent towards achieving the Agenda 2063 goal of “silencing the guns” by 2020.  It is through silenced guns that a conducive environment for peace, development and prosperity can be created and the lives of the people on the continent can be improved. 

The year 2020 will also be the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 that acknowledges the important role women play in the resolution of conflicts. During the month of October, South Africa presided over the Security Council and championed the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2493 on Women, Peace and Security. The resolution recognises that as we approach the 20th anniversary of this landmark resolution, there are gaps in the implementation of the commitments to protect and advance the rights of women in armed conflict. Women continue to be marginalised in peace processes and also continue to be amongst those most affected by the devastating consequences of conflict. Resolution 2493 thus places emphasis on the implementation of all previous Security Council resolutions to ensure that member states commit to redoubling their efforts to advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa subscribes fully to the notion of the three-pillar system of the United Nations as a way of comprehensively addressing global threats, challenges and the requisite interventions for change. These pillars are development, security and human rights for all. They are inseparable and must be addressed with the same emphasis and on an equal footing. The respect for International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is imperative, particularly in the modern and contemporary world characterised by intolerance and discrimination based on race, gender or legal status. 

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has had a profound influence on the development of International Human Rights Law, in particular the two core Human Rights Covenants, namely, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). These three instruments, taken together, constitute what is referred to as the 1948 United Nations Bill of Rights. These documents were internalized into Chapter 2 (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

South Africa’s foreign policy is therefore predicated on the commitment to the respect for the promotion, protection and practical enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the realisation of the Right to Development.

This commitment is in line with the widely accepted principles of universality, indivisibility, interdependence, and the interrelatedness of all human rights. It for this reason that our engagement with UN human rights institutions is premised on the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality, and the advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

South Africa will continue to collaborate with the international community to find innovative solutions, which would contribute to the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, promote socio-economic development, and enhance stability, peace, and security in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,  

Women, children and persons with disabilities continue to face multiple forms of discrimination in all spheres. Therefore, there is an urgent need for an inclusive approach to the development of these groups. This will ensure their meaningful participation and contribution in the political and socio-economic development of their communities.

South Africa has taken a position to prioritise issues relating to women, children and persons with disabilities both at a domestic and international levels. In this context, women empowerment and gender equality remain of central importance in tackling structural inequalities that continue to widen the poverty gap.

It is even more urgent for us to endeavour to address these challenges given that 2019 marks 40 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); 30 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and 24 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We maintain that the rise in violent extremism, militant forms of nationalism and populism, which continues to fuel hatred, intolerance and animosity around the globe cannot be tolerated. 

It is for this reason that we call for full and effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) as adopted by 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance.  The DDPA remains the only comprehensive international framework to address the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  

Sadly, the world also continues to experience unprecedented levels of violence, armed conflicts, massive displacements and forced migration, resulting in refugees and internally displaced persons. In this regard, the civilian population continues to suffer the brunt of violation of international humanitarian law.  This, therefore, requires renewed levels of commitment from governments and all actors in armed conflict to address these challenges and minimise the negative impact on civilian populations.

South Africa remains committed to promoting social cohesion within our society and thus acknowledges the positive contributions made by international migrants. This is important particularly this month, as 18 December marks International Migrants’ Day. Our Constitution obliges us to protect everyone including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers against any forms of violation. 

It is therefore vital that as we mark Human Rights Day, we also remember the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, which govern humanitarian action to alleviate suffering and ensure access to humanitarian assistance for those affected and those providing humanitarian assistance. 

We should also re-emphasise the importance of multilateralism to ensure that those who violate international humanitarian law are held accountable within the global system of governance. In this regard, it is important to ensure cooperation between the United Nations, regional organisations and other inter-governmental mechanisms as a multiplying effect for the implementation of international norms and standards at the national level. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is alarming that despite the tremendous technological advancement and progress of the last few decades, billions of people are still trapped in poverty and live in a world characterised by widening inequality within and among states. 

The United Nations therefore has an important role to play in ensuring that the objectives of its Charter “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” is realised.  In this connection, the successful implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is crucial to the realisation for the right to development. Of concern therefore is the $2.6 trillion annual financing gap that threatens the ability of nations to realise the Sustainable Development Goals. The challenges we face at the global level, is also reflected at a continental and national level, where the challenge of poverty, inequality, unemployment persist. 

The World Bank ranks South Africa as the most unequal society in the world and our latest unemployment figures suggest an overall unemployment figure of 29 % of which more than 60 % are youth. 

Implementation of South Africa’s National Development Plan that is centred on Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is thus imperative. 

Sustainable Development lies at the very heart of every Government policy and initiative.  It is both about addressing the lingering, yet tenacious legacies of our past while also ensuring that together, every South African – and indeed every citizen of the world - has improving prospects of enjoying a better life, secure in the knowledge that sufficient care is being taken of the planet to ensure humankind’s continued existence. We must leave no one behind.

In most cases, decisions taken, and strategies adopted at the global level are reflective of what is happening nationally and regionally. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to get our national and regional homes in order and to build a sound basis for the localization and domestication of the SDGs. There is also a strong need to prioritise the full-scale implementation of all Goals and not to be selective about which goals to implement.

We all have a role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The implementation of SDGs is inclusive and transparent. Working together with all stakeholders and partners we can ensure that a better life for all becomes a reality.

In this connection, I am pleased with the ongoing engagement between government departments and the United Nations Development System who recently held their strategic retreat to elaborate the priorities for the South Africa – United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework. The framework, once finalised, will outline the areas in which the UN could provide support for South Africa’s development priorities. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I would not like to pre-empt the outcomes of discussions and what our panellists wish to share with us today. Suffice to state that we will emerge from this dialogue with a far better comprehension of the philosophical underpinnings that inform and shape our interactions as nations and peoples.

I therefore wish our experts and panellists the best of luck as they explore and share constructive ideas that will contribute to a further strengthening of the concept of multilateralism with the United Nations at its centre.

I thank you!