31 October 2017


Programme Director, Adv Mashabane

Director General, Mr Mahoai

Director of UN Information Office-South Africa,Mr Masimba Tafirenyika,

Ambassadors and High Commissioners,

Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Community,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is an honour and privilege to be afforded an opportunity to stand before you today. On behalf of the Government of South Africa, I wish to warmly welcome you to this Symposium entitled, “Centenary of OR Tambo:  Leveraging multilateralism in support of the peace, security and development nexus.”  

As you may be aware, this Symposium takes place against the backdrop of the annual commemoration of United Nations Day, which was celebrated a few days ago on 24 October.  It also coincides with the centenary of the birth of South Africa’s finest diplomat, hero of the anti-Apartheid struggle and founding father of our democracy, the late Oliver Reginald Tambo. 

 As one of the iconic leaders of South Africa’s liberation movement, and later President of the African National Congress, he was the voice of conscience of the South African people ceaselessly calling upon the international community to unite in the struggle for the eradication of apartheid in all its forms and manifestations.   

Mr Tambo recognised early on that the UN would be central to this struggle, and indeed the General Assembly repeatedly determined that apartheid is a crime against humanity and constituted a threat to international peace and security. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 In 1963, when addressing the Special Political Committee of the UN General Assembly, OR stated: 


The readiness with which my request was granted by your Committee, Mr Chairman, confirms and is consistent with the declared desire of the nations and peoples of the world to see the end of apartheid and white domination, and the emergence of a South Africa loyal to the United Nations and to the high principles set forth in the Charter - a South Africa governed by its people as fellow citizens of equal worth whatever the colour, race or creed of any one of them. This kind of South Africa is the precise goal of our political struggle… 

 It is therefore not surprising that since the dawn of democracy in South Africa in 1994, our primary foreign policy priority was to accelerate our reintegration into the international community and to promote an international rules-based system through active and constructive participation in multilateral institutions and processes.    Our foreign policy is inspired by our history and guided by our ethos and principles, foremost amongst which is the desire for a more just, humane and equitable world.  In the conduct of our international relations, we attach the utmost importance to the promotion of human rights, democracy, justice and the rule of law.  These principles necessarily place multilateral institutions, specifically the United Nations, at the centre of our foreign policy activities. 

This philosophy shapes the execution of our foreign policy, namely to seek and promote collaboration and cooperation among nations through multilateral diplomacy.  In this context, as a faithful member state of the UN, South Africa remains committed to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, as espoused in its Charter.  These principles form the core of the multilateral global governance system.    

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

At the heart of the creation of the United Nations is the obligation to collective action in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security. Significantly, the Charter recognises that peace and security can only be achieved and maintained in an environment of sustainable development and respect for fundamental human rights. 


The United Nations and the global governance system is however being challenged today by the increasing trend of populism coupled with rising nationalist sentiments and protectionism.  This shift is partly fuelled by the unequal spread of the benefits of globalisation, which has led to further inequality. This has undermined social cohesion in societies, eroding respect for universal norms and the rejection of the rules-based international order.  

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Upon taking the oath of office in January this year United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres has identified four priority areas. These are: peace; sustainable development; gender parity and the reform of the UN Secretariat – all of which South Africa supports. 

Secretary-General Guterres has identified the international community’s most serious shortcoming as the inability to prevent crises. Speaking at the General Debate of the General Assembly a few weeks ago, he said “Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide…..We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace.” 

Furthermore, the Secretary-General has thus identified conflict prevention and the establishment of a culture of prevention as a key priority.  This is in line with South Africa’s own diplomatic efforts over the past two decades which focused on conflict resolution, prevention and mediation.  

We are of the view that, while we must undoubtedly aim to strengthen the tools at our disposal in addressing conflicts as they arise, the focus must be on preventative diplomacy and  on addressing the root causes of conflicts.

South Africa is convinced that peace and stability in the world will remain elusive if we do not address the relationship between security and development in its proper context.  Development should not be seen through the prism of security, implying that development is only a means towards the end of obtaining peace and security. Development is a universal right and a global aspiration which - despite their clear inter-linkages - are different and equally important. Therefore, emphasis must be on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as national and regional development programmes such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

It has been two years since the historic adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  South Africa remains committed to this ambitious and transformative global development agenda that seeks to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality across the world. As a developing country, South Africa wishes to assert that economic growth alone cannot address poverty eradication. Targeted actions aimed at addressing the multiple dimensions of poverty and its root causes are required. In this regard, the realisation of the SDGs will only be achieved if the Global Partnership for Development focuses on adequate means of implementation.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Climate change is a global challenge that requires global collective action. This was affirmed by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The next phase of Climate Change negotiations will be critical in laying a solid foundation for the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.  This requires a coherent, balanced and fair approach in the interest of all Parties and in accordance with the Convention principles of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR&RC) as well as to address in a balanced manner, adaptation and means of implementation support for developing countries.  South Africa is confident that international solidarity will prevail at the upcoming UNFCCC COP23, and that implementation will also build on and strengthens wider socio-economic development and poverty alleviation efforts. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

While reaffirming the primacy of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security, we should be cognisant of the role that regional organisations play. Chapter VIII (8) of the UN Charter recognises the role of regional organisations in this regard. As we have reiterated, it is often continental and regional organisations such as the African Union who are the first responders that are willing to deploy early in order to stabilise conflict situations.  Thereby creating a more favourable environment for the United Nations to follow. This is by no means accidental. Regional organisations are often well positioned to understand the causes of armed conflicts owing to their proximity to the theatre of conflict.  Furthermore, regional bodies often have a vested interest and the necessary political resolve to address the situation. It is thus imperative for the UN to work closely with the AU and its sub-regional organisations in ensuring that there is sustainable peace on the African Continent. This would necessitate not just collaboration on peacekeeping but also in building capacity in mediation and peace-making efforts as well as post-conflict peace-building.

Cooperation with the United Nation is a key priority for the continent. We want to emphasise that securing predictable, flexible and sustainable financing for AU peace support operations authorised by Security Council is if  great concern to South Africa.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

The lack of sustainable and predictable funding of UN programmes remains a significant obstacle to achieving our objectives.  The United Nations faces the challenge of ever-increasing mandates in the face of decreasing resources as a result of the call by some member states for a zero-budget-growth agenda. Of particular concern to South Africa is: a) the importance of effectively and efficiently funding the UN system to support the implementation of the peace mandates of the UN, especially on the African Continent and inclusive of Special Political Missions; and b) the full implementation the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the aim of addressing delays in the UN’s response to these issues. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Global collective action, including by working through the United Nations remains the hope for the billions around the globe to achieve peace, security and development. For this to be realised,

however, multilateral organs such as the UN needs reform in all of its bodies, particularly the General Assembly and the Security Council to remain relevant and credible in order to address contemporary challenges.  

In conclusion, I wish to stress that for South Africa, a strong and effective multilateral system remains central to our vision of securing a better quality of life for all.  


I thank you.