Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana Mashabane says that South Africa will be seeking to promote transparency and accountability of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to the wider UN membership. Nkoana was reponding to a parliamentary question asked by Congress of the People’s (COPE) Member of Paliament Smuts Ngonyama.
“South Africa will prioritise promoting transparency within the Council including through arguing, if and when necessary, for more open debates and increased participation of broader UN membership in the deliberations and decisions of the Council,” she said in answer to COPE’s MP question on whether SA intends to revise its strategy used when South Africa was first represented at the UNSC in January 2007 and December 2008.
In her response Nkoana continued to explain the country’s foreign policy saying “South Africa’s international engagements are anchored on the five priorities of government, namely: job creation, education, health, crime prevention, rural development and land reform.” She noted that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation seeks to ensure that these national priorities find expression in its work at regional, continental and international levels. In this connection, the country’s UN Security Council membership will be used to mutually reinforce what the country does abroad and what the country wants to achieve domestically.”
“SA’s foreign policy is committed, among others, to bringing peace, security and development to Africa. Noting that a substantial focus of UNSC activities and agenda are on the continent, South Africa will champion and advance the African Agenda and collaborate with other African member states (Gabon and Nigeria) currently serving on the UNSC in pursuing issues pertinent to Africa’s stability, peace and security,” she said.
“South Africa will endeavour to utilise its membership in a manner that would contribute invaluably to the work of the UNSC. We will forge partnerships with Council and non-Council members from across the spectrum on important matters with a bearing on the maintenance of peace, stability and security on the continent.”
With regards to decisions taken by the UNSC the minister said that it is “imperative for SA to be part of UNSC decision making processes more especially on African matters. SA’s experience as a non-permanent member in 2007-2008 showed the significance of this since the UNSC can sometimes take decisions that are not in Africa’s favour even on continental matters. South Africa can therefore be an important countervailing force in the UNSC, not just for its own interests but also in defence of Africa’s aspirations.
“One of the major achievements of SA’s membership of the UNSC was its initiative on the role of regional organisations in the maintenance of international peace and security, namely Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. This resulted, among others, in the institution of annual meetings between the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the UNSC that alternate between Addis Ababa and New York. This was a substantive achievement as coordination on the overlapping agendas of the two Councils is of paramount importance,” Nkoana added.
South Africa will therefore continue its efforts aimed at bringing greater alignment to the work of the UNSC and that of the AU, especially the Peace and Security Council of the AU of which South Africa is currently a member. This would enhance South Africa’s resolve of strengthening effective partnership between UN and regional organisations, in particular the African Union in the maintenance of peace and security.
South Africa will again endeavour to utilise its 2011-2012 membership in a manner that would add value to the work of the UNSC. In this context, South Africa will play an active role in the activities of the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council such as its sanctions committees and working groups. Furthermore, South Africa will endeavour to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security by inter alia participating in the Council’s conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction agenda, the minister said.
“South Africa’s main objectives, therefore, will be: to keep African issues high on the agenda of the UNSC and proffer our perspective on them; to strengthen cooperation between the UNSC and regional organisations especially the African Union; to ensure healthy working relations between the General Assembly and the UNSC; and to ensure adherence to the UNSC mandate and prevent its abuse.”
Nkoana-Mashabane’s Democratic Alliance shadow, Kenneth Mubu reminds that in 2007 the South African government tried to stall debates on Myanmar’s poor human rights record. It also refused to place democratic reform in Zimbabwe on the Council’s agenda, holding on to its “discredited position of ‘quiet diplomacy’.” South Africa next supported Iran’s attempts to evade sanctions “over its widely criticized nuclear programme, which is shrouded in secrecy, by calling a 90 day ‘time-out’ on the issue of Iran’s Nuclear activity.”
The DA MP added that this pattern has continued. “Earlier this year, the South African representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Jerry Matjila, refused to support efforts at the UN to protect homosexuals against discrimination; and was quoted in the media as having argued that to protect gay people, ‘demeans the legitimate plight of the victims of racism’.”
South Africa received 182 votes in the 192-member UN General Assembly in New York during October. The UN General Assembly also elected Germany, India, and Colombia to two-year seats on the council, commencing January . Canada and Portugal went to a second round of voting, where Canada lost to Portugal.