Speech: Naledi Pandor on South Africa’s tenure in the UNSC and as the chair of the African Union


Address by Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the Chatham House London Virtual Engagement, 20 January 2020.

Head of Chatham House Africa Programme, Dr Alex Vine,
Your Excellency, High Commissioner Tambo,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Audience,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Theme: ‘South Africa’s Foreign Policy: Reflections on the United Nations Security Council and the African Union.’

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today.

I have been asked to reflect on two major themes: firstly, South Africa’s two-year non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and, secondly, our Chairship of the African Union. South Africa’s Foreign policy is derived from our constitutional values of promotion of equality, justice, non-racism, non-sexism and international co-operation.

Our Government dedicated its term on the Security Council to the legacy of President Nelson Mandela, whose values and commitment to peace were commemorated in the year 2018, the centenary of his birth. South Africa believes peace is critical to development and progress in Africa. We hoped that our election would support the African objective of silencing the funs in Africa.

This was South Africa’s third term as a non-permanent member, and many observers, member states and think tanks have described it as partly successful and challenging. At the same time our non-permanent UNSC membership provided us with the opportunity to link our work to the goal of silencing the guns on the African Continent in keeping with the theme of our AU Chairship. We also used our term to promote the peaceful settlement of conflicts through preventive diplomacy, inclusive dialogue and post-conflict reconstruction and development. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these challenges and has necessitated us to work together as a collective with all countries across the globe to combat the virus and ensure that we are able to rebuild a safer world where the development needs of all its people are fulfilled.

South Africa advocated for strengthened partnership and closer cooperation between the UN Security Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. On 3 December 2020, President Ramaphosa presided over the Debate on the cooperation between the UN and Regional and Sub-Regional Organisations which reflected on the efforts of the Council to resolve conflicts on the African continent and to further enhance the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations.

One of the key areas that African members of the Council have been instrumental in pursuing is enhancing the partnership between the UN and the AU in the prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes. This is in line with Chapter 8 of the UN Charter, which underscores the importance of regional arrangements in contributing to international peace and security. However, a challenge in this relationship has to do with the financing of the AU peacekeeping missions authorised by the Security Council. Reliable and sustainable funding for these AU mission has been a persistent challenge for the AU over the past two decades.

The African members of the Council are continuing with efforts to secure commitments for consistent and sustainable financing of these AU Missions. We have steadfastly held the view that the use of UN Assessed Contributions provides the most reliable avenue of support for UN mandated AU peace operations. This is an area where we require continued and sustained assistance from other member states and regional bodies.

We underlined the need for the UN and the AU to expedite deliberations to ensure that the AU-led peace support operations authorised by the Security Council are financed through the UN assessed contributions. Through our cooperation, we also stressed the need to address the root causes and drivers of conflict in Africa, including focusing on the challenges of development and governance.

On 4 December 2020, I presided over a debate on Security Council Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Security Sector Governance and Reform. The Government of the Republic of South Africa welcomes the unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2553 on Security Sector Reform (SSR). This resolution builds on the solid policy framework laid by Resolution 2151, the first thematic Security Council resolution on SSR adopted in 2014, piloted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The adoption of Resolution 2553 and the focus on SSR processes is a recognition by the Security Council that emphasis must be placed on conflict prevention, peacebuilding and sustaining peace primarily to avert relapses into conflict. For this to occur, States emerging from conflict must develop their own inclusive context-specific security sector reform and governance approaches that address the needs of the entire population with the active involvement of women and youth as well as civil society actors. Bilateral, regional and international partners should partner with States to provide support that is aligned to their national SSR priorities.

We also continued to consistently express our solidarity with the peoples of Palestine and Western Sahara in their quest to achieve self-determination, fundamental freedom, equality, justice and dignity. We further advanced the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security and the Youth, Peace and Security agendas.

Following the end of our term on the Security Council, South Africa will continue its commitment to multilateralism and work in other multilateral forums, including the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and other bodies of the United Nations, to pursue these goals. We remain committed to a rules-based order characterised by inclusion and equity. There is a lot of ground lost in multilateralism in the past four years and we need to rebuild trust and co-operation.

South Africa took over the Chairship of the African Union under the AU theme for 2020, which was: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.” We gave emphasis to an existing AU goal through adoption of this theme, of course all our careful planning was altered by COVID-19.

The AU summit of December 2020 extended the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa for a further period of ten years (2021-2030), with periodic reviews every two years. This decision confirmed the complex challenge of peace and security that still needs to be addressed by AU member states.

South Africa has also been seized with the issue of the Trilateral Negotiations on the GERD. The Heads of State and Government of the AU Bureau have the meetings to encourage Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to pursue a peaceful resolution of the GERD matter in an amicable manner and towards a win-win outcome. We have not reached final agreement as yet and more work remains to be done.

On peace and security, too many people on the African continent still face instability, violence, and conflict. This includes the situations in Libya, the Sahel, Cabo Delgado in Mozambique, South Sudan, and the east of the DRC. We are also concerned by the recent developments relating to the situation in Western Sahara. Greater attention to peace in these countries is critical as well as support for solution from the AU and the UN.

The six key priorities for South Africa’s Chairship of the Union had to be set aside due to COVID-19. President Ramaphosa led the development of Africa’s response to the pandemic and ensured African collaboration in this important battle.

In addition to the health sector responses, the Bureau of the AU Heads of State and Government appointed Special Envoys to support the continent in the mobilisation of debt relief measures and securing recovery resources, financial resources, maintaining economic activities and reviving African economies.

The COVID initiatives have led to a unified Africa. One of the outcomes of the meeting, was the creation of the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy. This was an effort to be responsive to the suspicion that the call for vaccines to be a global public good would not be respected by the richest countries of the world. President Ramaphosa and the AU are working hard to security vaccines for Africa.

In his capacity as the AU Chair, on the 13th January 2021 President Ramaphosa reported to a special meeting of the AU Bureau of the Assembly that it has secured a provisional 270 million vaccine doses for African countries, with at least 50 million said to be available for the crucial period of April to June 2021.

These efforts complement the COVAX facility, a World Health Organisation and Gavi Vaccine Alliance initiative to help low- and middle-income countries secure access to vaccines on a fair and equitable basis. President Ramaphosa’s focus remains premised on the principle that no country should be left behind.

Before I conclude, permit me to speak on developments related to the African Continental Free Trade Area, one of the flagship projects of Africa’s blueprint for development, Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

With the decision to start trading under the AfCFTA on 1 January 2021, Africa signalled her determination to increase manufacturing and industrial capacity to trade in goods and products, produced in Africa. But much work still needs to be done to achieve this vision.

For South Africa, December 2020 was the convergence of the chairing of the African Union (AU), the Presidency of the UNSC and the final month of the AU’s ambition to silence the guns on the Continent by 2020. South Africa intends to continue using our Foreign policy work to strengthen AU-UN cooperation and to focus on preventative diplomacy, conflict prevention and conflict resolution on the African Continent.

I would like to again take this opportunity to thank Chatham House for the opportunity to speak on this platform.

I thank you.