President Jacob Zuma used his speech delivered at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday night to rally the world behind South Africa’s campaign to transform the United Nations Security Council and for Africa to have permanent seats in the council.
The UNSC comprises 15 members, five of them – Britain, France, China, the United States and Russia – are permanent, while 10 are non-permanent members that serve for two years on a rotational basis without veto power. South Africa has been calling for this to change.
“Let me reiterate that the 70th anniversary of the UN next year provides an opportunity for us to seriously reflect on the need to reform this august body, moving beyond words to action.
“Ten years ago, world leaders celebrating the 60th anniversary of the UN agreed on the need for reform of the United Nations Security Council in particular,” President Zuma said to rumbling applause.
In a loud and clear message to the more than 120 leaders, who converged at the UN Headquarters for the UNGA General Debate, President Zuma said the UN can no longer afford to have Africa out of the UNSC on a permanent basis.
“When we converge here next year, on the 70th year of the UN, we should be able to adopt a concrete programme that will guide us towards a strengthened UN and a reformed Security Council.”
President Zuma said some “contentious aspects” of the UN system, such as the veto powers and the exclusion of regions such as Africa in the Security Council, were some of the critical matters that cannot be ignored in the quest for transformation.
The UNSC is the UN’s most powerful body. It helps to shape international law and is the first to respond to crises. This places Africa in a precarious position, considering that most issues the council has to deal with emanate from the continent.
Millennium Development Goals
Apart from the call to reform the UN, President Zuma’s remarks, as anticipated, focused on the progress South Africa has made in attaining its Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), whose deadline of September next year looms larger.
“South Africa has recorded impressive progress through the expansion of health infrastructure and improved access to health services for all South Africans,” President Zuma said.
“On the reduction of child mortality, MDG 4, and the improvement of maternal health, MDG 5, significant progress has been recorded, but more work remains. In fact, more work remains worldwide to fully achieve these goals, especially in the developing world,” he said.
He said Africa had to confront those underlying root causes that continued to make it impossible for its people to have a better life.
Despite the progress that the continent has made, reports continued to show that Africa is lagging behind in terms of the attainment of some of the MDGs.
“It is for this reason that we appreciate the crafting of a post-2015 Global Development Agenda that will carry forward the unfinished business of the MDGs. The eight MDGs were adopted by the UN in 2000 and set clear targets in improving conditions in a wide range of areas, including halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIVAIDS.
“The General Assembly has proposals to replace the MDGs with what is being referred to as the new Sustainable Development Goals, which outline 17 goals and 169 targets. This is part of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, which aims to carry forward the work of the MDGs that have just eight goals and 21 targets.”
President Zuma said the post-2015 Global Development Agenda “will provide a frame of reference for our collective agreement on what has to be done”.
“We reiterate that developed countries should be reliable partners and meet their commitment to development goals, such as contributing 0.7% of their gross national income towards Official Development Assistance,” he asserted.
President Zuma further said the recent outbreak of Ebola, which has claimed more than 2 000 lives in some West African countries, was one example of the challenges that developing countries continue to contend with.
“We believe that Ebola would have been contained within a few days had it been an outbreak in the developed world. But it has become a pandemic that threatens the economies of affected African States.”
The outbreak had exposed the challenges of capacity, lack of infrastructure and other limited resources in Africa, he said.
South Africa would continue to provide resources to assist the people and governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to contain the virus.
The Palestine question
President Zuma said while the UN has done remarkably well in supporting self-determination, the world body has been found wanting by the people of Palestine. Israel and Palestine have been involved in a territorial dispute stretching over decades and claiming thousands of lives during this period.
President Zuma said the UN needed to intervene on the issue of Palestine “without fear or favour”. He said the Israeli-Palestine question was one of the oldest items on the UN agenda “but progress remains elusive”.
“In the past few months in particular, the world has witnessed a devastating conflict that left a humanitarian crisis of shocking proportions.
“The people of Palestine were left homeless, with no medical facilities, no safe drinking water, bereaved and having to care for the wounded after a trail of destructive military actions by Israel. South Africa has condemned the actions of both Israel and Hamas, and we have called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.”
President Zuma said there can be no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, in clear reference to the military attacks the Israel government has unleashed on Palestine in recent months.
“We should all remain committed to the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with Palestine and Israel co-existing side by side in peace. Of concern in this matter has been the helplessness displayed by the UN, especially the UN Security Council, during the current conflict.”
South Africa would also continue to contribute to finding solutions to the conflicts in Sudan.
“The recent developments and the ongoing conflict in South Sudan have resulted in loss of life and dire humanitarian consequences. South Sudan should not be allowed to regress,” said President Zuma. – SAnews.gov.za
Source : SAnews.gov.za