SA reflects on first six months of UNSC seat

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Government officials will for the next two days analyse the challenges and opportunities of being in the United Nations Security Council as they reflect on the country’s first six months in the council.

Addressing delegates on Thursday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Director-General, Kgabo Mahoai, said the meeting was also expected to discuss council dynamics and how to strategise on how South Africa could navigate the remainder of its term on the Council.

Officials from various government departments are meeting in Pretoria between today and tomorrow for the six-month review workshop of South Africa’s Term as an Elected Member of the United Nations Security Council.

In June, South Africa completed its first six months of a 24-month term as an elected member of the Security Council following election 12 months ago. This election followed candidature endorsement by the Southern African Group at the UN and the African Union. 

“We are serving on the Council for the third time in 12 years. We are one of the few countries that have been afforded the privilege of serving on the Council so often in quick succession. This is testament of the confidence that the international community and countries on our continent have in our ability to play a meaningful role in the maintenance of international peace and security,” Mahoai said.

He said South Africa is in the Security Council during a period in which the global environment is undergoing complex and unchartered changes, with concerted challenges to multilateralism and a rules-based international order.

“Key global players have pursued a stronger domestic focus, with less of an appetite for dealing with global peace and security, development or human rights matters - unless it is linked to their own self-interest.

“We have seen a move by some to undermine collective multilateral action aimed at improving our world. Hard fought gains that we have made in the last few years on peace and security and development are being threatened.”

This, Mahoai said, has made it more difficult to respond to transnational challenges.

“We must recognise that states are interdependent and even the most powerful countries cannot achieve security or maintain prosperity and ensure sustainable development for their people by acting unilaterally or in isolation.”

Mahoai said the Security Council has become a theatre where geopolitical tensions manifest themselves and as a result, the Council has not been able to act in cases where it should, such as in Palestine or effectively in Syria. 

During the first six months of South Africa’s term, the agenda of the council has included contentious and complex issues, such as the outcome of the first democratic handover of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the complicated internal situation in Venezuela.

“The council has also been seized with long standing issues such as the situation in Western Sahara and Palestine; protracted and deadly conflicts in Syria and Yemen; the drawdown of the AU/UN Mission in Darfur, as well as the UN authorised AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

“More recently, we have also had to grapple with the complications arising from new crises such as in Khartoum and the flaring up of military conflict in Libya,” the DG said. 

This review workshop is expected to consider whether South Africa was able to implement the priorities and objectives it set itself upon entering the UNSC, within the context and the challenges the country has encountered in the first six months of its term. 

Over the next two days, delegates intend to analyse the challenges and opportunities of being in the council. These include council dynamics and how to strategise on how South Africa could navigate the remainder to its term on the Council. Over the two days, delegates are also expected to finalise preparations for the upcoming South African Presidency of the Council in October 2019.  

“We have been using our time on the council over the last six months to emphasise the importance of a more proactive approach to the maintenance of international peace and security, particularly in the form of drawing greater attention to preventative diplomacy mechanisms, as well as post-conflict reconstruction and development,” said Mahoai. –