President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his maiden participation as Head of State at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to urge world leaders to resist any and all efforts to undermine the multilateral approach to international trade.
Speaking at the recently concluded international gathering of Heads of Government and State in New York, the South African President strongly defended multilateralism, which he described as “essential to the promotion of stability and predictability in the global economy”.
President Ramaphosa drew the attention of world leaders to progress being made in South Africa, despite the country’s tough economic challenges.
“We are reforming our economy and creating an environment that is conducive to investment and have embarked on an investment drive to attract $100 billion dollars in the next five years.”
He used his address at the UN General Assembly to ease the concerns of the international community regarding the land reform. He said a comprehensive dialogue guided by the Constitution and the rule of law would ultimately provide a resolution.
“We have started a comprehensive dialogue on the question of land reform, which is guided by our Constitution and the rule of law as we seek ways to ensure that the land is shared among all who work it, as set out in our Freedom Charter,” said President Ramaphosa.
He urged world leaders to take stock of the effectiveness of the UN and to chart a way forward to improve the organisation’s efficiency and relevance by making it more democratic, responsive and transparent.
“The UN must become what billions of people across the world want it to be: a representative and truly democratic global parliament of the people.”
President Ramaphosa reiterated previous calls for the UN to reform, particularly the Security Council, which still does not have permanent African representation.
South Africa was recently assigned a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a position the country will take up in 2019 for a period of two years.
President Ramaphosa also called on the United Nations to act with urgency to resolve some of the world’s most protracted and intractable disputes, particularly that of the people of Palestine, who have endured occupation, “suffering for nearly as long as the world body has existed”.
Advocating for a healthier world
In addition to the UNGA General Debate, President Ramaphosa participated in the UN High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (TB), which focused on efforts to accelerate an end to TB and reach all affected people with prevention and care.
He called on the world leaders to invest in research and development, saying it is critical to developing new diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and finding innovative ways to deal with the social determinants of TB and its transmission.
“Tuberculosis is not just a medical condition. It has many social determinants, including poverty, unemployment, poor nutrition, overcrowding and social stigma that fuel the spread of diseases” said President Ramaphosa.
He reiterated South Africa’s support for the “Key Asks” identified through a consultative process led by the World Health Organisation, Stop TB Partnership, civil society and other interested parties.
"We would like to see the declaration emanating from this high-level meeting embracing the ‘Key Asks’ and set in motion the bold response needed to end the global TB epidemic.”
A key highlight for the South African delegation to the UNGA was the unveiling of a life-size statue of the late struggle icon, Nelson Mandela, at the UN headquarters.
South Africa this year celebrates the centenary of the late statesman.
The statue of Madiba with his hands outstretched will be permanently located at the UN visitor centre.
Addressing the occasion, President Ramaphosa said the statue would remain a constant reminder to the international community of the dedication of Nelson Mandela to the mission of the United Nations.
He said it would also be a constant affirmation of South Africa’s commitment to contribute to a better world for all.
“President Mandela firmly believed that the United Nations was the most valuable and effective instrument for the advancement of peace, development and equality that humanity had conceived.”
Another key event held under Madiba’s name was the United Nations Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.
President Ramaphosa used the summit to acknowledge the efforts of the world body in peacekeeping, while cautioning that the organisation faced intricate and complex challenges.
“Over the past seven decades, millions of people worldwide have been killed, maimed, displaced and starved as a result of war and conflicts. We are called upon to act decisively to end the exposure of women and children to untold suffering including displacement, torture, rape, mutilation and murder,” the President said.
Paving the way for investment
President Ramaphosa also addressed the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) meeting, which brings together government officials, global business leaders and prominent members of the intelligence and foreign policy community from around the world to discuss international issues.
The President’s working visit concluded with trade and investment promotion engagements, including the Invest in South Africa Private Roundtable, the Bloomberg Global Business Forum Panel Discussion, as well as the Business Seminar on Opportunities in South Africa.
The Presidency said these engagements were part of a sustained programme of stimulating interest and attracting foreign direct investment in the South African economy, alongside creating conditions for greater domestic investment.
President Ramaphosa was accompanied by Ministers Lindiwe Sisulu of International Relations and Cooperation; Rob Davis of Trade and Industry; Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula of Defence and Military Veterans; Nhlanhla Nene of Finance; Dr Aaron Motsoaledi of Health, Nathi Mthethwa of Arts and Culture; Dr Siyabonga Cwele of Telecommunications and Postal Services; Naledi Pandor of Higher Education; Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba of State Security and Gugile Nkwinti of Water and Sanitation. - SAnews.gov.za