SA to use UNSC seat to promote peace

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pretoria - South Africa will use its second term on the UN Security Council to promote and protect human rights across the globe, said President Jacob Zuma.

"We are consistent in our support for the consideration and discussion of human rights matters in relevant UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly," said Zuma.

Zuma was responding to a question in Parliament on whether it would use the seat to advance human rights and free political will in countries such as Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

He said South Africa, like the rest of the international community, was concerned about the human rights situation in Myanmar.

The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962, when it was known as Burma. Decades of human rights abuses and mistreatment of its ethnic minorities have been reported.

Regarding Zimbabwe, Zuma - who is also the Southern African Development Community mediator in that country - said both SADC and the African Union (AU) were attending to the matter.

Although Zimbabwe is not on the UNSC agenda, South Africa's International Relations Ministry is on the record saying it would again vote "no" to UN sanctions against Zimbabwe, should the issue return onto the agenda.

In its first term (2007-08) on the UNSC, South Africa surprised many when it blocked sanctions against Zimbabwe and also voting against resolutions on Myanmar and Iran.

This in turn led to the country being seen by groups like Human Rights Watch as siding with countries that had bad human rights records.

South Africa has indicated that it has learnt a lot after its first tenure as a non-permanent Security Council member. It said it would communicate better this time.

The country has also indicated that it would work tirelessly toward improving the working methods of the UNSC to make it more legitimate, representative and effective, while better synchronizing the work of the AU and UN.