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03. Juli 2013

South Africa’s second term as member of the Security Council (2011 – 2012) - An overview

In October 2010, South Africa was elected to serve a second term on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Our candidacy was endorsed by the African Union (AU) and we received 182 votes during the election. The term commenced on 1 January 2011 and concluded on 31 December 2012.

South Africa’s return to the council was historic as it coincided with the presence of key developing countries (India, Brazil and Nigeria) and from the developed world, contenders for permanent membership of a reformed council
such as Germany. In addition, the configuration of the council in 2011 also for the first time included all the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) countries.

South Africa’s participation in the UNSC was informed by our national interests and a belief that South Africa’s prosperity is intrinsically linked to peace and stability on the continent and the world in general. It also reflected our strong
commitment to the international Rule of Law. Therefore, South Africa pursued the following objectives:

  • to contribute to conflict resolution, peace and stability on the African continent
  • to strengthen the partnership between the UN and the AU, bearing in mind that three-quarters of the UNSC Agenda items address African conflicts
  • to contribute to conflict resolution, peace and stability in the other regions of the world
  • to defend the integrity of the UN Charter and the Rule of Law as the foundation for multilateral cooperation, and to make the P5 (five permanent members) accountable
  • to advance the reform of the UNSC, including its working methods, to make it more democratic, representative, legitimate and transparent.

South Africa’s approach to all issues on the council’s agenda was aimed at defending Article 40 of the Charter, which determines that the council should approach the solutions to conflicts without: “prejudice to the rights, claims,
or position of the parties concerned”. Without exception, South Africa opposed the pursuit of a regime change agenda and disregard for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states by certain members of the UNSC. Our delegation
further consistently called on the UNSC to fulfil its Charter-derived mandate.

Advancing the reform of the UNSC, including its working methods, with the aim of making the council more democratic, representative, legitimate and transparent, is a priority for South Africa. Our delegation consistently called on the UNSC to fulfil its Charter-derived mandate. The President and Minister of
International Relations and Cooperation used their participation in high-level UN events to speak out against UNSC failures, highlighting the urgent need for reform of the UNSC.

We also used our various leadership positions in the UNSC to improve the council’s working methods. For example, as chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa of the UNSC, South Africa succeeded in improving the working methods of the UNSC by involving the broader UN membership and non-state entities in discussions of the working group to make it more accountable, responsive, transparent and effective. South Africa’s outreach success was replicated by other UNSC subsidiary

A highlight of South Africa’s term was our Presidency of the UNSC in January 2012. Building on the success of the country’s first term in the council in promoting closer cooperation between the UNSC and the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), we promoted the view that greater strategic
coordination between the UNSC and the AUPSC would enhance the effectiveness of the Security Council in addressing challenges
to peace and security on the continent of Africa.

Given the importance of the subject to South Africa, President Jacob Zuma presided over the meeting. The UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, and the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the AU Commission, Ambassador Ramtane Lamamra, also participated in the event. South Africa’s initiative culminated in the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2033 of 2012, which focusses on achieving strategic and political coherence between the UNSC and AUPSC in dealing with conflicts in Africa.

The resolution is a landmark decision as it makes specific recommendations on
strengthening cooperation between the UNSC and AUPSC, including through effective annual consultative meetings, the holding of timely consultations and collaborative field missions of the two councils to formulate cohesive
positions and strategies. This undertaking by the council will ensure that there is greater harmonisation of intervention strategies in dealing with African conflict situations.

Following the adoption of this resolution, there has been a more synergetic relationship between the UNSC and the AUPSC in addressing various African conflicts. South Africa remains confident that the continued cooperation and unity between the two councils could be of immense benefit in respect of
addressing the challenges confronting the continent.

Another achievement during South Africa’s presidency of the UNSC was when Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane presided over a meeting of the Council on Somalia. The meeting laid the foundation for the eventual adoption of Resolution 2036, enhancing the UN’s support for the AU Mission in Somalia
(AMISOM). South Africa also presided over an Open Debate of the UNSC on the promotion and strengthening of the Rule of Law in the maintenance of international peace and security in conflict and post-conflict situations
during its presidency.

The council adopted a unanimous decision, which emphasised the need for universal adherence to and implementation of the Rule of Law, as well as the need to ensure greater accountability for action taken in the name of the Security Council. In addition to the above, South Africa’s presidency was also utilised to address the situation in the Middle East with Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim presiding over the Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.

At the end of the term, South Africa had actively participated in all 790 UNSC formal meetings, as well as meetings of subsidiary organs and working groups. The council adopted 118 resolutions, 51 presidential statements (PRSTs) and 150 press statements. South Africa voted in favour of all 118 resolutions and supported all PRSTs and press statements. Looking back, we can feel confident that South Africa stood out as a country able to maintain its integrity and
independence on all of the issues on the UNSC Agenda and not succumb to pressure from powerful states. South Africa’s approach, based on our willingness to use our position as nonpermanent member of the council to influence processes and outcomes, strengthened our reputation as a consensus-builder in the UN.

There is no doubt that South Africa’s views and positions mattered a great deal, especially to the P5 – thus further strengthening our stature and credibility. We can feel satisfied that the imprint we made and the legacy that South Africa leaves behind, justifies the resources and effort that we
invested in our non-permanent membership of the UNSC. Importantly, South Africa also benefitted by gaining valuable knowledge and experience serving for two years on this important organ of the UN.

By Ambassador NJ Mxakato-Diseko
Deputy Director-General: Multilateral, Department of International Relations
and Cooperation

Source: Ubuntu Magazine, Issue 3/2013.



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