SA pushes for UN transformation

22 September 2014 – South Africa has vowed to push for the transformation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) ahead of the 69th UN General Assembly debate in New York this week.

The gathering at the UN headquarters in downtown Manhattan will discuss, among other issues, the crises in Gaza, Ukraine and Syria, progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the proposed post-2015 agenda.

The theme for this year’s General Assembly is: Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda. President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to address the summit on Wednesday.

UNSC reflects a “post-World War II global order’

In an interview in New York on Sunday, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana- Mashabane expressed Pretoria’s unhappiness with the composition and functioning of the UNSC. She said the UNSC still mirrored the post-World War II global order and a change was needed in line with the current global challenges facing all UN member states.

This is not the first time South Africa has called for the reform of the UNSC. The body’s composition of 15 member states – of which ten are non-permanent and five permanent – remains largely unchanged. At last year’s General Assembly, President Zuma challenged the world body to reform and proposed a more inclusive, democratic and representative UNSC by 2015.

South Africa served as a non-permanent member of the UNSC on two occasions, in 2007 to 2008 and then in 2011 to 2012, and the country played a critical role in voting on various resolutions. But it appears that this has not been enough to strengthen the calls for a permanent seat for Africa.

“We believe the economic challenges that we are facing, we should look at them with the lack of peace across the globe and the lack of transformation of the UNSC.

“When we come back here in 2015, [we should say] at least we started some progress as to what do we do in moving forward in transforming the UNSC because we have so many security issues across the globe that need our attention. But we are still using instruments of 1945 to try resolve those issues,’ Nkoana-Mashabane said.

“Yes we should be debating issues around the Millennium Development Goals but we should also be hearing a resounding yes to the transformation of the United Nations governing bodies, and in particular the Security Council,’ she said.

South Africa is spearheading the motion that the UN include at least two permanent seats for Africa on the UNSC, saying this would amplify the continent’s voice on global security issues, including those that affect Africa. The call makes sense considering that the majority of the issues the UNSC discusses involve Africa. On several occasions, African leaders have had to watch the UNSC make decisions on security issues affecting Africa with little or no say on those matters.

“For us, the key for this summit is that the post-2015 agenda will be incomplete if it only looks at some things, but it doesn’t say what we do with the untransformed, undemocratic United Nations Security Council representation.’

Africa will also go to the debate on Wednesday with a key question on what happens to the MDGs now that the UN will be seeking to adopt a post-2015 development agenda, she said. Member states are reportedly currently discussing the possibility of a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to complement or replace the MDGs.

“As long as it (the post-2015 agenda) puts total eradication of poverty and sustainable development that gives room for Africa to continue rising, we will support it,’ said Mashabane. Oksalayo (the fact of the matter is) there will not be development without peace. So we are here, urging, telling, leaders, that there is no celebration of 2015 or the 70th anniversary of the formation of the UN without looking at what has not been successful and that’s to bring about world peace,’ Nkoana-Mashabane said.

The UN could not move on issues when there were still “untransformed and undemocratic’ UN governing bodies, in particular the UNSC. It needed a road map which had to start in 2015 to ensure that all member states are accommodated.

“When we start in 2015, we need to know, all of us, we have attainable goals and that all of us are on the same page and give the global community some assurance that indeed we are moving towards a transformed UN. It is very important for us,’ Nkoana- Mashabane said.

The General Assembly debate on Wednesday will be preceded by several events, including discussions on climate change, and a report-back on the MDGS. On Monday, President Zuma will also hold a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and will later host a reception for heads of state and government in celebration of South Africa’s 20 years of democracy.