Zuma’s challenge to the United Nations

25 September 2013

South African President Jacob Zuma threw down a stark challenge to world leaders in New York on Tuesday, saying that global development and security were “two sides of the same coin” as he called for action to reform the United Nations Security Council.

Addressing the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Zuma said that, nearly 70 years after its establishment, the UN Security Council “still remains undemocratic, unrepresentative and unfair to developing nations and small states, and disenfranchises the majority of the member states of the United Nations, who form the majority in this General Assembly”.

There had been too much talk about reforming the council – a key UN organ charged with the maintenance of international peace and security – with no action, Zuma said.

Africa, along with the rest of the developing world, could not “remain beholden indefinitely to the will of an unrepresentative minority on most important issues of international peace and security.

“We would like to challenge the Assembly today: let us set ourselves the target to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in 2015 with a reformed, more inclusive, democratic and representative UN Security Council.”

At the same time, Zuma criticised developed countries for their tendency, following the global economic meltdown prompted by the financial crisis of 2008-09, to “renegotiate the rules of the game”.

He singled out the tendency of developed countries to introduce new issues as prerequisites for partnerships with developing countries – particularly the issue of clean technology and the green economy – which served in fact as “huge non-tariff barriers”.

Developing the green economy was of course important, Zuma said, but had to be encouraged and promoted in a way that did not unfairly restrain economic development in Africa and the developing world. The international playing field had to be equalised, which meant that any post-2015 development agenda “must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”.

Zuma also called on developed countries not to abdicate their historical responsibility, and commitments made, to invest in the development of Africa and the developing South, saying that this was “of primary importance as a source of much-needed sustainable development and stability in the world”.

The developed North “should stand ready to meet their commitment to contribute 0.7% of their gross national income towards official development assistance,” Zuma said.

“The tendency to attempt to delegate some of these historical responsibilities to new emerging economies in the South is unacceptable and unworkable, as such emerging nations have their own historical challenges and backlogs to deal with.”

SAinfo reporter