Statement by South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr. Naledi Pandor at the Event “Alliance for Multilateralism: Building the Network and Presenting Results”

26.09.2019 - Speech

Ministers and Representatives of organisations and Civil Society,
Distinguished Delegates,

We are here today to endorse the Alliance for Multilateralism initiative. This initiative also complements other initiatives in the UN in advancing the concept of multilateralism.

These initiatives are necessary to galvanise the vast majority of member states who see the value of multilateral action. It also allows us the opportunity to counter the narrative that we have been hearing from some that collective action is not in our interest.

Our meeting at the UN to commit to this initiative is significant. The UN represents the very essence of collective action. Thus concrete initiatives that we embark on will have legitimacy if it is proposed and discussed within the context of UN processes. Ignoring these processes will undermine the organisation and the spirit of collectivism.

I want to emphasise that South Africa believes in the creation of a just, humane and equitable world and in a rules-based international system of global governance. In the conduct of our international relations, we attach utmost importance to the promotion of human rights, democracy, justice and the rule of international law. These principles place multilateral institutions, specifically the United Nations at the centre of our activities.

The commemoration of the centenary of the birth of former President Nelson Mandela at the UN last year and declaring 2019-2029 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace, is one such initiative to advance the principles of multilateralism.

We committed to redouble our efforts to building a just, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and fair world, and to revive the values for which Nelson Mandela stood by, placing human dignity at the centre of our actions. We also committed ourselves to demonstrating mutual respect, tolerance, understanding and reconciliation in our relations.

We recognized that the world has changed significantly since the founding of the United Nations and acknowledged that global peace eludes us to this day. Therefore, we have a responsibility to finding sustainable solutions to bring lasting peace, and to addressing threats to sustainable development, peace and security, including challenges to the primacy of multilateralism.

In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution sponsored by Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, which declared 24 April as “International Day on Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace.” This International Day is a reaffirmation of the Charter of the United Nations and its principles in resolving disputes among countries through peaceful means. This initiative complements other initiatives in the United Nations such as today’s launch of the Alliance for Multilateralism in advancing the concept and principles of multilateralism.

The global geopolitical challenges that we face today are complex and multifaceted. No single country, no matter how powerful and wealthy, can seek to assume for itself the global unilateral monopoly on seeking solutions to all the world’s problems. The multilateral system should be based on common and shared values. It should set norms and standards that should find universal application without exception and should be at the service of humanity and not the narrow interests of the few. The outcomes of multilateral negotiations should be fair and balanced, and benefit all.

Our vision of an ideal multilateral system is one based on representivity and legitimacy. In this regard, South Africa has been a vocal proponent for the reform of the UN Security Council. Our two previous and current tenures in the Council have convinced us that the reform of this principal organ of global peace and security is more urgent than ever before. We are of the firm view that the enlargement of the Security Council to reflect current realities will ensure that it is representative, democratic, and enjoys legitimacy. Failure to do so will encourage states to act unilaterally, with disastrous consequences for all.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we reiterate our firm commitment to multilateralism as the best way for states to resolve conflicts and other global challenges and to respect international institutions and agreements as a guiding principle in relations between Member States. We therefore need to expedite our efforts to transform the current global system from a power-based hierarchical construct to a rules-based system of international society.

I thank you.