On 31 December 2012, South Africa concluded its second term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
South Africa's work in the Council coincided with the seismic political shift in the Arab World and historic political developments on the African Continent. South Africa's second tenure in the Council was aimed at building upon its experience during its previous term by contributing to achieving peace and stability on the African continent and in all the regions of the world; developing effective partnerships between the UN and regional organisations in maintaining international peace and security; advancing the African Agenda, including highlighting the continent's priorities in the area of peace and security; promoting the rule of law within multilateralism and the reform of the United Nations system; and working towards improving the working methods of the Security Council to make it a more legitimate, representative and effective body.
The Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN, Ambassador Baso Sangqu stated that: "throughout its term, South Africa sought to promote a multilateral, rules-based system. We approached our membership of the Security Council from the premise that the UN remains the most appropriate forum for addressing international challenges in the maintenance of international peace and security, which are best served through collective co-operation".
Whilst these principles and values guide the South African Government's international engagement, it entered the Council fully cognisant that the power configuration in the UNSC is not in favour of elected members and national interests sometimes override international commitments. The unfair use or abuse of diplomatic tools at members' discretion complicates the work of the Security Council.
Despite these constraints, South Africa influenced a large number of Council outcomes and actively engaged on all issues on the Security Council's agenda pursuant to the global mandate associated with its membership. South Africa's leadership role and significant contribution to the work of the Council on African issues particularly on Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, DRC, Mali and Libya and its principled position on the Middle East and Western Sahara is well recognised. Notable achievements during South Africa's tenure include its leadership role in chairing the Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, whose strategic intent is to find ways by which to prevent and resolve conflicts in Africa and the 1 540 Committee, which prevents non-state actors from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction.
South Africa also championed landmark Council decisions on strengthening the strategic cooperation between the UNSC and the African Union Peace and Security Council in Resolution 2033 as well as the promotion of the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations. The country also co-led a Security Council Mission to Africa and led a successful visit of the Council to Timor-Leste in 2012.
South Africa reaffirms that its experience on the Council underscored the fundamental need for reform of the Security Council and the expansion of its membership in both the permanent and non-permanent categories to ensure legitimacy and credibility of this vital UN Organ. In responding to an ever-changing world, the Council cannot remain static and must adapt to ensure greater legitimacy and effectiveness.
Speaking at the University of Pretoria on 15 October 2010, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane summarised the objective for South Africa's participation in the Council when she said, "we will endeavour to utilise our membership of the Security Council in a manner that will add value to the work of the Council. In this context, South Africa will play an active role in the activities of the Security Council committees, working groups, commissions and other structures. We will endeavour to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security by inter alia participating in the Council's conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction agenda".
In summarising South Africa's tenure in the Security Council, Ambassador Sangqu concluded that, "looking back, South Africa's participation in the over 800 meetings held by the Council during our tenure, we can in all humility, boldly state that South Africa has made a positive and significant contribution to the international community's efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts the world over".