South Africa: Opening Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Council on Foreign Relations Meeting, New York, USA

President Ramaphosa addressing the Council on Foreign Relations meeting, at the Council offices in New York. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to share with you some perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of the current global environment.

As you would be aware, this year South Africa is celebrating the centenary of the founding father of our democracy, President Nelson Mandela.

This celebration has provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made as a young democracy and the tasks that still lie ahead of us.

It has also reinforced the need for South Africa to continue to build on the legacy of President Mandela in working towards a peaceful, just and prosperous world.

We remain inspired by the role he played as a bridge-builder and seek to follow his example in bringing together divergent perspectives.

At this moment in global history, as we seek to navigate the challenges confronting the political, security and economic architecture that has evolved over the last 70 years, we are convinced of the value of Mandela's approach to consensus-building and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

This view is reinforced by a number of disturbing global developments.

The resurgence of geopolitical rivalry, which has not been experienced since the Cold War era, has huge implications for international peace and security.

There is a growing challenge to important multilateral arrangements, characterised by the withdrawal from commitments made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, on climate change, financing for development and in nuclear non-proliferation.

The rise of trade protectionism threatens the multilateral trading system we agreed in Marrakech in 1994 and Doha in 2001.

There appears to be little prospect of the resolution of intractable conflicts in the Middle East and in Africa, nor has the international community managed to effectively address growing political intolerance, acts of terrorism and right-wing extremism.

While globalisation has brought many opportunities and much progress, it has also contributed to growing inequality among states and within states.

These challenges are by no means insurmountable.

However, they do require a return to a cooperative and inclusive approach to international relations.

The idea that might is right is wrong.

There is an opportunity for the world leaders, international organisations and civil society to work together to restore the primacy and relevance of multilateralism.

At the same time, we need to emphasise the importance of a more proactive approach to the maintenance of international peace and security.

We can do that by paying particular attention to preventive diplomacy, which should be supported through closer coordination and partnership between the United Nations and regional organisations such as the African Union.

We need to strengthen the rules-based international trading system and move with speed to transform other multilateral institutions and global governance structures to be in line with the current realities of the 21st century.

This should include reform of the UN Security Council, which is limited in its ability to respond to current security challenges by virtue of its structure, composition and relative lack of accountability.

For the global development agenda to succeed we have to ensure the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its means of implementation, the Climate Change Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.

To do so, we need to build meaningful partnerships between UN member states, international organisations, civil society organisations and the private sector.

As South Africa, we are determined to use every means at our disposal, including our participation in global forums, to advance the African Union's Agenda 2063 and to consolidate regional integration.

We are working together with our fellow African countries to establish a Continental Free Trade Area, which would fundamentally transform Africa's economies and consolidate the continent's position in the global trading system.

This dream – of a single African market for goods and services – has been made possible by sustained economic growth and greater political stability.

Despite the progress, however, there are still areas where instability and conflict continue to cause great misery and hardship.

We are still confronting challenges in places like South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Lesotho and areas of the Great Lakes, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.

South Africa will continue to play its part in conflict resolution in these areas, and in combating threats to regional and international peace and security.

South Africa will take up a non-permanent seat on the Security Council from next year to December 2020.

We will dedicate our tenure on the Security Council to continuing the legacy of Nelson Mandela, whose values of peace, reconciliation and respect continues to inspire Africa and indeed the whole world.

In line with the philosophy and practice of the Mandela years, South Africa continues to seek warm fraternal relations and strong economic ties with all the countries of the world regardless of size, influence or alignment.

We remain firmly committed to rules-based multilateralism as the most sustainable and effective approach to the management of international relations – and will continue to advocate for the needs and interests of developing countries to be placed at the top of the international agenda.

I thank you.

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