South Africa: President Outlines SA's Agenda for UN General Assembly

Addressing the Assembly's annual high-level debate, via a pre-recorded video, President Evariste Ndayishimiye stressed that multilateralism must "drive forward" the world's efforts to overcome massive obstacles (file photo)
21 September 2020

South Africa will this week advocate for Africa to have permanent representation on the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

This will be among a broad range of issues thrust into the spotlight when President Cyril Ramaphosa participates in this week's UN General Assembly, in which world leaders will virtually converge for the 75th session to seek collective solutions to global challenges.

Writing in his weekly newsletter, President Cyril Ramaphosa said while the UN is leading efforts to ensure that the world that emerges from COVID-19 is better, fairer and more peaceful, the organisation has also enabled countries to focus on the work that needs to be done.

This is not only to rebuild economies, but to do so in a manner that advances the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"The UN has played a vital role in supporting cooperation among countries and international organisations like the World Health Organisation, as they have worked to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic.

"It has focused attention on the most vulnerable countries and those parts of society most badly affected by the pandemic," said President Ramaphosa on Monday.

To resolve global challenges - be they health emergencies, transnational crime, conflict and war, climate change, migration or natural disasters - countries must work together.

"It is only through multilateralism that we can forge common strategies for the benefit of all. We therefore need to strengthen bodies like the UN ensure they are properly resourced and that they are representative.

"We must use this anniversary to push ahead with the reform of the UN, particularly its Security Council, which does not give equal voice to the different regions of the world," said President Ramaphosa.

Building an inclusive world

South Africa, he said, recognises that global peace is not just about a world free of conflict, but one free of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

"It is a world of inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity. By providing all the world's people with the means to live secure and productive lives, we are laying the best foundation for peace and stability.

"One of the greatest challenges to the achievement of this goal is the continued exclusion of half of the world's population through discrimination and marginalisation," the President said.

Empowering women

The year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, which placed the emancipation of women firmly on the global agenda.

The President said it is a valuable opportunity to not only review the progress made over the last quarter century, but most importantly, to clearly outline the actions that must now be taken to ensure that women occupy their rightful place as equals in all areas of life in all societies.

For Africa, this means, among other things, "we must intensify measures to empower women economically".

"This is in line with the African Union decision to dedicate this decade to the financial inclusion of women. We therefore welcome the opportunity later this week to take part in a panel of G7 and African countries on women's digital financial inclusion in Africa.

"It will look at how women can take advantage of technological advances to start businesses, trade and find meaningful employment," President Ramaphosa said.

There is much that can be achieved by ensuring that women have greater access to affordable financial services and education. This, the President said, should take place alongside other measures being pursued on the continent, such as efforts to increase the portion of public procurement set aside for women-owned businesses.

"Our message is that unless women are brought into the mainstream of the economy, they will continue to bear the brunt of exclusion and be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

"Our message is that a world that empowers women is a prosperous and sustainable world."

Addressing climate change, global order

President Ramaphosa said the sitting of the UN General Assembly must address the climate change crisis.

"As the world rebuilds in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient path.

"We should be building green economies, not just for the sake of environmental sustainability but because of the opportunities for job creation and growth," he said.

The President said the pandemic has presented the world with a choice between the global cooperation envisaged in the UN Charter, and the pursuit of narrow self-interest.

"It is a choice between prosperity for all or for a just a few.

"At the 75th UN General Assembly, the leaders of the world have an opportunity to begin rebuilding a new global order based on justice and equality.

"By drawing on the spirit of solidarity, friendship and unity of purpose that has long defined the United Nations, we will set a clear path towards lasting peace and sustainable development," said President Ramaphosa.

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