Jacob Zuma
January 22, 2012

The following is the text of a speech by South African President Jacob Zuma during the UN Security Summit Debate in New York on January 12, 2012. South Africa assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Security Council for the month of January.

Your Excellency, the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. Your Excellencies Ministers and Permanent Representatives. Ladies and gentlemen.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for participating in this important debate on the relationship between the UN and Regional Organisations and in particular the African Union.

Your presence here, Excellencies, bears testimony to the significance you attach to this matter and indeed to the African continent. Allow me also to express my appreciation to the Secretary General of the UN for his report on this debate.

I would also like to thank him for his personal commitment to the strengthening of the relationship between the UN and the African Union. When the founders of the United Nations drafted the UN Charter they had the foresight and vision to enshrine in it provisions that encourage cooperation between the UN and Regional Organisations in the maintenance of international peace and security.

More than six decades ago when the Charter was drafted there was no practical example of how this cooperation would be structured and executed. However, Chapter VIII of the Charter was ground-breaking in that inspite of the fact that there were no Regional Organisations at the time, it provided for flexibility in cases where such regional organisations would be established.

As you are aware, most African countries were still under colonial rule when the United Nations was formed in 1945. Our concerns, issues and voices were not considered. The absence of African countries at the time of the formation of the UN, is reflected in the fact that not a single African country is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

This is despite the fact that on average, about 70% of agenda items of the UN Security Council concern Africa. It is a huge continent that has 54 member states, representing more than one billion people. The failure of representation, on a permanent basis, of such a big part of the globe in an important body such as the UN Security Council, points to the necessity and urgency for the fundamental reform of the United Nations Security Council so that it can become more representative and legitimate.

This body, which believes and preaches the culture of democracy and the will of the majority, which is the key element in a democratic system, cannot at the same time, in some of its key and decisive structures, practice something that contradicts the purposes and the principles of its founding Charter.

The African Union, the successor to the OAU, was established a decade ago to coordinate and spearhead the continent’s efforts towards development and common security. Through its peace and security organs, the African Union has contributed immensely to the improvement of peace and security as well as in promoting democracy and the respect for human rights in Africa.

The AU has also sought to give practical meaning to the vision of the UN Charter on cooperation with regional organisations.
Your Excellencies, We are mindful of the fact that the UN Charter gives the UN Security Council the primary mandate and the responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, including in the African continent.

At the same time, we are of the view that cognisance should be given to the fact that the Chapter encourages cooperation with regional bodies such as the AU in carrying out the UN mandate in line with the spirit of subsidiarity.

It is our view that close cooperation with regional bodies has advantages. Regional bodies are closer to the situation, are familiar with the issues and often understand the dynamics of the conflict.

Neighbouring countries also often bear the burden and consequences of conflict in their neighbourhood. It is for this very reason that we support the principle of complementarity between the AU and the UN and their respective Security Councils.

We are pleased with the cooperation that has existed between the AU and the UN since the AU’s formation ten years ago. The adoption of Resolution 1809 in particular was a significant development in strengthening our cooperation.

This positive experience has laid a firm foundation for further enhancing and strengthening the strategic relationship between the AU and the UN. Critical to building a stronger relationship will be to avoid the situation such as that which transpired during the conflict in Libya last year.

As everybody is aware, the AU developed a political roadmap that would have assisted in resolving the political conflict in that country. The AU’s plan was completely ignored in favour of bombing Libya by NATO forces.

The consequences of actions that were carried out in Libya in the name of the UN Security Council have spilled over into other countries in the region. A problem which was confined to one country, Libya, has now grown to be a regional problem.

Your Excellencies it is the view of the AU that the 1973 Resolution of the UN Security Council was largely abused in some specific respects. The lesson we should draw from the Libyan experience is that greater political coherence and a common vision between the AU and the UN are critical in the resolution of African conflicts.

The views of the African Union must be listened to if we are to strengthen our relationship and prevent further conflict.

We now need the UN, AU and the League of Arab States to work together to assist the Libyan people to resolve the situation they find themselves in. It is also important that those who implement the decisions of the UN Security Council interpret its decisions correctly.

They should also be held accountable for the actions they take in implementing the Security Council binding mandates. Unless we take that serious view, the UN Security Council will be undermined and will lose credibility and respect in the eyes of the world.

Excellencies, Africa can also prosper and stability be maintained if we also avoid what happened during the Cold War. We must never forget to take lessons from history.

As you are aware, a lot of destabilisation and conflict in the continent was condoned and sometimes actively supported by protagonists in the Cold War because the conflict furthered their interests.

This should never be allowed to happen again. Africa must not be a playground for furthering the interests of other regions ever again. It is important to underline this point so that conflicts in Africa become manageable. They will be manageable if they are not promoted or aided from outside the continent.

Your Excellencies, We have gained insight and understanding from the experience of cooperation between the AU and the UN in the past decade in addressing matters of peace and security.

Based on this experience we wish to make the following proposals for strengthening the strategic cooperation between the two bodies.

Firstly, we are of the strong view that there is a need for greater strategic political coherence between the two organisations in the resolution, prevention and management of conflicts in Africa. In this respect the relationship between the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council are of critical significance.

Mechanisms have to be found to avoid duplications and divergent points of departure in terms of the approach. We therefore believe that we should institutionalise the relationship between the two Councils if our common objective of maintaining international peace and security is to be maintained.

In this regard, aligning our collective policies, strategies and mechanisms for conflict prevention, mediation and resolution in Africa is paramount.

Secondly, we should consider the possibility of developing and defining modalities for cooperation and decision-making between the two institutions. This will assist in ensuring uniformity, consistency and certainty when the two institutions are pursuing a common objective.

We believe that this proposal will particularly assist in addressing the challenge of how the UNSC reacts to requests, suggestions and proposals by the AU Peace and Security Council.

Thirdly, we are convinced that a clear division of labour will be crucial to the success of the strategic partnership between the two organisations. This has to take into account the different competencies, capacities and comparative advantages of the two bodies.

Finally, the issue of capacity building and sustainable resource allocations remain a fundamental challenge. This is something that the AU needs to discuss with the UN to explore solutions.

Excellencies, The African Continent has in the past decade demonstrated sufficiently, the political will and commitment to rid the continent of all conflicts and wars.

We are working hard to move the continent forward to a sustainable path of socio-economic development and prosperity.
We know that we have the support of the UN on that path.

We would once again like to reiterate that for the African Continent, the strengthening of the strategic relationship between the AU and UN is critical if we are to rid our continent of the scourge of conflicts that has scarred Africa for decades.

Excellencies, Last weekend the African National Congress, the oldest liberation movement in the African continent, celebrated 100 years of existence.

We wish to once again thank the United Nations and its members for the support that they provided to the people of South Africa during the struggle for liberation.

The UN declared apartheid a crime against humanity, and by doing so, put enormous pressure on the apartheid regime and its supporters. On this centenary year, we extend our deepest gratitude to the UN for supporting freedom, peace, human rights and justice in our country.

We also thank the UN Secretary General for the recent High-level Symposium on South Africa’s Contribution to the Fight Against Racism and Xenophobia, held here at the UN Headquarters last September.

We pledge to continue our dedication and commitment to human rights, peace, democracy and justice so that the support of countless men and women here at the UN Headquarters can prove to have not been in vain.

In this respect, partnership with the International Community and the United Nations in particular is critical.

Excellencies, I wish the Council well in this debate. I thank you.

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