The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol was held in the sunny city of Durban, South Africa.

 

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Statements and Speeches

Statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations during the Commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons held In New York on Monday, 26 September 2016

Mr Chairman,

Let me from the outset thank you and your team for successfully organising the commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons pursuant to the NAM-sponsored United Nations Resolution 70/34.

My delegation aligns itself with the statement delivered by the esteemed representative of Venezuela on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement.

I would like to make the following additional remarks in my national capacity:

South Africa's support for the promotion of the total elimination of all nuclear weapons is informed by our own experience as the only country to date to have developed and then successfully and voluntarily eliminated its nuclear weapons in the 1990s. It is my delegation's view that the International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons must serve as a constant and a painful reminder to the international community of its unfulfilled commitments and obligations to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, particularly the nuclear weapons, as envisaged in the very first resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1946. It is indeed an anomaly that nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be subjected to a legally-binding prohibition.

Mr Chairman,

South Africa joins the majority of member states in voicing our deepest concern regarding the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons as highlighted during the three international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons held in Norway, Mexico and Austria.  We welcome the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) of the United Nations General Assembly convened in Geneva this year which provided an inclusive platform for the international community to explore options to taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations aimed at achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons. In this regard, Mr Chairman, the OEWG has now recommended to the General Assembly to convene an international conference in 2017 to commence negotiations on a Treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. While such a treaty may not reap immediate results, we believe it could, as an interim step, address a glaring gap in the international legal architecture on the legality of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, such a treaty would also strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and would underscore the urgency of accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament obligations and related commitments.

The NPT remains the only global legally-binding instrument that strives to not only prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also contains the legal obligation towards their elimination.  We are concerned that the NPT continues to be subjected to significant tensions as a result of non-implementation of the nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the Treaty and the related commitments made at the 1995, 2000 and 2010 NPT Review Conferences, as well as the lack of implementation of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East.

South Africa believes that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing processes that require continuous and irreversible progress on both fronts.  The selective focus on non-proliferation measures and the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament undermines the NPT bargain and weakens the non-proliferation regime.

Mr Chairman

Today marks an end to what has been a very productive and informative High Level debate in the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, under the theme, 'The Sustainable Development Goals: A universal push to transform our world.' The SDGs and their implementation as was highlighted by our President, H.E. Mr Jacob Zuma during the debate is very important to our country and to the African continent in particular. In this regard, and as we commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons South Africa wishes to reaffirm the inalienable right of States to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology and the potential of such technology to contribute towards sustainable and accelerated economic growth in our country and on the African Continent. In this regard, South Africa attaches great importance and appreciates the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency through its Technical Cooperation Programme, towards addressing the socio-economic needs and sustainable development challenges of developing countries, particularly in areas of food security, human and animal health, and energy.

While we recognize the potential that nuclear energy hold for advancing socio-economic development, we are concerned about the abuse of this technology for non-peaceful purposes.  The vast resources spent on the development and maintenance of destructive capabilities by a few States stand in sharp contrast to the limited resources devoted towards development.  This situation is neither acceptable nor sustainable in a world where the basic needs of many millions cannot be met.

In conclusion, Mr Chairman, the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the legally-binding assurance that they will never be produced again is the only guarantee that these weapons will never be used again.

The central role of the United Nations and a multilateral approach in solving today's challenges including that of nuclear disarmament are some of the key principles that underpin South Africa's engagement with the world in pursuit of its vision of a more peaceful and just world, as also envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.

My delegation remains ready to work with all member states towards the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.

I thank you.