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 by Dr. Wouter Zaayman, Counsellor, at the  Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations, at the High-Level Thematic Debate on the United Nations, Peace and Security

11 May 2016

Mr President,

Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to the President of the General Assembly for organizing this important debate on peace and security. 

Mr President,

In the seventy years since the establishment of the United Nations, the need for this organisation to “safe succeeding generations from the scourge of war” has never been greater. Today the world is grappling with a multiplicity of new threats that threatens global peace and security and which necessitates the intervention of this organisation. These new and emerging threats are further compounded by acts of terrorism and violent extremism. What is required from us, as members of the General Assembly, is a relook at the UN’s current peace and security tool-kit in order to effectively and comprehensively address these challenges.

While we must undoubtedly aim to strengthen the tools at our disposal in addressing conflicts as they arise, we must also emphasize the preventive approach in addressing conflict and its root causes in order to prevent countries emerging from conflict from relapsing.  South Africa is convinced that peace and stability in the world will remain elusive if we do not address the nexus between security and development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which sets out the global development path for the next fifteen years, gives recognition to this vital link. The nature of contemporary conflicts reveals that such conflicts are, to a large extent, precipitated by dispute-related economic development issues, including access to mineral resources, the disproportionate distribution of wealth and power, bad governance, the lack of people’s participation in democratic processes, and corruption, to mention but a few.

In that context, consideration of the interdependence of security and development requires the different principal organs of the UN to work, in a complementary manner, within their respective Charter mandates to ensure a holistic and integrated approach to sustainable and durable peace.

Mr President,

When considering the role of the United Nations in peace and security matters, we welcome the recognition by the General Assembly for the increasing role that regional organisations play in peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts. As the UN has recognised, regional organisations “are well positioned to understand the causes of armed conflicts owing to their knowledge of the region which can be a benefit for their efforts to influence the prevention or resolution of these conflicts”. Furthermore, they have a comparative advantage due to their increasing political resolve to address the situation and it would be beneficial for the UN to work closely with regional and sub-regional organisations in their mediation and peace-making efforts.

Over the last few years we have witnessed the practical advantages of this cooperation in the area of peacekeeping on the African Continent. While we acknowledge that the primary responsibility for international peace and security lies with the United Nations Security Council, it is often regional organizations such as the African Union that are the first responders in order to stabilize crisis situations. This enables the UN to deploy when conditions are more favorable. The joint UN operation in Darfur and the cooperation in Burundi and Somalia are examples of the successes that could be achieved from fostering closer strategic coherence between the work of the UN and the African Union.

This relationship, however will only be sustainable if there is consistency, respect for the principle of subsidiarity, mutual trust and an appreciation of the contribution that this partnership can bring about. Whilst we have adopted well-meaning resolutions giving meaning to Chapter VIII of the Charter, we should avoid a practice where the UN is selective in its approach and a perception that it is interested in partnerships only when it is convenient to do so. This creates the impression that the UN is long on rhetoric and short on substance as we have seen in situations where the significant role of the AU was ignored in the cases of Libya and Western Sahara and where the League of Arab States is often ignored in the case of Palestine.

Mr President,

The African Continent is the largest troop contributor to UN mandated peace operations. Additionally, the Continent has made significant progress in operationalizing its peace and security architecture. This notwithstanding, more needs to be done to ensure that the Continent is adequately capacitated to address its peace and security challenges. In this regard, we are calling on the United Nations to support and adequately fund the Joint United Nations – African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. 

Additionally, predictable and flexible funding mechanisms are required for UN mandated African Union peace operations.  In this regard, the use of UN assessed contributions provides the most reliable, sustainable and predictable avenue of support for UN mandated AU peace operations.

Mr President,

Ultimately, when we are addressing issues related to peace and security, it must be in pursuit of a long term political solution and the protection of civilians.  Given the complex nature of this task, it is imperative that UN peacekeeping missions have at its core mandate the protection of civilians, who are the most vulnerable during conflict. We maintain that the protection of civilians remain first and foremost the responsibility of the host government and the UN must support the host government in carrying out this responsibility. For the UN is to retain its credibility, it is imperative that peacekeeping missions should have the necessary capabilities, are well resourced and adequately funded.  

In conclusion Mr President,

This debate has been important in highlighting the role of the General Assembly, as the most representative principal organ of the United Nations, in playing a role in ensuring international peace and security. This role includes not only the ability to act when the Security Council is unwilling or unable to act, but also to provide policy coherence to the organization in relation to conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. What is required from us as member states today, is to assert this Charter mandated role. 

I thank you.