Notes following Briefing by the Director General of Foreign Affairs Ayanda Ntsaluba on South Africa’s Presidency of the United Nations Security Council on 15 April 2008.
Good afternoon colleagues. Just very briefly to remind you that April, this month, is a month wherein South Africa will once again assume the presidency of the UN Security Council.
You will recall that some time back in one of the media briefings, Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad did mention that our government had decided that what we would do during the month of our presidency - is to pick up the same theme that we started with during our previous presidency in March 2007, namely the issue around the relationship between the UN Security Council and regional organisations – in our case our specific interest of course being the African Union.
So because we had wanted to pick up that theme again during our chairpersonship we had been in consultation with the AU. You would recall that in January 2008 during the AU Summit in Addis Ababa the AU passed a resolution – the resolution actually thanking and recognising rather the effort of South Africa during our presidency of bringing this issue of the relationship between the AU, in particular the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Peace and Security Council, of bringing that up; and also in that resolution the AU indicated an interest to support the countries that are on the UN Security Council from the continent to carry that forward.
Subsequent to that resolution, we then had communication with the AU and there has been a general understanding that South Africa would indeed use this month again to highlight that – I’m just giving that as a context to that.
What we then planned with the Security Council and the UN Secretary General was that tomorrow, the 16th and the 17 April 2008, will be the two days that will be specifically focussed on taking that engagement forward. Tomorrow on the 16th the format will be a meeting that will be chaired by our President Thabo Mbeki who, as you might have heard, is in Senegal and is moving straight from Senegal to New York. He will chair the meeting, to which we have invited the countries that are members of the UN Security Council, the countries that are members of the AU Peace and Security Council and also the African countries who are on the agenda of the UN Security Council.
So essentially this meeting that is going to be chaired by President Mbeki will be trying to elevate this discussion around this issue of cooperation between the UNSC and the AU Peace and Security Council. In particular it will provide for an opportunity for a critical appraisal of the role of the UNSC on issues of maintenance of global peace and security.
And the presence of the countries that are the subject matter of the UNSC deliberations – it will enable them to share experiences in terms of how they have experienced the involvement of the Security Council in their own countries. Hopefully as a result of that engagement at a high level, will assist in making sure that the Security Council further improves its working methods and its ability to respond to the challenges that arise, in this particular case with respect to the African continent in particular.
On the 17th there will be a further engagement at a different level. This is going to be a meeting of the permanent representatives from Addis Ababa of the AU Peace and Security Council together with the permanent representatives, representing members of the UNSC.
Of course this meeting, although we are saying it is a meeting between the AU Peace and Security Council and the UNSC, will be open to the general membership of the UN.
The meeting on the 17th will focus on the outcomes of our presidency of last year. Last year when we started this topic it led to a report that was prepared by the UN Secretary General and that report makes a number of recommendations on how to tighten this cooperation. And this is a meeting that will be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma who is currently in New York.
That meeting will then try to look at those recommendations, try to make sure that those recommendations in the UN Secretary General’s report enjoy the support of member states and therefore become the basis for future action, and in particular we are hoping that that discussion will culminate in the formulation of a UNSC resolution that will then in a sense guide the way that coordination should be – and I think the issues that we are trying to deal with is how we can ensure that we bring about the complementarities between the work of the AU Peace and Security Council and the UNSC in particular.
How we can make sure that we deal with the issues of funding, how we make sure we deal with issues of early deployment and logistical support so that in future where the UN needs to act in support of an initiative already taken by a regional organisation like the AU we do not have to go through a long process as we did for example in the discussion about the hybrid force in Darfur because we were essentially walking through unchartered waters. So I think this has been brought about to a large extent also by the experience out of that.
One of the issues that are raised in the Security General’s report which we think is very important which relates to funding, is where the Secretary General proposes the setting up within the next three months, of an AU-UN panel consisting of distinguished persons to consider in-depth the modalities of how to support, including financing peacekeeping operations undertaken by regional organisations, in particular as relation to funding equipment and logistics and make concrete recommendations.
So we really believe that if we can secure an outcome on these deliberations, the adoption of these particular recommendations and the set up of this panel of eminent persons which will then look in the detail of some of these issues, then I think this will be a major achievement.
Just to say also that there are two other important issues to highlight that will be important during the course our presidency in April.
Firstly the mandate of two peacekeeping missions – the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) which helps the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and the South – its mandate comes to an end at the end of April and so during our presidency there will be a debate about possible renewal or extension of that mandate. Also the issue with respect to Western Sahara of (inaudible) and in both cases South Africa will be advancing the view that we believe that the mandate should be extended.
The other issue that I think is very important that we will be following very closely during the course of our presidency, would be the briefings from the special representatives of the Secretary General on the UN Missions to Georgia and to Kosovo – we’ve discussed both issues in previous briefings.
The main issue that we wanted to place in context is the current visit of President Mbeki to New York. And of course the President is in New York is accompanied by the Foreign Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in the context of that ongoing discussion and debate on forging closer cooperation between the AU Peace and Security Council and the UNSC. Thank you.
Questions & Answers
Question: DG, Zimbabwe is not on the agenda tomorrow, why is that so? The UK and the US governments said they will put the issue on the agenda. What is your response?
Answer: Well first of all Zimbabwe is not currently on the agenda of the UNSC as you know. Secondly unless they place it on the agenda – they may well try to do that and then I guess the membership will deal with it at that point. This is a meeting called by South Africa- it was for a very specific purpose. The President (Thabo Mbeki) started writing letters inviting Heads of State more than a month ago and we already knew a long time ago – in January already we knew we were going to assume the presidency so this meeting was specifically called to deal with this issue of this cooperation (between the AU and the UN Security Council).
It may well be that at some point the issue of Zimbabwe some countries will be put on the UNSC agenda by some countries, it will be discussed as and when that situation arises but this meeting was called for a very specific purpose.
Question: It seems like the issue of getting the hybrid force into Darfur remains still problematic. That is one example where cooperation between regional organisations and the UN has not been a success. Apart from the problems which you referred to, there seems to be some really serious political issues and lack of perhaps commitment by African countries to ensure that Sudan actually cooperates with the UN/AU, Is this issue going to be discussed – you can talk logistics and finance but can’t persuade the recipient country to accept the hybrid force which should be deployed?.
Answer: My sense is that there will certainly be a discussion around the difficulties with respect to Darfur. As I said some of the countries invited are countries who are a subject matter of the UNSC now and Sudan is one of those. The hope is that out of sharing of experiences both by the countries concerned but also by the general membership of the UN, we will try to look at what lessons to take from these difficulties. Some of the difficulties, as you correctly point out, may have significant political undertones. I think most of us would agree that some of the difficulties in Darfur -it cannot be said are purely only logistical difficulties – some of them relate to a lot of complex political issues, not the least of which is the fact that the problem in Darfur has had now significant spill over effect to neighbouring countries. So there is a lot to do in Darfur.
And of course there are other political issues being the fact that up to now, all of us have always been cautious of the results to be achieved- when we pursue peacekeeping- in the absence of the finalisation of a holding and an inclusive political deal. All of us know that getting that holding political deal in the context of Darfur because of the ministry that deals with different agendas is very difficult. There are many complex issues but I would suggest that with respect to African countries it is always a difficult issue and I think this is not the first and is not going to be the last instance where there is always a very delicate balance between- to what extent you try to keep a country engaged and open the lines of dialogue- or maybe the country is not meeting its own obligations- or maybe there are some problematic things that are done by the country concerned that you actually take a far much more confrontational approach.
I think there is always a tension to manage that and I think there is a particular perspective that African countries have taken with respect to Darfur -but I think that as long as we understand that the underlying thing nevertheless is that everybody wants to nudge this process forward as much as possible. Maybe also to concede the point that indeed there have been some problems with this first example of this AU-UN partnership and our view is that precisely because we all agree that there have been some difficulties, that is why we thought that devoting our second term in the presidency of the UNSC far much more to try to help clarify these issues- so that some of the problems that arose with this particular mission do not have to be a permanent feature of any other subsequent interaction between the UNSC and the AU Peace and Security Council.
I mean there is a burning issue now around Somalia – we know some of the hesitancy within the UN. So all these things need to come up together for us to try to hopefully, in that meeting on the 16th the Heads of State, will apply themselves to see what lessons to take from the current experiences.
Question: South Africa, and SADC, have received some criticism over its response on the situation in Zimbabwe from civil society, the MDC – the main opposition and in the west, the primary criticism being that it has not been forthright enough; it has not really spoken out strong enough about what is happening there. Now I know that in the past sometimes when people raised this question, the reply is “People what you expect us to do? Regime change? “And so on. But there is a lot between regime change and between saying “can the results come out expeditiously” and to urge the parties to respect the results. I wonder if you could just explain why SADC and South Africa in particular, the dominant power in the region, feel they can’t be more outspoken? And I am afraid South Africa rightly or wrongly is not getting good press about the issue. It would be really helpful to address this issue. They have seen the photographs of the President with President Mugabe and they hear the quote, which may or may not have been taken slightly out of context. It just reflects really poorly on the region.
Answer: I think it is important when we look at this issue to always remember that everybody all over the world indicates, correctly that South Africa should be concerned for the simple reason that South Africa is one of the countries that will bear the brunt of any negative fallout from Zimbabwe. Now if you make that statement and accept that, that is a fact, then you should also be in a position to understand that we try to look at the situation with due regard to the fact that indeed it has a significant impact and so what we will be interested in, in particular is how to facilitate that the issue gets resolved and it is not going to be our preoccupation necessarily to say what it is we are expected to say but how do we focus on making sure that the issue gets resolved.
The SADC meeting felt that the President (Mbeki) should continue with the facilitation process. We know that when the discussions were suspended in order to allow for the elections to take place, that there was a general understanding that this process is going to continue. Surely in that context people would expect and should expect that the President should keep the lines open to both parties that are the subject of the facilitation process and therefore we would not necessarily see anything that is untoward in the President meeting President Mugabe; in as much as there would be nothing untoward with him meeting Morgan Tsvangarai; in as much as him meeting any other key players within the Zimbabwe political scene. I think it is in that context that we should be looking at it. I think SADC feels, and it is very anxious to get the issue resolved and I think it is trying to look at the most constructive way to get the issue involved.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
15 April 2008