'The UN is the most powerful instrument we possess' - Ramaphosa in New York

The reform of the United Nations, and particularly its Security Council, is a priority if we are to give full effect to the values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his debut address to the General Assembly of the body in New York on Tuesday. 

South Africa would like to see the Security Council increased to 15 members and for Africa to have two permanent members on the council since most conflicts happen on the African continent. 

"Institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the WTO (World Trade Organization) need to be reshaped and enhanced so that they may more effectively meet the challenges of the contemporary world and better serve the interests of the poor and marginalised," Ramaphosa added. 

"The call to leave no one behind requires that we strengthen the institutions of global governance and make them more responsive to the needs of young people, particularly in the developing world.

"It is within our hands, as the leaders assembled here today, to forge a more representative, equal and fair United Nations that is empowered and equipped to lead the struggle to end poverty, unemployment and inequality in the world."

He said to the poor, vulnerable and marginalised that the UN was a beacon of promise in a landscape of doubt.

"To billions across the world, the UN is the most powerful instrument we possess to achieve a more equal, more humane and more inclusive world." 

In his speech, Ramaphosa often referred to former president Nelson Mandela.

"We are a young world, where more than half the global population is under the age of 30 years. This is even more pronounced on our continent, Africa, where two-thirds of its people were not yet born when Nelson Mandela was released from prison," he said. "We are living in the Age of Youth. This places a responsibility on us, as leaders, not only to put the interests of young people at the centre of our efforts, but to empower women and young people to be more prominent in directing the course of global affairs."

Ramaphosa said more should be done to tackle diseases such as Aids, tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes and cancer.

He informed world leaders about South Africa's plans to fix the economy, land reform plans and how to overcome the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. He also referred to the country's foreign policy.

"We are determined through our international relations to be a force for progress and peace and global equality and will continue to advance the interests of the African continent and the Global South."  

Earlier on Monday, at a packed small auditorium at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Upper East Side headquarters, Ramaphosa championed free trade, multilateralism and South Africa's resilience.

Read more here.

*Netwerk24 reporter Sarel van der Walt is a political journalist accompanying the president by invitation of the Presidency and the Department of International Relations, to report on events in New York for Media24's publications.

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