Ramaphosa 'humbled' after SA gets UN Security Council seat

2018-06-08 17:54
President Cyril Ramaphosa (Gallo Images/Netwerk24)

President Cyril Ramaphosa (Gallo Images/Netwerk24)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed gratitude to the UN General Assembly after South Africa was elected to serve in the United Nations Security Council for the term 2019-2020 as a non-permanent member. 

Ramaphosa also expressed "unreserved gratitude and appreciation" to the Southern African Development Community, who nominated the country, and the Africa Union for endorsing the election. 

South Africa will use its membership, the president said in a statement, to advance "priorities of the African Union Agenda 2063".

"South Africa’s tenure will be guided by our commitment to resolve regional, global and international conflicts and promote inclusive growth as part of the effort to ensure a better Africa in a better world. 

"We are committed to addressing the root causes of conflict, including inequality and underdevelopment, and promoting inclusive political dialogue.

"We reaffirm our commitment to the peaceful resolution of global disputes and the advancement of inclusive development in accordance with the United Nations Charter and International Law."

'Fight against terrorism and illegal migration'

On Friday, the UN General Assembly also elected Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany and Indonesia to serve as non-permanent members of the council, starting in January.

All but three of the 193 UN member states cast paper ballots. Germany and the Dominican Republic each obtained 184 votes.

South Africa got 183 votes, Belgium 181 and 144 went to Indonesia.

"Belgium will make sure to be a constructive, reliable and open partner during its mandate at the council and for the international community as a whole," Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said in a statement.

The Belgian government said it was joining the council at a "pivotal moment."

"It's a period when multilateralism no longer seems obvious to all, with some even questioning it, even as the planet is confronted with multiple global challenges, including climate change, the (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, the fight against terrorism and illegal migration."

Each candidate country needed to secure two thirds of the votes in order to clinch a seat.

There are 15 members on the UN Security Council, including the five permanent ones - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and 10 non-permanent members, half of which are elected each year.

Just before taking up their duties, the elected states get intense training about Security Council protocol and customs.

The ambassadors will each preside over the council for a month during their mandate.

The Maldives, with only 46 votes, lost out to Indonesia for the Asia Pacific regional group's seat.

Belgium and Germany obtained the two seats for the Western Europe and Others Group after Israel dropped out of the competition.

Elaborate nomination process 

As part of a deal at the African Union, the Africa slot went to South Africa, while the Dominican Republic took up Latin America's spot after a similar consensus in that group.

Each regional bloc has its own process for Security Council candidates. For some, "it's first come, first served," and countries often seek a seat very early on, a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"You can put forward your candidacy for 10 years," the diplomat added, though others can challenge that spot.

For the current election, "Israel in the end decided to withdraw because it understood it stood no chance and could face humiliation with 30, 40 or even 50 votes maximum," which would trigger its automatic elimination, the diplomat explained.

In the Western Europe group, there is no agreement on who can get a spot. "As soon as it leaves the council after a term, Germany systematically puts forward its candidacy for six or seven years later," the diplomat said.

So before seeking a seat, a country looks at the competitors already listed.

The diplomat noted that the Africa group has a "very sophisticated" process in order to always have three seats at the Council, including one Arab country.

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