As the United Nations begins the 75th session of its General Assembly this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on participating countries to ensure that they intensify measures to empower women economically.
“One of the greatest challenges to [a world that is better, fairer and peaceful post-Covid-19] the achievement of this goal is the continued exclusion of half of the world’s population through discrimination and marginalisation,” he said in his newsletter to the nation on Monday morning.
This year’s assembly will take place virtually, and South Africa will be addressing the General Assembly by videoconference from the Union Buildings and will be participating in several other meetings.
Ramaphosa said this General Assembly was “a valuable opportunity” to “clearly outline the actions we must now take to ensure that women occupy their rightful place as equals in all areas of life in all societies” .
“For Africa, this means, among other things, that we must intensify measures to empower women economically. This is in line with the African Union’s decision to dedicate this decade to the financial inclusion of women,” said Ramaphosa
Later this week South Africa will take part in a panel of G7 and African countries on women’s digital financial inclusion in Africa. It will look at how women can take advantage of technological advances to start businesses, trade and find meaningful employment.
“There is much that can be achieved by ensuring that women have greater access to affordable financial services and education. This should take place alongside other measures we are pursuing on the continent, such as efforts to increase the portion of public procurement set aside for women-owned businesses,” he added.
Ramaphosa said South Africa’s message would be that unless women were brought into the mainstream of the economy they would continue to bear the brunt of exclusion and be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
“Our message is that a world that empowers women is a prosperous and sustainable world.”
This year marked 75 years since the organisation’s formation following the destruction of the Second World War and, Ramaphosa said, the United Nations has proven the value of cooperation and solidarity.
“This pandemic has presented the world with a choice – between the global cooperation envisaged in the UN Charter or the pursuit of narrow self-interest. It is a choice between prosperity for all or for just a few,” said Ramaphosa.
“At the 75th UN General Assembly, the leaders of the world have an opportunity to begin rebuilding a new global order based on justice and equality.
“By drawing on the spirit of solidarity, friendship and unity of purpose that has long defined the United Nations, we will set a clear path towards lasting peace and sustainable development,” he said.
Ramaphosa added that this sitting of the UN General Assembly must also address the climate change crisis.
“As the world rebuilds in the aftermath of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient path. We should be building green economies, not just for the sake of environmental sustainability but because of the opportunities for job creation and growth.”
Ramaphosa said, as the world confronted another global crisis – the coronavirus pandemic – the United Nations remained as important and relevant as ever.
“The UN has played a vital role in supporting cooperation among countries and international organisations like the World Health Organisation as they have worked to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It has focused attention on the most vulnerable countries and those parts of society most badly affected by the pandemic,” he said.
Importantly, he said, the UN has enabled countries to focus on the work that needs to be done to not only to rebuild economies, but to do so in a manner that advances the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The UN is leading the effort to ensure that the world that emerges from Covid-19 is better, fairer and more peaceful,” he said.
“To resolve our global challenges – be they health emergencies, transnational crime, conflict and war, climate change, migration or natural disasters – we must work together. It is only through multilateralism that we can forge common strategies for the benefit of all.”
Ramaphosa said that bodies such as the UN needed to be strengthened, properly resourced and representative.
“We must use this anniversary to push ahead with the reform of the UN and particularly its Security Council, which does not give equal voice to the different regions of the world. As South Africa, we will use our virtual presence in New York to continue to advocate for Africa – a continent of more than a billion people – to have permanent representation on the UN Security Council.”
Ramaphosa said that global peace wasn’t just about a world free of conflict, but one free of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. It is a world of inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity.
“By providing all the world’s people with the means to live secure and productive lives, we are laying the best foundation for peace and stability,” he said.