South Africa’s Address to 63rd Session of UN General Assembly


11 Sep 2008

Ambassador George Nene, Deputy Director-General Multilateral Affairs: Department of Foreign Affairs, briefed the media (see Appendix) about the Address that President Mbeki will make on 24 September 2008 on the General Debate of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The theme of the General Debate is “The impact of the global food crisis on poverty and hunger in the world as well as the need to democratise the United Nations”.


Question: In the Committees are there any particular resolutions that you are expecting, any that we plan to introduce ourselves, any kind of moves that we are looking out for in particular?

Answer: No.  For now we are just specifically preparing ourselves for the High Level segment to ensure that the visit by our President and our political principals become highly successful.

The different members of our branch are busy working on how we approach the Committees.  It will be after we have done our home work that we will refer to our political principals for them to either endorse what we will propose or amend it.  So I cannot comment on that.

Question: At what time will you be able to tell us what resolutions are being proposed by South Africa?

Answer: If ever there are any resolutions that we want to propose, which we normally do not, but if there are burning issues that we may want to propose it will only be after the 3rd of October, because when October starts the first Committee starts and that Committee deals with issues of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.  So for now we are still doing our homework.  We will know by that time.  

Question: Ambassador, what position do you expect developing countries to take when they meet developed countries in terms of reviewing the commitments that were made in the past which have not been fulfilled?

Answer: I think the heads, as you can see how this theme is structured; you have the theme that relates to issues of poverty and the food crisis, poverty and hunger which really are issues that hit developing countries worse than they do other parts of the world.  That will be one of the issues that the Heads of Government and State will pronounce themselves on.

Thereafter you have, as I said to you, 2008 presents the halfway towards the target date of 2015 for the achievement of the MDGs.  That is why the UN Secretary-General is convening this round-table so that the heads can analyse and pronounce themselves and come up with what they think is the way forward which would be contained in the summery of the Secretary-General.

So obviously, even in the other one on Africa’s development needs, as we prepare for our Heads of State we consult with one another at our level, whether at national level or at group level.  I think most of them will demand acceleration of implementation of commitments that were outcomes of major United Nations and other international conferences. 

We’ve seen that implementation at times is happening but is not happening in the manner that will arrest the ever widening gap and the complexities that are imposed on us by energy.

I want to believe that all those things we had agreement on with our development partners will be issues sharply raised, at least by President Mbeki and many if not all presidents from the continent.  But I think that members from the G77 will raise these issues and then probably the Secretary-General will make a summery that will constitute a way forward.  It will then be up to us how we implement this way forward anew in an accelerated manner.

Question: Will the initiative to march towards the United Nations reform go any further, particularly I’m thinking of the UN Security Council.

Answer: This remains a living topic of the UN for a long time now.  During the general debate which is a forum for Heads of State and Government to pronounce themselves on major issues of international concern, obviously the issue of the UN reform and the democratisation of the Security Council will always feature sharply in many if not all members of the United Nations, including members of the Security Council.

This is an issue that was highlighted during 2005 and the very same Heads of State and Government, not in person because some of them may be out of office.  But the very same countries that constitute the United Nations adopted an outcomes document committing to the reform of the United Nations generally including the Security Council.

Question: Ambassador, who will be leading the Zimbabwe delegation to the UN General Assembly?

Answer: I don’t know who is leading any delegation except South Africa.

Question: Do you think that the position that was taken by China and Russia during the talks of sanctions against Zimbabwe will change the complexion of discussions within the UN?

Answer: No.  The decisions that take place in other fora, including the Security Council, normally do not dramatically change what the Heads of State and Government are going to say in the general debate.

It will only be when the time comes, it may not come, when one of the organs of the UN including the Security Council tables another resolution or a resolution or demands anything or action by Security Council, that’s when we can say during our consultations we think it will go this way. 

For now there is no talk of any action or resolution on Zimbabwe.  Now it is only the Heads of State and Government who are going to express themselves on major international issues.

Media Briefing by Ambassador George Nene, Deputy Director-General Multilateral Affairs on the 63rd Session of the UN General Assembly

11 September 2008

-The General Debate of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA63) will convene on 23 September and continue until 1 October 2008 at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

-The South African delegation to UNGA63 will be headed by President Thabo Mbeki and will include Minister Dlamini Zuma as well as senior government officials.

-The theme of the General Debate is “The impact of the global food crisis on poverty and hunger in the world as well as the need to democratise the United Nations”.   

-President Mbeki is scheduled to address the General Assembly on 24 September 2008.  President Mbeki has previously addressed the General Assembly on various topical issues of concern. These include the issues of global governance, the need for the international community to address the challenge of underdevelopment in many parts of the world as well as issues of peace and stability.  As you know the United Nations plays a vital role in all these matters and the General Assembly offers an opportunity for Heads of State and Government to, therefore, express their views on how the Organisation can contribute to addressing these issues facing the world today.

-UNGA63 also coincides with the midterm review of the Millennium Development Goals.  The international community agreed on a set of goals for development to be achieved by 2015.  Prominent among these was the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.  We note that while some progress has been made with these goals many countries still lag behind.  African countries, in particular, are still facing obstacles to the full achievement of the goals.  Another important goal is the global partnership for development, based on the realisation that there is a need for global solidarity and global support to countries as they seek to implement the MDGs.

-Whilst in New York the South African delegation to UNGA63 will be participating in two important events related to the implementation of existing development commitments and on the effectiveness of development co-operation in supporting the achievement of agreed development goals:

The first of these is the High-Level meeting on Africa’s development needs, which takes place on 22 September 2008.

This meeting will review Africa’s development needs and focus on the state of implementation of various development commitments; the challenges faced and the way forward. This high-level meeting provides an opportunity for world leaders to come together to renew their commitments to Africa’s development and focus attention on how to address the challenges. The meeting will also be attended by civil society organisations, inter-governmental organisations, UN agencies, funds and programmes, as well as the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization, the regional development banks, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.   As you know many commitments have been made to African countries both in bilateral contexts as well as in various multilateral organisations.  It is therefore important that these commitments be reviewed to see what can be done to accelerate implementation.  This therefore is an important meeting in which President Mbeki will participate.

The meeting will conclude with the adoption of a Political Declaration.  It is our expectation that this should be a forward looking political declaration.

This will be followed on 25 September 2008, by the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the General Assembly.

The High-Level Event will be a forum for world leaders to review progress and take stock of the existing gaps at mid-point in the global effort to achieve the MDGs by 2015, identify concrete actions needed to scale up efforts to this end, and help ensure that the MDGs and international targets remain on track and the momentum is maintained beyond 2008. The deliberations will take place around three central themes: Poverty and Hunger; Education and Health; and Environmental Sustainability.  In addition, Gender Equality and the Global Partnership for Development will be addressed.  These are the MDGs:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

The primary outcome of the High-Level Event is expected to be a Secretary-General’s summary on the way forward, based on the discussions in the thematic groups.

The General Assembly also becomes one of the biggest gatherings of Heads of State and Government as well as Foreign Ministers.  Therefore both the President and the Minister will hold a series of bilateral meetings with their counterparts on the fringes of UNGA63.   

Another important event for South Africa this year will be the reception to be hosted by the President on 25 September 2008 to which he has invited Heads of State and Government.  The reception will also be used to launch the African Legacy Programme of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Presidents of FIFA and CAF have been invited to participate in this event.  The Chairperson of the African Union, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, as well as the UN Secretary-General have also been invited. You will recall that the African Legacy Programme was also launched at the January 2008 Summit of the African Union.   The Summit adopted a declaration reaffirming the commitment of leaders in the continent to make the 2010 FIFA World Cup a truly African event.  The AU also took a decision in March (during a AU Legacy Technical Workshop) that the Programme should also be launched during the UN General Assembly in New York.

The aim of the Legacy Programme is to ensure that the 2010 FIFA World Cup benefits South Africa and the whole African continent through a sustainable legacy.  It also seeks to ensure that the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup presents an opportunity for the advancement of African football.  Therefore by also launching this at the level of the United Nations we hope that this will contribute to galvanising the international community to this first ever FIFA World Cup held in Africa.


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