Forthcoming Meeting of United Nations' General Assembly: briefing

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International Relations

12 September 2001
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Meeting report

12 September 2001

Mr Van Der Westhuizen, acting deputy director general briefed the Committee on behalf of Mr Abdul Minty on South Africa's preparations for participation at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.  Sessions included in the meeting were to be the Special Session on Children 19-21 September and a Dialogue on International Economic Cooperation during 17-18 September.  However, the Special Session on Children might be postponed because of the New York City security crisis (as has subsequently been confirmed) because of the number of heads of state that had been anticipated to attend.  The general debates are likely to continue as there would not be so many heads of state present.

South Africa's delegation will be led by President Mbeki, who is scheduled to have the "third slot" on 24 September, which indicates South Africa's present prestige and standing in the international community. South Africa's engagements follow Kofi Annan's identification of priorities after his reappointment as Secretary General:
-The future of Africa
-The fight against HIV/Aids
-The World Conference Against Racism (WCAR)

South Africa is presently the chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and also of the Commonwealth, and next year will chair the African Union. Its emphasis is promotion of the MAP/New Africa Initiative into the United Nations General Assembly.  The World Conference Against Racism will have given Dr Dlamini-Zuma prestige.  The next international focus on South Africa will be the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).  South Africa will emphasise sustainable development rather than "green" issues.

About 180 items are expected to come up during the General Assembly, which will be dealt with in the following six committees:
First Committee:            Disarmament and International Security
Second Committee:       Economic and Financial Matters
Third Committee:           Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Matters
Fourth Committee:         Political and Decolonisation Issues (Palestine and the NAM)
Fifth Committee:           Administration and Budget
Sixth Committee:           Legal Issues (Professor Dugard is SA's representative).

South Africa has successfully brought down its UN assessment rate, having been redesignated as a "developing" rather than "developed" country. South Africa's participation priorities follow "clusters" of stability, security, development and cooperation:
Human Rights issues, following the WCAR
Management and resolution of conflicts in Africa and the Middle East -- Palestine a priority.
MAP/New Africa Initiative.
Brahimini report on peacekeeping in Africa -- management of the Security Council on international peacekeeping issues, in conjunction with NAM.
Trafficking in small arms.
South Africa's draft resolution on the Africa nuclear weapons-free zone.
Conflict diamonds -- South Africa chairs the Kimberley process. South Africa's draft resolution on the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict to be tabled during UNGAS56.
HIV/Aids and other communicable diseases, malaria and TB.
Preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).
Poverty eradication.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  Official development assistance is committed at 0.7% of GDP, but no countries meet this commitment.
Debt crisis.
Digital divide and access to the Internet.
MAP/Millennium Declaration initiatives are applicable to about 45 of the 180 agenda items.  South Africa chairs the Africa caucus group in September 2001, and will use this opportunity to mainstream these initiatives.
Reform of the UN Security Council to make it more democratic.

Ms F Hajaij (ANC) enquired about the proposal for two permanent African seats on the Security Council and what modalities are intended.

Mr van der Westhuizen stated that the previous Senegalese ambassador had rigorously lobbied for seats to be rotated amongst African countries.  He has now retired.  The three obvious candidates are Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.  The South African view was first get the two seats, and then consider the rotation issues.


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