GRACE NALEDI MANDISA PANDOR, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said that the international community is facing diverse, immense, yet interconnected challenges, which no country can resolve alone. While the COVID-19 pandemic and Eastern Europe have been drawing particular attention, for South Africa, the real inflection point will be the world attending fully to the needs of the marginalized and forgotten. “Our greatest global challenges are poverty, inequality, joblessness and feeling excluded”, she said, encouraging States to act on Our Common Agenda to address underdevelopment as well as safeguard human rights for all. Though the pandemic has showed the international community how to address issues collectively — the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is an example of that, promoting a fairer distribution of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics — she noted that States have grown apart in facing energy and food insecurity, climate change, conflict-induced devastation and the existential threat of nuclear weapons”, encouraging them to work in solidarity.
She stressed the need to create and support research and innovation capacity in Africa for vaccine production, invest in strengthened public health systems and produce thousands more professional health workers. “This requires sustainable investment in higher education research institutions and in global research cooperation,” she said, adding that “it will be a tragic indictment on all of us as leaders if future pandemics found the poorest as unprepared as many were for COVID-19”. South Africa has established the first mRNA global technology transfer hubs that will contribute to the secure supply of life-saving medication for African countries and other developing countries, she underlined. With regards to energy shortages, she suggested the implementation of cleaner, more accessible solutions and stressed that South Africa is working with partners to develop its transition plan to reduce emissions. Welcoming education as one of the most important drivers to end inequality, she reaffirmed the country’s commitment to make it affordable and noted measures already put in place to guarantee access to education for the most vulnerable as well as foster scientific research. “The multilateral trading system must be strengthened so that we genuinely create a conducive environment for fair trade that also provides opportunities for developing economies,” she said.
It is unacceptable that 77 years after its establishment, five nations wield disproportionate decision-making power in the United Nations system as a whole, she added, calling for revitalization of the General Assembly and reform the Security Council. Touching on countries’ different responsibilities with regards to climate change, she urged States to agree on a mechanism for loss and damage, and summed up South Africa’s policies to meet related targets. “While we work to address contemporary conflicts, we should not ignore long-standing ones, such as Palestine,” she added, asking that Israel be held accountable for its destructive actions impairing a two-State solution. She also pointed to Western Sahara’s struggle for self-determination and called for an end to the embargo against Cuba and coercive measures against Zimbabwe. Calling on States to address discrimination, promote girls’ education and women’s empowerment — including by having “more women speak at the Assembly”; protect the vulnerable — including women journalists in conflict situation; and empowering youth, she highlighted the new era of trade, commerce and productivity in Africa and reaffirmed the country’s commitment to seek greater alignment between the agendas of the United Nations and the African Union.