President Cyril Ramaphosa has concluded his working visit to the United States where he participated for the first time in the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA73), under the theme: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful equitable and sustainable societies”.
The President’s programme commenced with the unveiling of a life-size statue of the late struggle icon and first democratically elected president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, at the United Nations Headquarters.
Addressing the occasion, President Ramaphosa said the statue would remain a constant reminder to the international community of the dedication of Nelson Mandela to the mission of the United Nations. It would also be a constant affirmation of South Africa’s commitment to contribute to a better world for all.
“President Mandela firmly believed that the United Nations was the most valuable and effective instrument for the advancement of peace, development and equality that humanity had conceived,” said President Ramaphosa.
Also convened in honour of the centenary of the birth of President Mandela was the United Nations Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, where President Ramaphosa acknowledged efforts of the world body in peacekeeping, while cautioning that the organisation faced intricate and complex challenges.
“Over the past seven decades, millions of people worldwide have been killed, maimed, displaced and starved as a result of war and conflicts. We are called upon to act decisively to end the exposure of women and children to untold suffering including displacement, torture, rape, mutilation and murder,” said President Ramaphosa.
In his maiden address to the UN General Assembly, President Ramaphosa urged world leaders to take stock of the effectiveness of the UN and to chart a way forward to improve the organisation’s efficiency and relevance by making it more democratic, responsive and transparent.
The President said: “The UN must become what billions of people across the world want it to be – a representative and truly democratic global parliament of the people.”
The President strongly defended multilateralism, urging leaders to resist any and all efforts to undermine the multilateral approach to international trade, which is essential to the promotion of stability and predictability in the global economy.
President Ramaphosa drew the attention of world leaders to progress being made in South Africa despite the country’s difficult economic challenges. “We are reforming our economy and creating an environment that is conducive to investment, and have embarked on an investment drive to attract $100 billion dollars in the next five years.”
Turning to land reform, the President said a comprehensive dialogue guided by the Constitution and the rule of law would ultimately provide a resolution “We have started a comprehensive dialogue on the question of land reform, which is guided by our Constitution and the rule of law as we seek ways to ensure that the land is shared among all who work it, as set out in our Freedom Charter.”
President Ramaphosa reiterated previous calls for the UN to reform, particularly the Security Council, which still does not have permanent African representation. South Africa was recently assigned a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council – a position the country will take up in 2019 for a period of two years.
President Ramaphosa also called on the United Nations to act with urgency to resolve some of the world’s most protracted and intractable disputes, particularly that of the people of Palestine who have endured occupation and suffering for nearly as long as the world body has existed.
In addition to the UNGA General Debate, President Ramaphosa participated in the UN High-Level Meeting on tuberculosis (TB). The meeting focused on efforts to accelerate an end to TB and reach all affected people with prevention and care. “Tuberculosis is not just a medical condition. It has many social determinants, including poverty, unemployment, poor nutrition, overcrowding and social stigma that fuel the spread of diseases” said President Ramaphosa.
The President also reiterated South Africa’s support for the “Key Asks” identified through a consultative process led by the World Health Organisation, Stop TB Partnership, civil society and other interested parties.
"We would like to see the declaration emanating from this High-Level Meeting embracing the “Key Asks” and setting in motion the bold response needed to end the global Tuberculosis (TB) epidemic. Investing in research and development is critical if we are to develop new diagnostics, vaccines and medicines – and find innovative ways to deal with the social determinants of Tuberculosis and its transmission.
"As South Africa, we look forward to the meeting of the UN General Assembly of 2030 where it should be declared that indeed, we have ended the Tuberculosis epidemic."
The President also addressed the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) meeting. The Council on Foreign Relations meetings convene government officials, global business leaders and prominent members of the intelligence and foreign-policy community from around the world to discuss international issues.
The President’s working visit concluded with trade and investment promotion engagements that included the Invest in South Africa Private Roundtable, the Bloomberg Global Business Forum Panel Discussion, as well as the Business Seminar on Opportunities in South Africa. These engagements were part of a sustained programme of stimulating interest and attracting foreign direct investment into the South African economy, alongside creating the conditions for greater domestic investment
President Ramaphosa was accompanied by Ministers Lindiwe Sisulu of International Relations and Cooperation; Rob Davis of Trade and Industry; Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula of Defence and Military Veterans; Nhlanhla Nene of Finance; Aaron Motsoaledi of Health, Nathi Mthethwa of Arts and Culture; Siyabonga Cwele of Telecommunications and Postal Services; Naledi Pandor of Higher Education; Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba of State Security and Gugile Nkwinti of Water and Sanitation.
Media enquiries: Khusela Diko, Spokesperson to the President on 072 854 5707
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA