South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, said Wednesday that the world should prioritize attending to the needs of the marginalized and forgotten.
“We meet at a time when the UN family is facing its greatest tests. Member states have to work with the United Nations to develop effective responses to the current challenges,” she said at the General Debate of the UN General Assembly.
“Our greatest global challenges are poverty, inequality, joblessness, and the feeling of being entirely ignored and excluded,” said Pandor.
Some have referred to this moment as a critical turning point in history. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict strongly influenced these attitudes. For South Africa, the real inflection point will be a world attending fully to the needs of the marginalized and forgotten, she said.
Acting on Our Common Agenda proposed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should become the primary objective because addressing poverty and underdevelopment will be the beginning of the real inflection point in human history, she said.
The UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its human rights protocols all commit to protecting all people without distinction, she said, addressing that “we must acknowledge that we face these crises today because we have not always upheld these foundational principles consistently and fairly.”
“We believe international law matters when this one is affected but doesn’t matter when this other one is affected. That does not help to uphold international law,” said Pandor.
As in the fight against COVID-19, global solidarity is also required to meet other pressing challenges such as energy and food insecurity, climate change, and the devastation caused by conflicts, including the existential threat of nuclear weapons, she said.
“Up to now, instead of working collectively to address these challenges, we have grown further apart as geopolitical tensions and mistrust permeate our relations. We should, however, move forward in solidarity, united in efforts to address our common global challenges to ensure sustainable peace and development.”
Pandor stressed the importance of ensuring developing countries are not left behind when COVID-19 treatments are available by creating and supporting research and innovation capacity in Africa for vaccine production, investing in public health systems, and producing thousands more professional health workers.
She said that the mobilization of resources and capabilities to strengthen pandemic response and preparedness of all nations must be substantially increased. “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.”
She also stressed the need to help developing countries tackle energy, education, and climate action challenges.
While Africa is the least responsible for the climate crisis, it does find itself at the epicenter of its worst impacts. The upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change in Egypt must develop an agreement with enhanced and balanced adaptation, mitigation, and financing actions. In addition, she said there must be agreement on a mechanism for loss and damage.
The multilateral trading system must be strengthened to create a conducive environment for fair trade and opportunities for developing economies; otherwise, developing countries will remain subject to an imbalanced global financial and trading system, she warned.
Building a better world requires peace and stability. South Africa continues to believe that conflict resolution must not come through fuelling conflicts but through investing in political dialogue, said Pandor.
“To overcome all these acutely global challenges, we must agree to a common path out of an increasingly polarized world. A rules-based international system, predicated on international law and strict adherence to the provisions of the UN Charter, is essential. Such a system should safeguard the interests of all and not only the powerful countries,” she said.
“Let us use this moment of renewal to reiterate our commitment to multilateralism as the only means of building a better world,” Pandor said. “The United Nations itself must be transformed so that it serves its role cognisant of current global dynamics.”