South African President Jacob Zuma, in his address to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York, focused on human rights, peace and security, and socio-economic development.
And the South African head of State didn’t shy away from addressing controversial issues, including the occupation of Palestine and the Western Sahara.
After congratulating Miroslav Lajcak, the President of the 72nd (UNGA) session, and expressing South Africa’s support for the international organisation, Zuma underlined the importance of the theme of the UNGA debate: Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All On a Sustainable Planet.
Referring to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals two years ago, Zuma pointed out that there was still unfinished business in committing to addressing the challenges of poverty, under-development and inequality.
“While a few enjoy the benefits of globalisation, the majority of the peoples of the world still live in abject poverty and hunger, with no hope of ever improving their living conditions,” said Zuma.
The president pointed out that the developed countries continue to fuel their development from the resources of the African continent, while a significant chunk of Africa’s resources are drained through illicit financial outflows, depriving the continent of billions of dollars which could be used for development.
Turning to global peace and security, Zuma said Africans were endeavouring to reach the goal of silencing the guns by 2020, as contained in the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063.
The president also addressed the political crisis in Libya which he said exacerbated destabilisation in the Sahel region, and the flow of refugees from Africa to Europe.
On the issue of North Korea, Zuma called for calm and explained that South Africa believed that weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) were never in safe hands, stating that it was illogical that some countries still had them.
“We are making a clarion call to all Member States of the UN to sign and ratify the Ban Treaty in order to rid the World and humanity of these lethal Weapons of Mass Destruction,” said Zuma.
The South African leader also underlined the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change after expressing sympathy for the victims of the recent hurricanes, monsoons, floods and drought due to climate change.
Turning to the liberation struggle in South Africa, Zuma explained that the UNGA meeting coincided with the centenary anniversary of the birth of Oliver Reginald Tambo, who led South Africa’s liberation movement for three decades in the struggle against apartheid and racism in South Africa.
“If OR Tambo were still alive today, he would have pleaded with this august organisation to do all it can to support the struggle of the Palestinian People from occupation, and also to support the struggle of the people of Western Sahara,” said Zuma.
The president said that despite the world preaching a two-state solution in Palestine the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continue unabated.
“We also wish to remind the General Assembly that the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination continues to be undermined, challenged and denied.”
Finally, Zuma registered South Africa’s disappointment at the June 2017 decision of the US administration to reverse the progress that was registered in the past two years towards ending the Cuban blockade.