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If elected to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the South African government would do well to follow a human-rights based approach in its voting patterns, as our last term on the council left a lot to be desired.
South Africa was last elected to the Security Council during the 2007 - 2008 term. This period saw the delegation appointed by the national government effectively reduce South Africa's credibility, with our commitment to universal human rights being brought into question. South Africa's past voting pattern did not paint a picture of a government that has one of the most liberal and progressive constitutional democracies in the world.
Amongst other things, the South African delegation voted in the UN General Assembly with rogue rather than democratic governments;
• In 2007 the South African government condemned the Myanmar vote, and on occasions tried to stall debates on Myanmar's poor human rights record. Myanmar's military junta has notoriously suppressed democracy and human rights in that country for decades.
• The South African delegation, holding to its discredited position of "quiet diplomacy,'' refused to place democratic reform in Zimbabwe on the Council's agenda.
• The South African delegation supported Iran's attempts to evade sanctions over its widely criticized nuclear programme, which is shrouded in secrecy, by calling a 90 day ‘time-out' on the issue of Iran's Nuclear activity.
The failure to foster a culture of respect for human rights and constitutional principles has unfortunately extended beyond the delegation's disappointing performance on the Security Council.
• Earlier this year, the South African representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Jerry Matjila, refused to support efforts at the UN to protect homosexuals against discrimination; and was quoted in the media as having argued that to protect gay people, "demeans the legitimate plight of the victims of racism".
The DA will be writing to the Chairperson of the portfolio committee on International Relations & Cooperationasking that he request the Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to appear before the portfolio committee to assure the South African public of the department's, and by extension our delegation to the UN's, commitment to upholding the cause of promoting human rights during any tenure on the UN Security Council.