On Wednesday 2nd March, a UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session was held, regarding the crisis in Ukraine.
The vote result on resolution A/ES-11/L.1, entitled “Aggression against Ukraine”, was as follows: 141 in favour, 5 against, and 35 abstention (including abstention from South Africa).
Following both political and public backlash on the abstention, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), released a statement, which read as follows:
“South Africa’s statement in explanation of vote on Ukraine the UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session
South Africa has voted to abstain.
Our position as expressed during the discussions of the Emergency Special Session over the last few days, is that South Africa remains deeply concerned by the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine and the regional and international socio-economic implications. We strongly urge all sides to uphold international law, including humanitarian law and human rights law, as well as the principles of the UN Charter, including sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The conflict involves two members of the United Nations in an armed conflict, which this organisation has at its foundation the responsibility to prevent. The United Nations, therefore, must take decisions and actions that will lead to a constructive outcome conducive to the creation of sustainable peace between the parties.
The resolution that we have considered today does not create an environment conducive for diplomacy, dialogue, and mediation. While we agree with, and support the efforts taken by Member States to bring to the attention of the international community the situation in Ukraine, South Africa feels that greater attention should have been paid to bringing the sides closer to dialogue. For South Africa, the text in its current form could drive a deeper wedge between the parties rather than contributing to a resolution of the conflict.
The resolution should have welcomed the commencement of negotiations between the parties.
Additionally, the role of the Security Council as well as the Good Offices of the UN Secretary-General could have been given more prominence in the resolution.
It is understood that one of the root causes of the conflict is related to the security concerns of the parties. This should have been addressed in the resolution.
Even though this Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly is being held after the failure of the Security Council to address the matter, we believe that the Security Council should still be urged to play its role as mandated by the Charter to maintain international peace and security.
South Africa believes that the UN, especially in the context of Emergency Special Sessions, whose nature and significance speak to the gravity of issues we bring before the international community, should be used as a platform to build bridges, address the divergence of views, provide recommendations and support for the parties to engage with the spirit of compromise, while deescalating tensions, committing to the cessation of hostilities, and building trust and confidence.
Unfortunately, the text before us does not do that.
South Africa would have also preferred an open and transparent process to negotiate the resolution today. This would have allowed all of us, as equal members of the Assembly, to present our views and ideally reach a level of understanding before the text was tabled.
As member states of the organisation committed to global peace and development, we must continue to work together to promote peace. Gestures that merely create the impression of promoting peace without meaningful action will not assist.”