SOUTH AFRICA’S POSITION ON UNITED NATIONS REFORM

by Daryl Swanepoel
MPA, BPAHons, ND: C.Admin

OCCASIONAL PAPER
3/2020

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ABSTRACT

Some accuse the United Nations (UN) of having turned into an irrelevant, toothless organisation. According to these critics, the disconnect between the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council undermines the legitimacy of UN resolutions that are meant to advance human rights, socioeconomic development, and peace and security. The exclusive nature of the Security Council, member state inequality, uneven regional representation and the unfairness of the permanent five members’ veto power are issues said to diminish the credibility of the UN’s work. As a result, the body is confronted by two sets of critics: those who believe that it is no longer fit for purpose, and those who say that the need for a reinvigorated and reformed UN is now greater than ever before. UN proponents, on the other hand, maintain that the body remains best positioned to coordinate global responses to the growing number of transnational challenges confronting our interconnected world. This paper examines South Africa’s position in the debate. It finds that while South Africa has not lost faith in the UN’s role in global affairs, the country does seem to side with those pushing for comprehensive UN reform.

The United Nations (UN) was founded in 1945 following World War II, primarily for the purpose of preserving global peace and security, fostering sound international relations between nations, and promoting human development and human rights (UN, N.d.(a)).

A SNAPSHOT OF THE UN

The UN is neither a government, nor does it have an army or levy taxes. Instead, it is an organisation of member states, on whom the organisation relies on to carry out its decisions (UN, N.d.(b)). It is funded by means of mandatory payments and voluntary contributions by its member states, and also receives significant donations from philanthropists and charitable organisations (Shendruk, 2018).

At present, the UN has 193 member states (UN. N.d.(c)) and comprises six organs:

  • The General Assembly comprises representatives from every member state, affording each state a single vote (UN, N.d.(b)). It takes decisions relating to key issues such as international peace and security, membership and the organisation’s budget, for which a two-thirds majority is required. Other General Assembly matters – for instance the promotion of international cooperation, development of international law, and human rights – are decided by a simple majority. Although generally regarded as an articulation of the global opinion on pertinent issues, General Assembly recommendations are not compulsory to execute (UN, N.d.(d)).
  • The Security Council (UNSC) has 15 members, each with a single vote. Five of these members – the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia – are permanent. The remaining ten are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Unlike General Assembly recommendations, however, UNSC decisions are binding on all 193 member states. Nine affirmative votes are required for a decision to carry. However, substantive decisions of a non-procedural nature cannot be made if not supported, or if vetoed, by a permanent member (UN, N.d.(e)).
  • The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) makes policy recommendations regarding global economic, social and environmental challenges (UN, N.d.(b)).
  • The Trusteeship Council was established to provide international supervision for eleven trust territories. Its purpose was to take steps to prepare these territories for self-government or independence (UN, N.d.(b)). All these territories have since attain independence, but the Council is yet to be formally disbanded (UN, N.d.(f)).
  • The International Court of Justice is charged with settling legal disputes between states and issuing advisory opinions to the UN and its agencies (UN, N.d.(b)).
  • The Secretariat sees to the day-to-day functioning of the UN. It serves the principal organs of the UN and its programmes, and implements their policies (UN, N.d.(b)).

WHY IS THE UN IMPORTANT, AND IS IT STILL RELEVANT?

In short, as the global architecture designed to prevent war and restore security in areas of conflict, the UN’s significance lies in its founding purpose to protect people, advance human development and social progress, and achieve global cooperation aimed at resolving economic, social, cultural and humanitarian challenges. This is premised on the vision of an ideal world, where everyone feels protected, is able to live their lives in freedom and peace, feels loved and wanted, and has their basic housing, food and work needs fulfilled. In pursuit of this vision, the UN harnesses teamwork and mutual trust, compassion and understanding between nations, peoples and cultures. (Paradiso, 2015)

However, these noble ideals are of little consequence if the mechanism to achieve them is broken, insufficient or lacking. While the mainstream opinion still is that the UN’s objectives are as relevant today as they were 75 years ago, many in society have started questioning whether the UN is still fit for purpose, with United States president Donald Trump on record for having described the body as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time”. Other world leaders who have expressed an urgent (yet perhaps more eloquently phrased) need for UN reform include German chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese president Xi Jinping and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau (Merelli, 2018).

The question of the UN’s relevance hinges on the two issues of inconsequence for member states’ non-adherence to UN resolutions, and the UNSC’s decision-making regime.

The difficulty regarding inconsequence for non-adherence to UN resolutions was illustrated when the United States chastised the UN for its inability to hold Iraq accountable for its violation of 16 UNSC resolutions. Moreover, back in 2002 already, it was reported that, in reviewing five decades of UN resolutions, Prof Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco had identified at least 91 resolutions – in addition to the 16 Iraq violations – that were clearly being violated. In many instances, enforcement was blocked by powerful countries. The degree of compliance, Prof Zunes suggested, “depends on the influence of each state and its backers” (Farley, 2002). These consistent breaches underscore the conundrum of the UN: While the has the power to pass resolutions, it often lacks the authority to enforce them, which erodes its overall credibility (Farley, 2002). And as stated earlier, adding to this problem is the fact that many General Assembly decisions are non-binding on members.

In terms of the UNSC’s decision-making regime, several concerns have been raised. The most significant of these relates to the distinction between the UNSC’s five permanent and other, non-permanent members. No substantive decision can be adopted without the permanent five’s concurring votes, and a single permanent member can veto a UNSC decision, rendering it invalid (Security Council Report, 2020). In essence, therefore, although fourteen of the fifteen member states serving on the UNSC, as well as the vast majority of member states in the General Assembly, may support a particular position, all would come to naught should a single permanent UNSC member veto it. And there’s the rub: Permanent members are known to use the veto to defend their own national interests or the prescripts of their foreign policy, or even to advance a single issue that is important to them (Security Council Report, 2020).

Another matter raised with regard to the UNSC’s decision-making is the need for better representation, both in terms of size and geographic spread. Seventy-five years ago, the UN was formed by 51 states, with the UNSC comprising five permanent and six non-permanent members. By 1960, the UN had grown to 99 members, and the non-permanent members of the UNSC were increased from six to the current ten. With a current UN membership of 193, the size of the UNSC seems out of touch with reality: In 1945, the five permanent members accounted for 50% of the world’s population; today, they account for only 26% (of whom two-thirds are in China alone) (Thibault, 2020).

Geographic representation on the UNSC is equally skewed. Altogether 47% of the seats are occupied by Western and Eastern Europe, Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Turkey and the United States, who account for only 17,1% of the global population. On the other hand, the Asia-Pacific group of countries, who account for 58,6% of the global population, and the African group of countries, who account for 15,8% of the global population, are each allocated 20% of the seats. Latin American and Caribbean countries, who represent 8,5% of the global population, occupy 13% of the seats (Thibault, 2020).

Yet the UN remains a relevant force. It has helped ward off hunger, poverty and violence for hundreds of millions of people. It leads the fight against climate change. Its agencies take care of approximately 60 million refugees and other vulnerable people across the world. UN observers help ensure free and fair elections worldwide. Its peacekeepers have intervened in conflicts where few countries would consider doing so alone. The Non-Proliferation Treaty has ensured the limitation of nuclear weapons (Santamaria, 2020). It also remains relevant in terms of providing an enormous range of basic services that people take for granted. And while there are a growing number of alternative platforms where world leaders can engage in multilateral cooperation, “there is no entity matching the standing capacity of the UN’s agencies across the board” (Gwertzman, 2010).

The solution to the stated concerns relating to the process and structures of the UN, therefore, does not necessarily lie in withdrawal of funding or participation. The UN still has a key role to play. Instead, it might be time for a comprehensive overhaul of the organisation’s structure, systems and, most importantly, its decision-making processes and mechanisms to ensure adherence to its resolutions.

CALLS FOR UN REFORM

Despite numerous successful interventions over the lifespan of the UN, calls for reform of the organisation are growing louder. There appears to be a growing sense of discomfort that failure to reform will erode the organisation’s relevance even further.

Germany, for instance, has increasingly insisted on the reform of the UNSC, and has been openly supported by France in calling for the expansion of the number of permanent seats. Turkey, in turn, wants a rotational format in the UNSC, without increasing the number of permanent members. Other countries calling for reform include Japan, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Argentina. Some have called for a greater number of permanent seats on the UNSC, while the “Uniting for Consensus” movement opposes the expansion call, instead suggesting the principle of rotation and the rejection of certain states’ veto privilege. (Erkut Eyvaz, 2019)

It would seem, therefore, that failure by the UN to reform would feed into the narrative of an increasingly irrelevant organisation clinging on to old-world structures and processes, with a growing sense of disenfranchisement among many of its members. This could very well drive the global dialogue towards alternative emerging cooperation platforms.

Against this backdrop, where does South Africa stand in the UN reform debate?

SOUTH AFRICA’S POSITION ON UN REFORM

In terms of UN management reform, South Africa continues to support the UN secretary-general’s comprehensive Management United to Reform, which sets out a new management paradigm for the Secretariat. This paradigm envisages a UN with, among others, simplified processes, a better operational set-up and improved strategies and structures. South Africa also believes that there should be greater transparency, predictability and oversight in UN funding, and in the implementation of its peace mandates, especially as they relate to the African continent. Furthermore, due consideration should be given to, among others, the UN’s human resource and procurement policies, gender parity and equitable geographic representation. (DIRCO, 2020)

South Africa believes that revitalisation of the UN General Assembly is a critical aspect of overall UN reform. Key to this is the recognition of the General Assembly as the most representative and democratic political organ of the UN, and so its role and authority need to be strengthened accordingly. The objective with structural reforms should be for the organisational design to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development effectively and efficiently. (DIRCO, 2020) The 2030 Agenda enshrines the seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that the UN aims to achieve over the next fifteen years, and with which national governments are expected to align their political agendas (EDF, N.d).

In terms of the UNSC also, South Africa is concerned about the slow pace of reform, believing that reform efforts need to be urgently reinvigorated. Although global consensus on the need for the early reform of the UNSC was reached in 2005 already, no significant reform has been achieved to date. (DIRCO, 2020)

THE EZULWENI CONSENSUS AS A BASIS FOR SOUTH AFRICA’S STANCE

South Africa’s position on both UNSC and General Assembly reform is guided by the African Common Position as enunciated in the Ezulweni Consensus (DIRCO, 2020). The African Union (AU) adopted the Ezulweni Consensus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March 2005. It contains the combined African thinking on the reform needed in the various organs of the UN.

In that document, the AU expressed the need for the UN General Assembly to be strengthened. While it should retain its intergovernmental character and remain essentially as a forum for intergovernmental dialogue, measures should be taken to improve its effectiveness, including its ability to ensure that its decisions are implemented. Furthermore, the relationship between the General Assembly and UNSC needs to reflect a more balanced distribution of competence (AU, 2005). Keep in mind that in 1945, when the UN was formed, most of Africa lacked representation. And in 1963, when the first UNSC reform took place, the continent was still not properly represented. Now that Africa is fully represented in the UN, however, it is better placed to influence reforms. The AU’s goal, therefore, is for Africa to be fully represented in all the decision-making organs of the UN, particularly in the UNSC, which is considered the principal decision-making organ in matters relating to peace and security (AU, 2005).

In the AU’s opinion, Africa should be allocated at least two permanent seats on the UNSC. These appointments should be accompanied with all the prerogatives and privileges of permanent members, including the right of veto, should the principle of veto rights be maintained. Although opposed to the principle of a veto, the continent’s leadership argues that, as long as it exists, it should be made available to all permanent members of the UNSC as a matter of common justice. Furthermore, Africa should be allocated a further five non-permanent seats on an expanded UNSC (AU, 2005).

The selection of Africa’s representatives on the UNSC should be the AU’s responsibility. Criteria should include continent-wide representation, and the chosen member states’ capacity to represent the continent and to effectively execute its responsibilities within the UNSC (AU, 2005). Although the Ezulweni Consensus stipulates that the AU reserves the right to elect the two permanent members to the UNSC, a number of African states have already pronounced themselves ready to assume such a seat (Anon., 2020).

UNSC REFORM FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE

South Africa agrees with the Ezulweni Consensus that, since Africa’s member states make up 54 of the 193 UN members, the continent should be given two permanent seats on the UNSC. Such a step also seems fair given that most of the issues affecting Africa are dealt with by UNSC, and Africa has contributed immensely to conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Currently, Africa does have three non-permanent seats, but they are rotational, which poses challenges in terms of creating institutional memory – an issue not faced by the permanent five. (Anon., 2020).

Reform does not relate to composition alone, however. Going hand in hand with composition is the decision-making process. Simply adding additional permanent members without either abolishing the veto right, or at least extending it to all permanent members, may only serve to complicate decision-making. With more players at the table, retaining the veto in the hands of only the initial permanent five could very well lead to increased tension and frustration. Therefore, South Africa believes that all permanent members, including the proposed two African-held permanent seats, should be afforded the veto right as long as such right exists (Anon., 2020).

Yet it is also South Africa’s belief that the veto right is often misused, thereby stifling important UNSC business: For instance, the UNSC could not even pass a resolution on the all-important topic of COVID-19 because of the United States’ insistence that there be no reference to the World Health Organisation. Similarly, when discussing the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, no substantive discussion was possible given the introduction of two completely opposing resolutions by two members holding veto rights, namely Russia and the United States. Referring to these two resolutions as “equally hopeless”, one commentator eloquently captured the folly of having any expectation of a sincere consensus-seeking discussions while the “world’s most powerful nations displayed their bitter differences” within the confines of the UNSC machinery (Roth, 2019). Thus, the veto right has rendered the UNSC increasingly divided and less credible, which is not conducive to its work or the execution of its UN Charter mandate to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security (Anon., 2020).

South Africa will continue advocating for genuine negotiations to commence in the UN General Assembly, as this is the only way to achieve Africa and like-minded countries’ common goal of a more representative UNSC (Anon., 2020). The Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on UNSC reform that the UN General Assembly established in 2008 has been mandated to deliberate on five substantive areas of UNSC reform. These are (i) categories of membership (permanent and non-permanent); (ii) the question of the veto right; (iii) regional representation; (iv) the size and working methods of an enlarged UNSC; and (v) the relationship between the UN General Assembly and the UNSC. To date, there has not been any progress (Anon., 2020).

To move the reform process forward procedurally, negotiations should, in South Africa’s view, be text-based, as “that is how negotiations are conducted in the UN” (Anon., 2020). While the UN resolved in 2015 already to follow such a text-based approach to reform negotiations, at least as it relates to the UNSC (Singh, 2015), there has been no concrete steps to advance the discussions. It appears there is currently no consensus among the permanent five for text to be put on the table. In addition, it seems that some powerful countries opposed to reform are blocking the process by arguing that there are still divergent views on the matter, and that text-based negotiations are premature and will be counterproductive (Anon., 2020). The United States and other advanced democracies, for example, reject the notion that the UNSC’s legitimacy should rely on its composition, believing that its “primary mission is to be effective, not representative” (Patrick, 2019).

Although Africa is united in terms of the need for UNSC reform as expressed in the Ezulwini Consensus, South Africa’s view on the procedure to be used to negotiate such reform is not necessarily shared by other African states. Some African countries feel that the environment is not yet ready for text-based negotiations, as views within the UN are still too divergent. They believe that since the impasse is still too great, negotiations have no chance of succeeding (Anon., 2020).

Another tricky area is that some African members, including South Africa, also belong to the L.69 Group, a cross-regional grouping of developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific pushing for lasting and comprehensive reform of the UNSC. The L.69 Group is bound by the firm conviction that expansion in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of UNSC membership is imperative to better reflect contemporary world realities and achieve a more accountable, representative, transparent and relevant UNSC. They derive their name from the draft resolution number “L.69” they tabled in 2007, calling for intergovernmental negotiations on UNSC reform, which ultimately saw the creation of the IGN mechanism in the UN General Assembly. In the current IGN, Africa is represented by the Committee of Ten (C-10), which was established through a decision of the special AU summit in Addis Ababa in August 2005 to coordinate engagement on UNSC reform. Chaired by Sierra Leone, the other nine members are Algeria, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Namibia, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia (APAUNR, N.d.). Whilst not explicit in their criticism of the L.69 Group, the C-10 has requested African countries not to be part of other negotiating groups in the IGN to ensure that Africa remains united in the negotiations. (Anon., 2020).

Yet the L.69 Group supports the Ezulweni Consensus and has indeed helped strengthen the C-10’s position in the IGN. The L.69 Group and the C-10 have a similar stance on most issues, including that the veto should either be abolished or extended to all permanent members (Lättilä, 2019). As such, South Africa believes that the L.69 Group remains one of the progressive groups and plays a supportive role in the IGN (Anon., 2020).

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY REVITALISATION FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE

In South Africa’s view, unlike UNSC reform, reforms pertaining to the revitalisation of the General Assembly have been making some progress.

The negotiations on the relationship between the General Assembly and the other principal organs of the UN have been ongoing. South Africa has underlined the need for the General Assembly to work in close collaboration with all principal organs, in particular ECOSOC and the UNSC.

South Africa further believes that the General Assembly should be given a more prominent mandate in overseeing the implementation of the UN’s priorities of human rights, peace and security, and socioeconomic development. At present, even though all member states have an equal vote in the General Assembly, decisions are mere recommendations and are of no binding force on member states. South Africa’s position is that, as the most representative organ in the UN, the General Assembly should be given more teeth to hold countries accountable to the decisions it takes. Thus, South Africa will continue to work with fellow UN members to strengthen the role and authority of the General Assembly in executing its responsibilities, including those relating to the maintenance of international peace and security, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda (Anon., 2020).

Moreover, South Africa reaffirms the important role played by the United Nations secretary-general amidst the global challenges facing the world today, and in implementing the UN pillars of peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. In this regard, South Africa holds the view that the selection and appointment of the secretary-general should be more transparent and democratic. More specifically, the country believes that the secretary-general should ideally be appointed by the General Assembly, at the recommendation of the UNSC. While not an official South African position, mention has been made of the option for the secretary-general rather to be elected for one longer, non-renewable period, as opposed to the current five-year term with the option of extending the appointment by another five years (Anon., 2020).

In terms of driving the South African UN reform agenda, the country uses all available platforms to do so, both within and outside the UN structure. These include high-level general debates in the UN and at other multilateral fora such as the AU, which it currently chairs, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement and IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) (Anon., 2020). South Africa also often raises the issue of UN reform in its bilateral discussions with other likeminded countries (Anon., 2020).

HOW SOUTH AFRICA VIEWS THE WAY FOREWARD

Moving the UNSC reform process forward will be an uphill battle. With no consensus on the substantive issues between the permanent five, no reform will happen. Furthermore, the permanent five consider their veto a fundamental right articulated in the UN Charter and so not seem willing to relinquish that right any time soon (GüIler, 2019). Therefore, one could understand why many have concluded that the annual and ongoing deliberations relating to UN reform largely ring hollow.

To give impetus to the negotiations, those seeking reform will need to reach out more directly to the permanent five, either as a group or individually, to find a negotiating path that will satisfy the five’s insistence on knowing upfront what the negotiated outcomes will deliver. For example, the permanent five will not agree to any expansion of the UNSC, nor to the relinquishment of their veto, without them knowing in advance who the aspirant candidates for seats on the UNSC will be. Historical conflicts and conventions will affect the likelihood of the permanent five agreeing to the candidature of countries to whom they have traditionally been opposed (Anon., 2020). China, for instance, believes that Japan’s past occupation of China disqualifies it from a permanent seat (GPF, 2006). France, in turn, while amenable to Germany’s call for extending the permanent membership of the UNSC, was not open to Germany’s proposal to convert the French seat into a European seat (DW, 2018).

Of course, the idea of the permanent five vetting aspirant candidates is in direct contrast to the AU’s position, which insists on Africa determining for themselves which countries should represent the continent on an extended UNSC (AU, 2005). The AU approach may be counterproductive, however, as a group, they believe that the election of African candidates can be resolved at a later stage; to them, it is more important first to establish the principle of Africa being allocated at least two permanent seats on the UNSC. Knowing that the permanent five have indicated that they want to know upfront who the candidates will be, a rigid African approach could very well lead to a stalemate in the negotiations. This is an issue that South Africa will have to start breaching on the continent, especially since it has been asked to indicate its availability to take up a UNSC seat. Other African countries interested in the seats include Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal (Okumu, 2005).

South Africa also has other work to do among its fellow African states. As mentioned earlier, there is no consensus on the continent on a text-based approach to UN reform negotiations. Anxious not only to see the negotiations move forward, but also to strengthen Africa’s negotiation effort, South Africa will have to be more proactive by starting to approach progressive countries across the continent to advance the reform process (Anon., 2020).

The South African government is pleased that it was able to have a call for the reinvigoration of the UNSC reform negotiations included in the heads of state declaration that will be adopted at the special high-level commemorative event to mark the UN’s 75th anniversary, scheduled for 21 September 2020. The country hopes that the president of the 75th session of the General Assembly will appoint, as a matter of priority, co-facilitators to take the IGN’s work forward (Anon., 2020).

CONCLUSION

For those who deride the UN as a toothless instrument (Dejevsky, 2016), South Africa has a clear message: For all its faults, the UN still has an important role to play, now more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven this. The UN and its agencies remain the only intergovernmental body able to bring all nations together to find a coordinated approach to resolving global problems. Withdrawal from the UN or from multilateral agreements, or the cutting of funding to multilateral institutions, will not only be detrimental to the country doing so, but will have global implications for noble humanitarian and development programmes, as well as for the pursuit of the SDGs. To say that the UN is a toothless body is to say that countries can go it alone. They cannot. There are too many transnational challenges facing the globe – no country can go it alone. Thus, current global challenges such as COVID-19 warrant a renewed commitment by the international community to uphold and defend the purposes and principles of multilateralism, with a view to establishing a world that is peaceful and prosperous, along with a just and equitable system of global governance (Anon., 2020).

Nevertheless, no sober assessment of the workings of the UN can ignore that the organisation is facing serious issues relating to its credibility, legitimacy and relevancy. The choice is this: either business as usual, which will undoubtedly further erode the UN’s standing, or reform, which will gear it for the future and enable it to build on the critical humanitarian, socioeconomic development and peacekeeping work it has carried out since 1945. In recognising the relevance of the UN as a global instrument to promote human rights, socioeconomic development and peace, South Africa has chosen to promote reform.

Some major flaws have been identified in the UN’s design. These include inequality resulting from the veto right and UNSC permanent versus non-permanent seats, and exclusivity resulting from limiting the UNSC’s membership to a small portion of the total UN membership (Lättilä, 2019). South Africa’s approach to UN reform acknowledges the inherent complexities encapsulated in these flaws. It attempts to weigh the question of exclusivity in the UNSC against inclusivity in the General Assembly. It does so by acknowledging the need for decision-making efficiency in the UNSC, and the strengthening of accountability mechanisms in the Assembly (Damianou, 2015).

In its quest for UN reform, South Africa seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet as UN secretary-general António Gutteres, who called for a “new social contract” and a “new global deal” in delivering the annual Nelson Mandela lecture on 18 July 2020. He said:

“For this new social contract to be possible, it must go hand in hand with a new global deal. The global political and economic systems are not delivering on critical global public goods: public health, climate action, sustainable development, peace. A new model for global governance must be based on full, inclusive and equal participation in global institutions. Without that, we face even wider inequalities and gaps in solidarity. A new global deal, based on a fair globalisation, on the rights and dignity of every human being, on living in balance with nature, on taking account of the rights of future generations, and on success measured in human rather than economic terms, is the best way to change this. People want a global governance system that delivers for them. The developing world must have a far stronger voice in global decision-making.”

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This report has been published by the Inclusive Society Institute.

The Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) is an autonomous and independent institution that functions separately from any other entity. It is founded for the purpose of supporting and further deepening multi-party democracy.

The ISI’s work is motivated by its desire to achieve non-racialism, non-sexism, social justice and cohesion, economic development and equality in South Africa, through a value system that embodies the social and national democratic principles associated with a developmental state. It recognises that a well-functioning democracy requires well-functioning political formations that are suitably equipped and capacitated. It further acknowledges that South Africa is inextricably linked to the ever transforming and interdependent global world, which necessitates international and multilateral cooperation. As such, the ISI also seeks to achieve its ideals at a global level through cooperation with like-minded parties and organs of civil society who share its basic values.

Whilst the institute undertakes research through the lens of social and national democratic values and principles, it is pragmatic, not dogmatic, in its approach.

www.inclusivesociety.org.za