Thu, 22 Oct 2020

Dear Fellow South African,

The United Nations will this week begin the 75th session of its General Assembly, where the nations of the world gather to seek collective solutions to global challenges.

In any other year, heads of state and government would travel to the UN headquarters in New York to address the General Assembly. But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this gathering is taking place virtually, using technology to bridge the distance between the capitals of the world.

As South Africa, we will be addressing the General Assembly by videoconference from the Union Buildings and will be participating in several other meetings.

This is an important moment for the United Nations.

It is 75 years since its formation following the destruction of World War Two.

Analysis: International peace day: Guns still fire in Africa

We recognise that global peace is not just about a world free of conflict, but one free of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. It is a world of inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity. By providing all the world's people with the means to live secure and productive lives, we are laying the best foundation for peace and stability.

One of the greatest challenges to the achievement of this goal is the continued exclusion of half of the world's population through discrimination and marginalisation.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, which placed the emancipation of women firmly on the global agenda.

It is a valuable opportunity to not only review the progress made over the last quarter century, but most importantly to clearly outline the actions we must now take to ensure that women occupy their rightful place as equals in all areas of life in all societies.

For Africa, this means, among other things, that we must intensify measures to empower women economically.

This is in line with the African Union decision to dedicate this decade to the financial inclusion of women.

We therefore welcome the opportunity later this week to take part in a panel of G7 and African countries on women's digital financial inclusion in Africa. It will look at how women can take advantage of technological advances to start businesses, trade and find meaningful employment.

There is much that can be achieved by ensuring that women have greater access to affordable financial services and education. This should take place alongside other measures we are pursuing on the continent, such as efforts to increase the portion of public procurement set aside for women-owned businesses.

Women into mainstream of economy

Our message is that unless women are brought into the mainstream of the economy they will continue to bear the brunt of exclusion and be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Our message is that a world that empowers women is a prosperous and sustainable world.

This sitting of the UN General Assembly must also address the climate change crisis. As the world rebuilds in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient path.

We should be building green economies, not just for the sake of environmental sustainability but because of the opportunities for job creation and growth.

This pandemic has presented the world with a choice - between the global cooperation envisaged in the UN Charter or the pursuit of narrow self-interest. It is a choice between prosperity for all or for a just a few.

At the 75th UN General Assembly, the leaders of the world have an opportunity to begin rebuilding a new global order based on justice and equality.

By drawing on the spirit of solidarity, friendship and unity of purpose that has long defined the United Nations, we will set a clear path towards lasting peace and sustainable development.

Best regards.

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