The Human Rights Council (HRC) and its subsidiaries, including the Universal Periodic Review Working Group and the Advisory Committee, is a Charter-based body as it was established by a resolution of the principal organ of the UN, i.e. the UN General Assembly (UNGA) whose authority flows from the UN Charter. Created by UNGA resolution 60/251, the Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights (civil, political, economic, social and cultural as well as the right to development) and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner. It is also mandated to address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations, thereon, as well as promote the effective coordination and the mainstreaming of human rights within the UN system. The mandate further instructs that its work should be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation.
South Africa has three National Human Rights Institutions (under auspices of chapter IX of the Constitution to guard democracy), namely i) the South African Human. Rights Commission (SAHRC); ii) the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and iii) the Commission for the Promotion sand Protection of the rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission).
South Africa has ratified seven of the nine core Human Rights Treaties, i.e.:
As one of the founding members of the HRC, South Africa has registered significant achievements in the development of norms and standards within the human rights system. South Africa served as a member of the HRC from 2006 to 2010, 2014 to 2016 and 2017 to 2019. At the High-Level Segment of the 46th session of the HRC, the annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming was dedicated to the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) which is a comprehensive and visionary framework for preventing and combatting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The theme of the panel was: “The state of play in the fight against racism and discrimination 20 years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and the exacerbating effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on these efforts”. During 2021, the South African Permanent Mission in Geneva is actively involved in programmes and activities to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the DDPA.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body. UNCTAD is mandated to pursue economic and sustainable development issues with a focus on trade, finance, investment and technology. UNCTAD assists developing countries to participate equitably in the global economy. UNCTAD conducts economic policy research, produces useful analyses and makes policy recommendations to support government decision-making. Since its creation in 1964, UNCTAD has played an important role of examining global challenges and the rules governing the international system to ensure that they are supportive of developmental efforts and that they allow for the integration of developing countries into the global economy. UNCTAD’s work therefore aligns with South Africa’s broader foreign policy goals and in particular that of promoting people-centred economic development. The Mission participates in all meetings of UNCTAD to promote the South Africa’s interests, those of Africa and developing countries.
The Mission also participates in intergovernmental negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in pursuit of SA’s interests and priorities in the IP field as well as to shape global IP rules. The Mission participates in various standing Committees of WIPO covering a wide range of IP issues, such as copyright, trademarks, patents, etc. The Mission’s engagements in WIPO seeks to advocate for a balanced IP system which ensures that development is a key part of WIPO’s work, in line with WIPO’s Development Agenda. Furthermore, in accordance with the South African Government’s priorities with regard to the protection, promotion and development of indigenous knowledge systems and indigenous knowledge, the Mission participates in negotiations for an international legal instrument for the protection of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources. These discussions take place at WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge (GRTKF). In advancing the Government’s priorities in the IP field, the Mission works closely with various South African Government Stakeholders, including the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Department of Science and Innovation (DSI); the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC); the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) and others. South Africa has ratified and/or signed the following WIPO-Administered Treaties:
WIPO Convention; Berne Convention; Budapest Treaty; Paris Convention; Patent Cooperation Treaty; Trademark Law Treaty; UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) Convention; WIPO Copyright Treaty; and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
The Mission is also actively involved in the Geneva-based South Centre, which was established in 1995. As an independent intergovernmental think-tank of developing countries, the South Centre was established to analyze development problems of the developing countries, encourage them to value and share their common experience and provide intellectual and policy support for them to act collectively and individually, particularly at the international level. South Africa is founding member of the South Centre and plays an active role in promoting South-South co-operation. The Mission participates in the activities of the Centre in advancing the course of the Global South. Former President TM Mbeki is the current Chairperson of the Board of the South Centre.
In the area of the Mission focuses on two broad areas, i.e. Weapons of Mass Destruction and Conventional Arms. In the area of Weapons of Mass Destruction the Mission focuses on the Conference on Disarmament, The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Biological Weapons Convention. Regarding conventional weapons, the Mission focus on Arms Trade Treaty, Small Arms and Light Weapons, Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
The vast majority of resolutions dealt with by the UNGA First Committee relate to the Mission’s disarmament portfolio. South Africa and Japan coordinate the annual First Committee omnibus resolution on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), through the relevant Missions in Geneva. South Africa is a member of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, which coordinates annual omnibus nuclear disarmament resolution. South Africa is also responsible for drafting the ethical imperatives resolution and co-drafts the nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas (with New Zealand, Brazil and Indonesia); the TPNW (with the Core Group); and the towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments (with the NAC). This coalition has played an active role in the NPT, TPNW with its exclusive focus on nuclear disarmament. South Africa will chair the NAC as from 2021.
Apart from the NAC and SALW resolutions, many other First Committee resolutions also emanate from, and are in many instances first circulated among interested delegations in Geneva.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a core instrument in the area of ??nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and is the only international instrument that strives to not only prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also contains a legal commitment for their elimination. The Mission in Geneva is responsible for the disarmament pillar of the NPT.
South Africa played a leadership role in the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which is complementary to the NPT. The TPNW entered into force on 21 January 2021, 90 days after the fiftieth instrument of the ratification, acceptance, approval or accession was deposited.
South Africa is a member of the following Bodies and Treaties in the area peace and security:
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Mission implements the South African Government’s policy and programmes relating to humanitarian affairs with Geneva-based international organizations and non-governmental organizations responsible for refugees, migration and humanitarian assistance. It serves as the liaison between the South African Government and humanitarian organizations, voluntary agencies, and other permanent missions in Geneva. These amongst others include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The Mission acts as a conduit for the disbursement of Government contributions to the various humanitarian agencies. In the period 2019/20 South Africa made contributions to the UNHCR and ICRC respectively.
The Permanent Mission participates in all statutory meetings of humanitarian bodies.
South Africa has adopted the Implementation of the Geneva Conventions Act, which gives domestic force to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols.
These instruments are at the core of international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict. The conventions and their protocols limit the means and methods of warfare. They also provide protection for persons not, or no longer, taking part in hostilities, such as civilians and health workers, wounded soldiers and prisoners of war.
South Africa is a States Party to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (instrument of ratification was deposited on 12 January 1996).
ICTs are becoming the main asset and pillar of the 21st century economy and society. They are also the subject of international competitiveness and conflicts in some cases, while being the pre-requisite and foundation for sustainable development. Therefore, South Africa is highly engaged in the multilateral arena where ICT policies, treaties and standards are debated and developed.
The multilateral scene includes on the horizontal level a number of highly reputed regional organizations in the African level, in which the South African ICT sector is well represented. On the vertical level, and in terms of specialized organizations, South Africa is integrated in UN agencies and entities, in addition to its presence in specialized non-UN organizations and trade organizations.
In this age of increasingly fast technological advancements, the United Nations (UN) is supporting national governments to ensure that no one is left behind in the transition into a digital world. UN Geneva is committed to working with member states to stay ahead of the curve through innovations in multilateral diplomacy and digital development to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The Mission engages with telecommunications/ICT specialised agencies headquartered in Geneva or Bern, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Universal Postal Union, and monitors ICT related aspects of the work of UNCTAD, the WTO, including the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR).
Geneva is the Headquarters for all Global Health Diplomacy and related activities. South Africa’s National Health Vision is to achieve a long and healthy life for all South Africans. The World Health Organization (WHO) is the UN Technical Organization for Health, which was created in 1948 to coordinate health affairs within the United Nations system. Other key partners include the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), GAVI (Global Aids Vaccine Alliance) and UNITAID (International Drug Purchasing Facility). WHO is spearheading the normative work on health, which informs again country specific policy approaches. UNAIDS plays an important role in coordinating efforts of the UN to combat HIV/AIDS. The Global Fund (GFATM) is the central international funding mechanism for country level work on prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. GAVI is an international organisation – a global Vaccine Alliance, bringing together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries. Unitaid is a global health agency engaged in finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases more quickly, cheaply and effectively, in low- and middle-income countries.
South Africa has been a global leader in the area of Universal Health Coverage and the promotion of affordable access to health care is WHOs central policy. H.E. President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa is the Chairperson of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ATC) Accelerator Facilitation Council together with the Prime Minister of Norway under auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. South Africa has been at the forefront in mobilizing international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic since President Ramaphosa assumed the Chairship of the African Union in 2020 and called for global solidarity and international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. The Mission supports the work of President Ramaphosa in his capacity as the African Union Champion on COVID-19 response.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is the only tripartite specialised agency of the UN, founded in October 1919 under the League of Nations. The ILO’s founding pillars have never been more relevant than today as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and striving for social justice considering the scale of inequalities the world is facing. This tripartite institution’s focus is on harmonizing international labour standards globally underpinned by the Decent Work Agenda and the following four (4) pillars: Promoting Jobs and Enterprises; Extending Social Protection; Guaranteeing Rights at Work and Promoting Social Dialogue. Conventions and Recommendations negotiated and adopted by the International Labour Conference are subsequently ratified by member-states and streamlined into national legislation. Monitoring of their implementation is done through an annual reporting process on ratified and unratified Conventions.
South Africa has ratified 24 Conventions, including eight (8) core conventions. These are:
The Department of Employment and Labour prepares the required reports in consultation with social partners annually before submission to ILO. The ILO also provides technical support to member-states through regional and country offices and training through the Training Centre in Turin. This covers areas such Youth Employment, Social Protection; Inspection Services and Public Employment Services. Formal engagements for member-states take place through the International Labour Conference, Governing Body meetings, Sectoral Meetings and other consultative processes.
Consular Matters : Mr Vusi MOTAU
Office Hours : 08:30 – 17:00
Consular Section Hours : 09:30 – 12:30 daily
January 3: New Year
March 21: Human Rights Day
April 15 and 18: Easter Weekend
April 27: Freedom Day
May 02: Labour Day
June 16: Youth Day
August 1: Swiss National Day
August 09: South African National Women’s Day
December 16: Day of Reconciliation
December 26: Day of Goodwill