International relations and cooperation
In 2011, the Department of International Relations and
Cooperation released the White Paper on Building a Better
World: The Diplomacy of Ubuntu [PDF]. South Africa is a multifaceted,
multicultural and multiracial country that embraces the
concept of Ubuntu to define who people are and how they
relate to others. The philosophy of Ubuntu means "humanity" and is reflected in the idea that South Africans affirm their
humanity when they affirm the humanity of others.
South Africa has risen to the challenge and plays a meaningful
role in the region, on the continent and in the world.
South Africa's unique approach to global issues has found
expression in the concept of Ubuntu. These concepts inform
the country's particular approach to diplomacy.
This philosophy translates into an approach to international
relations that respects all nations, peoples and cultures.
It recognises that it is in South Africa's national interest to
promote and support the positive development of others. South Africa therefore accords central importance to:
- its immediate African neighbourhood and continent
- working with countries of the South to address shared challenges
- promoting global equity and social justice
- working with countries of the North to develop a true and
effective partnership for a better world
- doing its part to strengthen the multilateral system, including
its transformation, to reflect the diversity of nations, and
ensure its centrality in global governance.
South Africa and Africa
South Africa has always regarded Africa as the centrepiece
of its foreign policy, and is mobilising a significant amount
of resources towards the socio-economic awakening of the
continent, peace-making and peace-building, as well as postconflict
reconstruction and development.
African Union (AU)
The AU is Africa's premier institution and principal organisation
for promoting the continent's accelerated socio-economic integration,
which will lead to greater unity and solidarity between
African countries and peoples. South Africa was instrumental
in establishing the AU and its organs, which are the:
The financial institutions, the African Central Bank and African
Monetary Fund, and the African Court of Justice still have to
The AU has made notable progress towards the political
and economic integration of the continent:
- the AU has developed the PSC, which is responsible for
the resolution of conflicts, peacekeeping and post-conflict
reconstruction in conjunction with the United Nations (UN)
- a common defence policy has been adopted, which
includes a Standby Force, with a nucleus of five brigades,
one from each region
- the Human and Peoples' Rights Court has been established
- the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and the
Declaration on Gender Equality is being implemented
- the Protocol on the Court of Justice is underway.
South Africa has been active in efforts to bring about peace
and stability on the continent. The country has engaged in
peacekeeping operations and peace-building measures in
support of the African Agenda, and has played an important
mediation and/or facilitation role in countries such as Burundi,
the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia-Eritrea,
Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
South Africa has also helped some countries on the continent
to set up institutions, such as the Independent Electoral
Commission, while participating in election-observation missions, establishing functional civil services and using
South Africa's experience in post-conflict and reconstruction
and development programmes.
New Partnership for Africa's Development
South Africa played a role in the establishment of Nepad and
the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), and hosted the
secretariats of these two bodies. Nepad, as a blueprint for
Africa's socio-economic development, represents the incarnation
of the objectives of the AU at a practical level to intensify
the struggle against poverty and underdevelopment.
Nepad remains the main frame of reference for intra-African
relations and Africa's partnerships with international partners
such as the:
The primary objective of Nepad is to eradicate poverty,
halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process,
promote the empowerment and economic integration of women
and achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs).
The underlying principles of Nepad are:
- Accountability: Nepad recognises the importance of good
political, economic and corporate governance in creating
the conditions for development, with African governments
embracing greater accountability to their constituents.Nepad also seeks to base Africa's partnership with the
North on mutual accountability.
- Ownership: Nepad is a long-term vision that is African-led
and -owned. Ownership should be promoted through
broad and deep participation by all sectors of society, and
by tapping into indigenous knowledge/expertise to define
needs and solutions.
- Partnership: While Nepad is a partnership between and
among Africans, it seeks to accelerate sustainable development
in Africa through partnerships with the South, and
to forge a new partnership with the developed North that
changes the unequal relationship with Africa.
One of the outflows of Nepad was the introduction of the
APRM, accepted by member states of the AU as an African
self-monitoring mechanism in 2003. By April 2011, 30 African countries had acceded to the
APRM and 14 had been peer-reviewed.
South Africa and the Southern African
SADC has been in existence since 1980, when it was formed
as a loose alliance of nine majority-ruled states in southern
Africa known as the Southern African Development Coordination
Conference, with the main aim of coordinating development
projects to lessen economic dependence on the then
apartheid South Africa. The founding member states are: Angola, Botswana,
Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia
As a community of nations, SADC has had to work together
in confronting various challenges of political and socioeconomic
nature. The Free Trade Agreement, which was launched in 2008, is
part of SADC's ongoing efforts to create strong relations with
southern African countries through trade. The SADC also aims to
create a regional customs union.
In August 2011, President Jacob Zuma was elected as
chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and
The second Southern African Development Community-Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa-East African
Community Tripartite Heads of State and Government Summit was held in South Africa at the end of June 2011.
The summit officially launched the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) negotiations. The three pillars of the FTA are market
integration, infrastructure development and industrial development.
The summit also resolved to address the challenges associated
with facilitating the movement of businesspeople across regional
economic communities, together with infrastructure development.
Asia and Australasia
South Africa and Indonesia were instrumental in the launch
of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) in
Bandung in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of the Bandung
Conference, which cemented Afro-Asian solidarity. NAASP
represents a commitment by heads of state and government
to help build closer economic ties between Africa and Asia.
South Africa continues to strengthen its relations with the
region through increased two-way trade; personal exchanges
between high-level dignitaries; and the finalisation of new
instruments of cooperation in the S&T fields, through technology
transfer, investments and overseas development
assistance (ODA) in capacity-building.
While Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan already rank among the
foremost sources of foreign direct investment in South Africa,
the significance of China and India, as sources of investment,
is growing. South Africa's multinational companies are finding
attractive investment opportunities in Australia, China, Indonesia
and Thailand in diverse fields such as mining, minerals
processing, electronic media and the petrochemical industry.
December 2011 marked 14 years since the official establishment
of diplomatic relations between South Africa and
China. The South Africa-China bilateral relationship is one
of the most dynamic partnerships of its kind. China is South
Africa's largest trading partner.
South Africa also plays a leading role in the Indian Ocean
Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, which creates an
opportunity for countries of the South to serve their economic
Apart from strengthening trilateral cooperation, India,
Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) countries are committed to collective
efforts to reform the United Nations Security Council, as
well as the international financial architecture and to take joint
steps to mitigate the effects of the global financial crisis. The
three countries have also agreed to redouble their efforts to
promote transport interconnectivity through the adoption of
cooperative maritime and aviation frameworks that will assistin facilitating the new intra-IBSA trade target of US$25 billion
South Africa's trade with its IBSA partners has increased
significantly since the forum's inception. South Africa's trade
statistics for the period 2007 to 2010 showed an increase in
overall trade from R36,92 billion in 2007 to R58,133 billion
South Africa enjoys wide-ranging multilateral relations with
Australia and New Zealand.
The Middle East
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation distinguishes between two clearly identifiable subregions in the
Middle East. There is the Levant, which comprises Israel, Iraq,
Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, and, on the other hand,
the Arabian/Persian Gulf Region, consisting of the member
states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, namely Bahrain,
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates
(UAE), Iran and Yemen.
The Middle East is an important economic region as it
occupies a unique geopolitical position in the tricontinental
hub of Europe, Asia and Africa.
South Africa's leading trade partners in the region are Saudi
Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Israel and the UAE.
South Africa supports a just, equitable and comprehensive
peace process in the Middle East and an end to the
illegal occupation of land that has led to conflict and violence
between the peoples of the region.
The overall bilateral relationship with the United States of
America (USA) remains strong with cooperation expanding
on matters of common interest and mutual benefit.
One of the highlights in South African-US bilateral relations is that
the USA has identified with South Africa's strategic priorities
and is making an effort to align its programmes and projects
In June 2011, the First Lady of the USA, Mrs Michelle
Obama, visited South Africa. During her stay, she, among
other things, delivered a keynote address to the Young African
Women Leaders Forum, and visited former President Nelson
Mandela and Robben Island.
In September 2011, President Zuma concluded a working
visit to the USA, where he led the South African delegation to
the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York,
and also promoted economic and educational ties with the
USA. He visited the New York Stock Exchange, and ended
his stay with a stop-over in Houston, Texas, where he met
with the business community to promote trade and investments,
as well as education.
Relations between South Africa and Canada are conducted
largely within the framework of the Annual Consultations (AC).
This is the primary forum in which issues of mutual interest
and concern receive specific focus.
The growth in regular high-level visits in both directions
serves to cement and expand the mutually beneficial interaction
in all spheres.
Canada's ODA to South Africa under the Country Development
Programming Framework has three main programme
themes, namely strengthening South Africa's service-delivery
mechanism; regional cooperation; and mainstreaming
(gender, HIV, AIDS and environment). For the period 2008 to
2013, the amount of Canadian ODA to South Africa amounts
to R250 million.
Bilateral relations with Latin America and the Caribbean
will continue advancing the development agenda of the
South and strengthening cooperation among developing
countries through active participation in groupings of the
South at regional, interregional and multilateral levels.
South Africa enjoys cordial relations with the countries of the
Caribbean and Latin America.
The majority of the people of the Caribbean are of African
descent and thus have strong historical and cultural links
with the continent of Africa. South Africa's endeavours, in
conjunction with the AU, to strengthen cooperation between
Africa and the African Diaspora in the Caribbean, have
added impetus to bilateral and multilateral relations.
South Africa's exports to the EU are growing and their
composition is becoming more diverse. South Africa is gradually
moving from mainly commodity-based products to a more
diversified export profile that includes manufactured products.
The fifth South Africa-EU Summit will be held in Brussels
in 2012. The fourth South Africa-EU Summit took place in
September 2011 in the Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga.
The summit reviewed the rapid expansion of the bilateral
relationship between South Africa and the EU, manifested by
a strengthened strategic partnership and growing cooperation
in a number of areas.
In its assessment of the implementation
of the joint action plan, the summit welcomed positive developments
such as the:
- effective implementation and increased ownership of the
EU's development assistance programme for South Africa
and the excellent relationship between the European
Investment Bank and its South African partners
- launch in September 2011 of the Primary Healthcare
Programme, worth €126 million, aimed at increasing lifeexpectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality and supporting the fight against HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis
- successful cooperation in the areas of science, technology
and innovation, and supporting seminars on minerals,
mining and climate-change research, as well as on the
environment and sustainable development, including
green growth, climate action and biodiversity
- consistent progress in space cooperation, also involving
the South African National Space Agency and the European
Space Agency, especially the advanced preparations
for the extension to South Africa of the European
Geographic Navigation Overlay System, which will significantly
enhance global navigation satellite system services
in South Africa.
Germany has made substantial new investments in the
South African economy since 1994 and remains one of the
country's most important trading partners.
In July 2011, President Zuma received the United Kingdom
(UK) Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, on a working visit,
which took place within the context of deepening, strengthening
and broadening further the strong relations between
the two countries. The visit to South Africa followed a
successful state visit by President Zuma to the UK in 2010;
the subsequent South Africa-UK Bilateral Forum; and the
eventual adoption of the strategy of cooperation between
the two countries.
The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, and the Duchess of
Cornwall, Camilla Rosemary, visited South Africa in November
South Africa and France cooperate in various multilateral
forums, particularly to improve peace and security on
the African continent and support the advancement of global
governance. President Zuma paid a state visit to France in
In 2011, South Africa and Russia further strengthened bilateral
political and economic relations. Delegations from the two
countries met for the 10th session of the South Africa-Russian
Federation Joint Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and
Economic Cooperation in Pretoria in September 2011.
The UN occupies the central and indispensable role within the
global system of governance. South Africa looks to the UN to
advance the global development agenda and address underdevelopment
and the eradication of poverty globally. Through participation in multilateral forums, South Africa also upholds
the belief that the resolution of international conflicts should
be peaceful and in accordance with the centrality of the UN
Charter and the principles of international law.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation
continues engaging in the ongoing debates and negotiations
to advance reform.
In October 2010, South Africa won a non-permanent seat on
the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the second
time for 2011/12. The country served on the UNSC in 2007/08.
The United Nations General Assembly also elected Germany,
India and Colombia to two-year seats on the council, commencing
1 January 2011.
Each non-permanent country sits on the council for two years
alongside the permanent powers – Britain, China, France, Russia
and the United States of America – which have the right to veto any
South Africa will be guided by its commitment to multilateralism,
advancement of the African Agenda and the peaceful resolution of
United Nations Development Programme
The UNDP has an office in Pretoria, which is headed by
the resident representative, who is also the resident UN coordinator
for all UN operational activities for development in
The Commonwealth comprises 53 member countries on
every continent and major ocean, making up a quarter of the
world's population and generating 20% of global trade.
Members range from micro-states in Polynesia to members
of the G8, from the smallest and poorest to the richest and
most populous, with cross-cutting affiliations straddling the
The Commonwealth is united by its shared ideals and
common traditions manifested in similar structures of governance;
public administration and law; and a common working
language, commercial and business practices, and understanding.
It is an important multilateral institution, both uniting
and serving its member countries and providing a lobby on
Its programmes of action, such as the Commonwealth
Fund for Technical Cooperation, the Commonwealth Youth
Programme and the Commonwealth Foundation, are focused
on capacity-building, economic and social development, theremoval of disparities in living standards across the world and
the alleviation of poverty and illiteracy.
President Jacob Zuma led a delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth Australia in October 2011.
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
The 114-member strong NAM is the largest political
grouping of countries outside of the UN, making it an important
lobby group of developing countries in global affairs.
South Africa formally joined the movement in 1994 and has
played a leading role ever since.
Did you know?
Highlights on the international scene in 2011 included:
- election by acclamation to the United Nations (UN) Security
- admission to the most powerful bloc of emerging markets:
Brazil, Russia, India and China
- leadership of the infrastructure-development initiative within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development
- assumption of the chairpersonship of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence
- hosting the SADC-East African Economic Community-Common
Economic Community of East and Southern Africa
- hosting the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 17th
Conference of the Parties and Seventh Session of the Conference
of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the
Kyoto Protocol Summit in Durban
- hosting the India, Brazil, South Africa Summit.
In April 2011, President Jacob Zuma led a South African
delegation to the third Brazil, Russia, India, China and South
Africa (BRICS) Leaders Meeting held in the Hainan Province
of the People's Republic of China. The theme of the summit was
Broad Vision, Shared Prosperity.
South Africa attended the meeting as the newest member of
BRICS, with objectives to:
At the end of the summit, a joint declaration was signed, which
- consolidate South Africa's BRICS membership and commit to its
processes and related mechanisms
- identify and leverage opportunities for South Africa's developmental
- enhance the African Agenda and sustainable development
- promote broad cooperation in the multilateral arena
- work for cooperation with other emerging market economies.
captures the central essence of what this evolving formation is committed
to and seeks to achieve.
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