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Webinar on SA’s foreign policy position on Ukraine

On Monday 11 April, the CACS, in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the BRICS Research Centre, hosted a webinar on ‘Examining South Africa’s foreign policy position on the Russia-Ukraine crisis’.

    KEYNOTE ADDRESS

    The keynote address was delivered by H.E. Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, and Chair of the ANC’s Subcommittee on International Relations.

    SPEAKERS
    • Prof David Monyae, Director, CACS
    • Prof William Gumede, Associate Professor, School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand and HSRC Honorary Research Fellow
    • Mr Raul de Luzenberger, Charge d’Affaires, Delegation of the European Union
    • Dr Michael Cosser, Research Consultant, Human Science Research Council
    • Dr Sizo Nkala, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Centre for China Africa Studies
    BACKGROUND

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has dominated the global news and set the global order on a knife’s edge. However, the reaction to Russia’s actions in Ukraine has not been uniform, as demonstrated by the vote on the UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 2 March.

    While 141 members of UN General Assembly voted in favour of the resolution, 35 countries abstained, and another five, including Russia, voted against. Abstentions included China, India and South Africa, four of Russia’s five partners in the BRICS alliance.

    President Cyril Ramaphosa justified South Africa’s decision to abstain by claiming that the resolution did not emphasise the importance of mediation and negotiation to resolve the conflict, which were cardinal principles of South Africa’s foreign policy.

    This was an interesting climb-down from a previous statement by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

    The aim of this webinar is to interrogate South Africa’s disjointed and contested position on the Russia-Ukraine war. What explains South Africa’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict? Does it have to do with the ANC’s historical ties with Russia, one of the major backers of the ANC’s anti-apartheid struggle?

    Is South Africa wearing a BRICS hat by withholding its condemnation of the Russian invasion? Can this position be read as evidence of South Africa’s agency and independence in international affairs?

    How does this position relate to the principles underpinning South Africa’s foreign policy, notably commitments to the promotion of human rights; democracy; justice and international law; international peace; and the use of internationally agreed mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts?

    Moreover, what can we learn about South Africa’s understanding of its place in the global order from its position on the ongoing war? Our speakers will unpack these and other issues.

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