Post Apartheid South Africa at the United Nations: Patterns and implications

Inglis, Jade L. (2009-03)

Thesis (MA (Political Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


South Africa has played an essential role as one of the founding members of both the League of Nations and the United Nations (UN), the latter of which came into existence in 1945. However, when the South African government introduced and pursued its policy of Apartheid, the country became a pariah within the international community. In 1994, after twenty years of international isolation, a new democratic government was sworn in and was immediately embraced by the international community. In their quest to further strengthen South Africa’s ongoing transformation from an isolated international pariah to an emerging leader of the developing world, the Mandela and Mbeki administrations adopted foreign policy adaptation strategies. These strategies were designed to adapt South African’s foreign policy to the new realities of the post-apartheid era: restructuring the foreign policy establishment; selfpromotion as the leader of the ‘African Renaissance’; adherence to the foreign policy principle of ‘universality’ and assuming a leadership role in international organizations. The United Nations has became one of the most important forums through which the international community’s rapprochement towards South Africa has manifested itself and has continued to play an important role in post-Apartheid South Africa’s international relations. South Africa’s global status has increased significantly through its participation in numerous UN bodies, agencies and General Assembly sessions. It has thus been argued that South Africa’s participation at the United Nations is driven by its intention to reform the organisation as well as showcase itself as a representative of the developing world and especially Africa, in an attempt to increase its global stature as a moral and African power. In addition to this it ostensibly seeks to profile itself as a multilateral leader. This thesis attempts to explore the nature of South Africa’s involvement and participation within the United Nations in the Post-Apartheid era and what the major consequences have been. It assesses the content and consequences of South African foreign policy rhetoric and institutional participation at the United Nations since the end of apartheid. This is done, first, through an attempt to understand the role of international organisations within the international arena and how they are utilised in furthering foreign policy objectives of states through cooperation (which constitutes the theoretical backdrop to the thesis), and second, through a systematic review of South African behaviour and policy objectives at the United Nations. Amongst others, one of the more important themes emerging from this analysis is that South Africa is combining many of its more recent UN initiatives with its participation in other multilateral partnerships.

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