South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday spoke out for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, calling on the United Nations to work to eradicate racism.
“The year 2020 will be remembered for the massive groundswell to push back the frontiers of racism under the umbrella #BlackLivesMatter movement,” Ramaphosa told the General Debate of the UN General Assembly.
“As a country that has known too well the anguish of institutionalized racism, South Africa supports the demands for swift action against racism, whether committed by individuals, companies, officials, or a state,” he said. “South Africa calls on the United Nations to spare no effort to end prejudice and intolerance in all its forms and whatever and wherever it is found.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he quoted the words of Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights icon.
The BLM movement surged around the world again earlier this year following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, the United States.
In his pre-recorded speech, Ramaphosa also called for solidarity to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. “If we are to build a common and inclusive future in the aftermath of COVID-19, it is this solidarity that must endure,” he said.
He called for efforts to mitigate climate change, reduce poverty and inequality, and silence the guns. He also called for Security Council reform and the empowerment of women and girls.
“As the founders of the UN stood at a crossroads in 1945, so do we 75 years later. They answered history’s call to craft a new order for a world in crisis. Today we battle the fires of a deadly pandemic, of racism and prejudice, of violence, war and extremism — and above all, of poverty and inequality,” he said. “The order we seek to build must be rooted in solidarity, equality, and unity of purpose.”
Ramaphosa said COVID-19 has presented the world with a choice. It is a choice between the global cooperation envisaged in the UN Charter, or the pursuit of narrow self-interest and unilateralism. It is a choice between tolerance, or prejudice. It is also a choice between economic justice, or growing inequality.
“The path we choose now will determine our collective destiny. Though we face the most daunting of prospects, we have at our disposal the most potent force. It is the solidarity and friendship upon which the United Nations was founded,” he said.
“When history faithfully records the global response to the worst health emergency of this century, let it be said that we stood and acted as one, that we provided leadership, and that we gave the peoples of all nations hope and courage. The best and most fitting legacy of this 75th session will be that through our actions, we gave true meaning to the term, United Nations,” Ramaphosa said.