Home World AFRICA Ramaphosa preaches global solidarity while Trump proudly puts America first

Ramaphosa preaches global solidarity while Trump proudly puts America first


Cyril Ramaphosa during the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. (GCIS)

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa called for global solidarity and friendship in overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • This in contrast to US President Donald Trump who will “proudly put America first”.
  • Ramaphosa told the UN General Assembly solidarity must overcome racism and prejudice, violence, war, extremism, poverty and inequality.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented the world with a choice between global co-operation or the pursuit of narrow self-interest and unilateralism, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the UN General Assembly in a pre-recorded speech on Tuesday.

Ramaphosa made it clear he favoured the path of global co-operation, in stark contrast with US President Donald Trump who said in his pre-recorded message: 

I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first.

Speaking after leaders with dubious human rights records as Trump’s – Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, China’s Xi Jinping and Chile’s Sebastián Piñera Echenique – Ramaphosa drew a parallel between the Covid-19 pandemic and aftermath of World War II – or “world anti-fascist war” as Jinping called it – 75 years ago when the UN was formed.

“In 1945, the world was in crisis. It was counting the devastation wrought by war, devastation and plunder,” Ramaphosa said.

“Today, we are in the throes of another crisis – the coronavirus pandemic.”

He said the pandemic had claimed nearly a million lives and deepened human suffering and uprooted communities, destroyed livelihoods and plunged economies into turmoil.

“But just as the founders of the UN once stood united for the greater good, so too do we stand together to confront this grave threat.”

Ramaphosa added international partnerships were formed to ensure equitable access to medical equipment and supplies.

“Our response to the Covid pandemic has demonstrated the heights that can be attained when we work in the spirit of friendship and solidarity.

“If we are to build a common and inclusive future in the aftermath of Covid-19, it is this solidarity that must endure.”

He then quoted former president Nelson Mandela: “It is human solidarity, the concern for the other that must be at the centre of the values by which we all live.”

Ramaphosa said while Africa’s response to the pandemic had been “swift and effective”, the pandemic would inevitably set back the continent’s developmental aspirations.

“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.

“The order we seek to build must be rooted in solidarity, equality and unity of purpose.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented us with a choice. It is a choice between the global co-operation 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,” Ramaphosa 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.”

“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.”

Cyril Ramaphosa

Introducing the debate, Secretary-General António Guterres called on multilateralism and a ceasefire of all armed conflicts. He also warned against another a Cold War between the two biggest economies – the US and China-  although he did not mention them by name.

“We are moving in a very dangerous direction,” Guterres said.

Trump referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus” and said: “We must hold accountable the nation that unleashed the plague on the world – China!”

He added China should be held accountable for the environmental harm they had caused and claimed America had lowered its carbon emissions more than any of the countries party to the Paris Accord, from which he controversially withdrew his country in 2017.

Jinping pledged his country would continue to support other countries in fighting the pandemic and said it had several Covid-19 vaccines in late phases of development which it would provide for the “global public good” to other developing countries according to need.

“Covid-19 won’t be the last global challenge, so we must join hands to face these challenges,” he said, adding countries should see themselves as members of one family and pursue win-win solutions.

Jinping underlined the importance of the Paris Accord and promised his country would do more to protect the climate, envisaging it would be carbon free by 2060.

“We have no intention to fight a cold war or a hot one, with any country,” he said.

The other leaders who spoke before Ramaphosa, bar Trump, also called for global solidarity.



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