'NGO funding an issue for SA in UN resolution vote'

South Africa voted against a United Nations resolution for the protection of human rights defenders.

The United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Sources of NGO funding has emerged as one of the key reasons why South Africa voted against a United Nations resolution for the protection of human rights defenders.

117 member states voted yes on the resolution on Wednesday while 54 countries did not vote in its favour, with 40 abstaining and 14 voting no, which included China, Russia, North Korea and Sudan.

The resolution seeks to recognise the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection.

International Relations' Clayson Monyela says South Africa raised several concerns with the resolution, among them was that there was no clear definition of what human rights defenders are.

He says government was particularly worried about the issue of NGO funding and alluded to the incident earlier this year involving Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

"There are NGOs that are funded by foreign governments. These NGOs become implementers of their foreign policies and that's why some of them even have the guts to take some countries to court."

NGOs CONCERNED

The Southern African Litigation Centre's Muluka Miti-Drummond says the resolution reflects rights contained in the Constitution as well as human rights treaties South Africa is party to.

While NGOs have expressed concern at South Africa's decision to vote against the resolution, the international relations department says the government remains firmly committed to human rights.

"It's quite concerning that South Africa would vote against it. There is nothing in the resolution that should be of concern to any country that respects human rights and protects the rights contained in its own constitution," says Monyela.

However, Monyela says the resolution affects country sovereignty.

"It doesn't mean that we're not committed to human rights. It just means that the sponsors of this resolution were not willing to be flexible in the negotiations when the tax was being negotiated.

NGO Section 27 has added its voice to concerns over government's position.

(Edited By Shimoney Regter)