INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
Human Rights Institute of South Africa for release on
10 December 2017- International Human Rights Day*
Despite driving a human rights and anti-racism agenda, South Africa is failing to practically ensure citizens enjoy the rights reflected in our constitution and legislation Looking back since 1996, South Africa has made strides in acceding to numerous international human rights instruments that affirmed the country’s commitment to promotion and protection of human rights. There are several international processes which were South African driven and reflective of our progressive human rights values that made the people of this country very proud.
The World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, was hosted in South Africa on 31 August 2001, in Durban, KwaZulu Natal Province. The conference, adopted the Durban Declaration Programme of Action. The country remains a key leader in putting forward positive strategies to the international community to combat racisms and encourage develop National Action Plans including road maps on how to address the scourge.
Despite this contribution, South Africa itself has dragged progress in this area as it is sixteen years (16yrs) since the WACAR and it still has no NAP. Racism remains a deep rooted problem notwithstanding the demise of apartheid policy. This is in spite of laws created to prevent racism such as the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. The manifestation of racism in people’s daily lives is rampant.
The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action requires States to develop and implement national policies without delay to address discrimination. During South Africa’s 3rd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, over 30 recommendations were passed by peer states after raising serious concerns about persistence of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. South Africa was urged to expedite drafting of a NAP for approval and allocation of adequate resources for proper implementation. The delay in outstanding legislation for addressing racism not only impacts negatively on the society, but contradicts South Africa’s role under the DDPA to encourage the international community to implement the NAPs for effective eradication of racism.
Beyond the issue of racism and discrimination, the third UPR cycle has also left South Africa with a total of 243 recommendations passed by peer states.
These relate to
The existence of torture,
Discrimination, poverty, inequality
Sexual and gender based violence,
Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance;
Protection of minority rights, vulnerable groups including, migrants, LGBTI, people with albinism, people with disabilities, by acceleration of adoption of hate crime, hate speech legislation for prosecution of perpetrators.
South Africa was also encouraged to ratify key human rights instruments where ratification remains outstanding,including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, among others.
The HRC also recommended South Africa continue enhancing the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation, to ensure that all homes, health centers and educational establishments have safe drinking water and improved sanitation facilities. South Africa was also requested to reconsider its withdrawal from the RomeStatute of the International Criminal Court by upholding its commitment under those obligations.
South Africa has confirmed 187 recommendations were accepted and indicated that government is committed to working with CSOs and key national human rights institutions. This is a positive step considering that the first and second period reports submitted in 2008 & 2012 respectively did not follow the required standard for consultation with CSOs. The government has begun this process in engaging key stakeholders. However, the current form in which the 187 recommendations is arranged is very confusing. Should this remain it will be difficult to implement as monitoring and evaluation of outcome of the UPR is key. It is also important to assess the reasons for noting other recommendations instead of accepting the 243 recommendations. The other important consideration to be made by South Africa is the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee for
coordination of recommendations obtained from international and regional human rights treaty bodies that monitor’s implementation of human rights instruments, including ensuring South Africa’s regular and timeous submission of periodic reports.
Drawing lessons from past UPR processes and the submission of periodic reports will improve relations between government and CSOs, whose role is imperative for monitoring compliance with the UPR. It is therefore very important that the environment is conducive for functioning of CSOs. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa have passed recommendations and tools for State Parties to facilitate enabling environments for sustainability of CSOs. UN Resolution 27/31 April 2016 & ACHRP Resolutions 69, 273 are source of reference for improving accountability and ending impunity against human rights protection. South Africa should consider developing a law for promotion and protection of Human Rights Defenders. These
recommendations heightens the country’s progressive human rights framework which emphasize a duty on the state to care for the well-being of the people; as well as being effective, transparent, accountable, consistent and
loyal to people.
For more information contact Tshepo Legodi: 011 402 1103, 079 444 3171
* The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. South Africa was among eight (8) countries that abstained from acknowledging this day as International Human Rights Day. It was only in 1996 that the former President Nelson Mandela recognised the UDHR.