Securing socio-economic rights


Rick de Satge of  Phuhlisani was approached by PLAAS and the Legal Resources Centre to codesign and faciliate a 2˝ day conference in September 2009  for NCHR partners and external resource persons from South Africa and other African countries. The purpose of the workshop was to examine what progress had been made on the attianment of socio economic rights (SER) in South Africa through various strategies including litigation, lobbying and advocacy, social mobilisation, and service provision activities.

Participants included social movement activists, non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff, academics and government officials.

The first two days concentrated on the SER situation in South Africa. A number of inputs were presented in plenary for discussion:

·         SER and their impact on private law (Sandy Liebenberg, University of Stellebosch);

·         Social movements and the realisation of SER (Sbu Sikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo);

·         Social movements, NGO struggles and rights strategies (Steve Robbins, University of Stellenbosch);

·         Evaluating the effectiveness of SER interventions (Malcolm Langford, NCHR; Advocate Geoff Budlender; and Mark Abrahams, University of Cape Town).

Following the opening plenary articipants were able to select from a series of parallel small group discussions on other key issues of SER concern: water; environment; land and livelihoods; political participation; women’s rights; the challenge of protecting migrants’ rights and overcoming xenophobia; urban housing and security of tenure; and lessons from the case of Joe Slovo informal settlement in Cape Town.

On the third day SER was examined in the broader regional context through the lens of country case studies. These included:

·         The case of the Basarwa and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve  (Alice Mogwe, Ditshwanelo – the Botswana Centre for Human Rights);

·         Land reform in Mozambique (Lourenco Duvane, ORAM, Mozambique);

·         The situation in Uganda (Christopher Mbazira, Community Law Centre, Uganda);

·         The International Center for Transitional Justice’s activities in the region (Piers Pigou, ICTJ); and

·         The South African government and international human rights instruments (Pitso Montwedi, South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation).

Broad conclusions of the meeting were as follows:

·         Improving access to SER depends on continual efforts to deepen democracy; reduce poverty and inequality; and ensure that the rights of migrants and refugees are protected.

·         Responsible and accountable government is necessary to provide an appropriate legal and policy framework; ensure adequate implementation capacity and develop strong and credible regional institutions.

·         Vibrant civil society is necessary to provide ‘voice’ in a way that ensures equal participation for all

·         Engagement between civil society and government may take a range of forms, from dialogue to negotiation to civil disobedience.

The workshop stimulated a debate about the boundaries of protest action. Some were of the view that violent protest was a legitimate strategy of last resort to deal with intransigent state institutions while others argued that resorting to violence narrows rather than enlarges democratic space. They cautioned that in South Africa where the state has condoned violent protest, it ran the risk of being seen to reward violent behaviour and creating conditions which normalise violent acts

See our downloads page for the report of the workshop and case study materials on Joe Slovo and and Xenophobia.


Posted: 6/8/2010 (2:02:41 PM)

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