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Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the National Action Plan Provincial Consultation Session in Gauteng, Irene, Pretoria, 20 June 2016

Good morning and welcome to you all.

Over the past 10 days the world witnessed events such as the horrific Orlando shooting and the killing of UK Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, in her constituency. Two witnesses said that Mrs Cox’s attacker, who has been a reader of neo-Nazi and white supremacist books and websites, shouted “Britain first” while stabbing her. Mrs Cox’s husband has since called on Britain to fight “the hatred that killed her”. Mr Cox is correct – hatred kills. At the very heart of the things that we are trying to end - things like racism, homophobia, discrimination and prejudice – lies hatred.

And yes, as I’ve mentioned before, no law, no government plan or policy can change the human heart, but we can put in place measures and initiatives that send a clear signal that racism, discrimination and prejudice will not be tolerated. We can put in place measures and initiatives that foster understanding, awareness and respect for human rights. We can put in place measures and initiatives to create an environment conducive to tolerance.
That is why we need the National Action Plan.

That is why we need your inputs.  

The NAP needs to work. That’s why these provincial consultations, and the overall consultation process, are so important.

As many of you know, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued guidelines to states on how to go about drawing up National Action Plans against Racism.

In 2001, the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance produced the most authoritative and comprehensive programme for combating these scourges: the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The Durban Review Conference in 2009 and the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the World Conference against Racism two years later evidenced a renewed commitment to the racial equality agenda.  

As the High Commissioner correctly says racism and racial discrimination, both direct and indirect, de facto and de jure, occur daily, hindering progress and causing suffering for millions of people in all countries around the world.

Lasting improvements to counter racial discrimination at the national level require political will and a sustained and comprehensive approach, reflected in a broad range of measures which complement and reinforce one another.

National action plans can provide the basis for the development of a comprehensive public policy for the promotion of racial equality. The UN has stressed that developing, implementing and evaluating such a national action plan requires considerable planning and effort.   Great care is needed to ensure linkages with existing overarching national human rights action plans, as well as national development plans and policy planning processes focused on health, education, women, children, minorities, indigenous peoples and so forth.

The State plays a key role in the initiation, launching and implementation of the national action plan against racial discrimination. But, at the same time, to make a real difference, the plan needs to be “owned” by the entire population. In seeking to achieve this objective, States must therefore establish meaningful partnerships among all relevant stakeholders. That is why we are here today.

A national action plan against racial discrimination should embrace the broadest range of participants from all sectors of society working on anti-discrimination. Such a broad-based effort will lead to better public awareness. It is fundamentally important that a national action plan against racial discrimination should be action-oriented so as to facilitate its implementation.

Rather than setting forth, what the UN calls, “claims and vague promises”, the plan should:

  • Clearly describe the current situation of racial discrimination;
  • Identify what problems need to be overcome;
  • Specify what action will be taken (providing benchmarks for the evaluation of progress);
  • Prioritize actions;
  • Specify who is to take the actions;
  • Establish a time frame for these action;
  • Establish a budget for action;
  • Provide for effective monitoring and evaluation of what has been accomplished and what has not.

Because no state can realistically expect to eliminate racial discrimination within a relatively short time frame, national action plans against racial discrimination should be continuous. This means that a national action plan should be viewed as part of a long-term process.

We know, from international experience, that some of the practical problems experienced in States that have already adopted national action plans for human rights, for human rights education or against racial discrimination, include -

  • A plan’s lack of credibility owing to the lack of public participation and public awareness.
  • Lack of an adequate normative framework;
  • Overly ambitious and ultimately unrealistic objectives;
  • Failure to take into account existing initiatives, particularly by civil society, including initiatives by groups facing racial discrimination;
  • Lack of agreement on implementing and monitoring responsibilities, and/or
  • Insufficient coordination and ownership among those who implement the plan.

This emphasises why your inputs and buy-in are crucial.

You will note that the draft NAP is a framework. The tables, in particular, are blank and have been left blank for a reason – namely, to ensure that we get specific pointers from civil society and various role-players to establish exactly what action we need to take, where we need to take it, by whom and within what time-frame.

And a few words on the consultation process: Our Department would like to correct an inaccuracy that appeared in the media that erroneously stated that the Department gave members of the public “one month” to comment on the draft NAP.

The correct position is that the draft NAP was approved by Cabinet on 09 December 2015 and has been made available on the departmental website for public comments since 18 December 2015.

Subsequent to that the Department then held a National Consultative Dialogue from 29 February to 01 March 2016 in Cape Town where the draft NAP was officially launched and marked the official launch of the public consultation process. The launch was attended by representatives from the judiciary, chapter 9 institutions, civil society, sports, media, youth, labour, community, other interest groups, public and private sector to mark the commencement of the public consultation process.

Following the launch at the national consultative dialogue, the Department conducted multiple media interviews and panel discussions to urge members of the public to comment on the draft NAP. The draft NAP has also been discussed extensively on the Department’s radio programme called Let’s Talk Justice, which broadcasts to 65 community radio stations countrywide.

The Department has also, in collaboration with various partners and stakeholders, conducted numerous awareness sessions, briefings and dialogues on the draft NAP across the country, including with communities at a grassroots level.

The Department has since received numerous inputs into the document from various sectors of the society. All these inputs will be seriously considered for incorporation into the final NAP.

The Department is currently embarking on these provincial consultations, like today’s event, as a further phase of the public consultation process, up until the end of June 2016, where the department and members of the public interface.    The provincial consultations aim to provide an overview of the NAP, highlighting the purpose and provisions within the document.

It further aims to create public awareness about the NAP and call all sectors of society to action and mobilise various stakeholders and sectors to interact with the draft and to contribute constructively towards shaping the final NAP. The provincial consultation for KZN took place earlier this month, we are in Gauteng today and the remaining provincial consultations will take place as follows:

  • North West (21 June 2016),
  • Mpumalanga (22 June 2016),
  • Northern Cape (23 June 2016),
  • Free State (25 June 2016),
  • Eastern Cape (28 June 2016),
  • Western Cape (29 June 2016), and
  • Limpopo (30 June 2016).

These consultations further strengthen existing networks and encourage collaboration across different sectors and formations to promote ownership for the subsequent implementation of the NAP. 

The draft NAP is also available at all Thusong Service Centres and Regional Offices of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and all stakeholders and the public are invited to submit their inputs to: nap@justice.gov.za

The consultation process is vital. Government is not going to dictate what should be in the NAP.

It is up to civil society, to NGOs, faith-based organisations, labour, business, the media, in fact all other stakeholders, to give us a clear mandate so that we can move the NAP forward together.

Only with your commitment to the process and your comments and suggestions can we make the NAP work.

Thank you