Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at a function hosted by the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa, held at the Holiday Inn Rosebank, 6 December 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday an article appeared about a conference, organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which was recently held in Budapest.
It noted that the Europe 2020 Strategy – a 10 year strategy proposed by the European Commission for the advancement of the economy of the European Union - is soon coming to an end at a time when Europe is, as the article notes, “facing major challenges”.
The key message from the article was that civil society should play a role and make a contribution to the shaping of the new post-2020 participatory long term strategy, as well as to its governance and implementation.
It reinforces the vital importance of partnership – partnership between government and civil society, partnership between governments, and partnership between different civil society role-players.
Partnership between government and civil society, in particular, is something that is acknowledged in our own National Development Plan, where the NDP says that to successfully implement this plan, the country needs partnerships across society working together towards a common purpose.
It states that civil society represents citizens on issues closest to their hearts and must be taken seriously and that they form an integral part of a vibrant democracy that involves people in their own development.
Partnership is also a fundamental part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require different sectors and actors working together in many ways – such as financial resources, knowledge and expertise.
With 17 interconnected Sustainable Development Goals and 169 associated targets it is clear that cross-sectoral and innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships will play a crucial role for getting us to where we need by the year 2030.
In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 17 recognizes multi-stakeholder partnerships as being important for mobilizing and sharing knowledge, expertise, technologies and financial resources to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, particularly in developing countries.
It further seeks to encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.
The SDGs also aim to enhance North-South and South-South cooperation by supporting national plans to achieve all the targets.
Focussed on consolidating democracy, the European Union offers support in various sectors in South Africa and, in particular, has focused on human rights, good governance and support to civil society.
For us, in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the role of the EU in access to, and the promotion of, constitutional rights - through our implementing partner, the Foundation for Human Rights - has been a key element In EU-South Africa relations.
The Department, in partnership with FHR, has implemented a multi-year programme called “Socio-Economic Justice for All” (SEJA) which is funded by the European Union.
The SEJA programme is premised on a rights-based approach to the long-term eradication of poverty, in which people living in poverty are empowered to assert their constitutional rights as active members of society.
To give a practical example of that valuable work being done, I must mention the very recent SEJA Baseline Survey.
Many government programmes require reliable empirical data to understand the nature, location and depth of the problems experienced by members of marginalised and vulnerable groups with respect to understanding and asserting their rights.
Our Department and the FHR has undertaken this nation-wide survey to measure the awareness of the Constitution of the population at large.
For example, respondents were asked if they had heard of the Constitution of South Africa and if they had heard of the Bill of Rights in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.
The SEJA Baseline Survey found that slightly more than half (51%) of respondents had heard of either. Male respondents were more likely (55%) than their female counterparts (47%) to have heard of either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.
With regards to the race of respondents, whites were the most likely (68%) to have heard of either, followed by Indian/Asian respondents (61%).
While the majority (56%) of coloured persons had heard of either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, less than half (48%) of black African respondents had heard of either. Female black African respondents were least likely (44%) to have heard of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.
Importantly, the likelihood of having heard of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights decreased with age and as poverty levels increased, so the awareness levels of the Constitution or Bill of Rights decreased.
This information – as well as the other findings in the SEJA Baseline Survey - will greatly assist in helping us to focus and tailor-make our policies and programs where they are most needed and where they can have the biggest impact.
It also helps us as government to further partner with civil society in bringing about socio-economic change.
Without the valued support of the EU, this work would not be possible.
Support to civil society has remained an important component of the EU’s cooperation with South Africa – these include areas of justice and governance areas, and also preventing gender-based violence.
Furthermore, gender equality, LGBTI, child, elderly, migrant and youth rights have all been enhanced because of financial support to civil society organisations, as well as through a strategy to address capacity issues of CSOs.
From the very beginning of the EU's engagement in South Africa, education has made up a significant part of the EU programming.
In addition, the EU has made significant contributions to the Department of Health's efforts to reform our health sector through primary health care provision, the development of a district health policy, the establishment of effective health financing and information systems and support to planning, reorganisation and refurbishment of health facilities.
Other areas of cooperation include environmental protection and action against climate change.
Activism and partnership in all of these areas are needed to bring about social justice and socio-economic change.
In the same way as human rights are interdependent, so the SDGs are interlinked.
We can’t afford to leave anyone behind.
We must ensure that the goals and targets met for all nations, for all peoples and for all parts of society.
It reminds one of a quote – there is big dispute as to whether it was by American novelist, Herman Melville, or by Anglican priest, Henry Melville – but regardless of which Melville it indeed was, it is particularly relevant to issues of social justice and activism in all its forms. It says -
“We cannot live for ourselves alone. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow-men; and along those fibres, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and come back to us as effects.”
I want to thank you all – the EU, the Foundation for Human Rights and all other institutions and members of civil society. We see and we acknowledge the lasting effects of the very important work that you do.
Because of your ongoing efforts and your valued support much has been achieved in 2017 – and I am confident that 2018 will bring with it even greater success, closer collaboration and partnership and, ultimately, a greater realization of social justice.I thank you.