12 June 2012
South Africa’s report to the United Nations on its progress on human rights has been well received, with a number of member countries praising SA for its commitment to improving the lives of its citizens, and for its leading role on the UN Human Rights Council.
South Africa presented its second report to the UN Universal Peer Review Mechanism Working Group in Geneva on 31 May. The group reviews the human rights records of all 192 UN member states every four years.
In Johannesburg on Monday, the departments of Justice and International Relations and Cooperation met with representatives from South Africa’s Chapter 9 Institutions – including the SA Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality – to give feedback on the country’s presentation to the UN.
“South Africa’s country report highlighted a consolidation of constitutional democracy, as well as progress made in the realisation of socio-economic and cultural rights such as housing, health and social development as well as civil and political rights enshrined in the Constitution,” said Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel.
According to Nel, the report was warmly received by many member states, who commended South Africa for its commitment to human rights and improving the lives of its citizens, and for the delivery of basic services such as housing, health and education.
In addition, South Africa was also praised for its leading role in the UN Human Rights Council, especially with regards the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.
Positive achievements were also noted in areas such as:
- Efforts to provide universal healthcare and steps taken to improve school enrolment rates.
- The provision of ARV treatment for HIV/AIDS and the fight against HIV/AIDS in general.
- Setting up a national agency on youth development.
- Promoting regional human rights programmes.
- Promulgating a law on national languages.
- Setting up the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities.
Nel said South Africa’s report generated a number of recommendations on how to tackle racism and xenophobia, gender-based violence, maternal and infant mortality, the ratification of international instruments, as well as the protection of state information.
Member countries made a number of recommendations, including that South Africa:
- Step up efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination and, in particular, xenophobia.
- Intensify the prevention, investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and publicly denounce such crimes.
- Ensure that the new Protection of State Information Bill fully complied with international human rights laws so as to ensure the freedom of the press, and engage civil society, activists, NGOs and media to seek common ground on the Bill.
- Ensure that efforts to eliminate HIV/Aids-related discrimination continued.
- Maintain and build on HIV/Aids prevention and treatment programmes.
- Take measures to guarantee access to clean drinking water for all.
Nel said the government would consider the recommendations carefully before deciding which were acceptable to South Africa.
“An indication in this regard will be submitted to the 21st Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva during September 2012.”
South Africa’s Chapter 9 institutions – statutory bodies set up in terms of the Constitution to promote democracy and a culture of human rights in the country – are expected to study the recommendations.