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South Africa reflects on three decades of human rights progress

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By Lee-Yandra Paulsen

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is currently hosting the National Conference on Human Rights in South Africa, commemorating “Three Decades of Respect for and Promotion of Human Rights” until March 20th, 2024, leading up to Human Rights Day.

In an interview with Ramadan AM on Tuesday, Deputy Director-General of Constitutional Development, Advocate Shireen Said, underscored the significance of this conference in light of South Africa’s 30-year constitutional journey.

“This year marks 30 years of our constitution. So, we are celebrating 30 years of our constitutional democracy. What is significant is that 30 years ago, we did not have these legislative frameworks, governed by a constitution. We did not have the institutions that the Constitution had set up to protect our democracy. We have been forging a lot of policies over the last 30 years,” Said remarked.

Said also emphasized the importance of Human Rights Day on March 21st, formerly known as Sharpeville Day, as a pivotal moment for the nation. She acknowledged that while progress has been made, there’s still much work ahead.

According to Said the National Conference on Human Rights in South Africa aims to address the challenges in implementing the constitutional framework and to evaluate the effectiveness of government structures. Furthermore, it aims to chart the course for the next 30 years, broken down into five-year periods.

“Yesterday, the conference commenced, and we had very robust and passionate discussions, which looked at the judiciary, its effectiveness, to review it as a tool of accountability. Today and tomorrow, we will be having discussions that will look at socio-economic, health, education and all the things that ensure the wellbeing of South Africans,” Said elaborated.

Said highlighted the importance of citizen involvement in the constitutional process, emphasizing that it’s a collective responsibility to ensure the principles enshrined in the constitution are upheld by the government. This reflective process sets the stage for the next five years of South Africa’s human rights journey.

“As activists contributing to both the constitution and our country’s freedom, we’ve witnessed the evolution of human rights,” Said reflects. “Human rights have become increasingly specialized.” Said anticipates new rights emerging or gaining prominence in the next 20-30 years, either for enhanced protection or assertion of existing human rights.

VOC News

Photo: Pixabay

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