SALGA calls for Unity in Action to Advance Human Rights towards a People-Centred and People-Driven Development
Posted: 21 March 2017
SALGA joined the nation in commemoration of Human Rights Day on Tuesday, 21 March. The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions.
SALGA further calls for South Africans to reflect on the progress we have made in advancing human rights as South Africa and consider what we still need to do in the future to promote human rights even further, in-line with the this year’s theme: “The Year of OR Tambo: Unity in Action in Advancing Human Rights”
Human Rights Day in South Africa is historically linked with 21 March 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. On that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws. This day marked an affirmation by ordinary people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights. It became an iconic date in our country’s history that today we commemorate as Human Rights Day as a reminder of our rights and the cost paid for our treasured human rights.
Twenty-one years ago, in 1996, the Constitution of a newly democratic South Africa, the highest law of the land, was promulgated by President Nelson Mandela. Human rights are given clear prominence in the Constitution. They feature in the preamble with its stated intention of establishing “a society based on democratic values, social justice, and fundamental human rights”. Among the rights stipulated are those of equality, freedom of expression and association, political and property rights, housing, health care, education, access to information, and access to courts.
Local government is the sphere of government that interfaces with communities the most. As such, the White Paper on Local Government (1998) puts forward a vision of a developmental and accountable local government that is able to address human rights of communities. The White Paper declares that municipalities must continuously engage with all stakeholders within their respective areas of jurisdiction in municipal planning processes. Planning for social and economic development initiatives must be driven through the IDP. According to the White Paper, local government is uniquely placed to promote people-centred and people-driven development.
The South African Human Rights Commission eloquently puts it: “Without rights, there cannot be freedom, without freedom there cannot be development, without development, there cannot be transformation.”
The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions.
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever the national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, sex or any other status. All human beings are regarded as equally entitled, without an unfair discrimination, to human rights. These rights are all universal, interdependent and indivisible.
All human rights, whether civil and political rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. This means that the improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others, likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others. These rights include rights to life; equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights; rights to work, social security and education; or collective rights such as the rights to development and self-determination.
There are few individuals in our history who have exemplified the values of human rights comparable to the manner and extent Mr. Oliver Reginald Tambo has. His contribution to the cause of freedom in the country will be felt for numerous generations to come. His legacy is enshrined in the Constitution and continues to permeate into the progressiveness of the Government’s policy content. His leadership qualities, ethics, and influence continue to move and encourage us.
On 21 March 2017 and beyond, SALGA calls for Unity in Action to Advance Human Rights.