On 27 November 2019, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hosted a seminar entitled, ‘The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: A Background, South Africa’s Country Report and a Response by the South African Human Rights Commission’. The purpose of the seminar was to advance awareness and understanding of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and to reflect on the Concluding Observations issued by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in response to South Africa’s initial report. The seminar also sought to unpack the role of the State in realising economic, social and cultural rights and the potential impact on the alleviation of poverty, inequality, and unemployment in South Africa. The seminar, held in Johannesburg, was attended by approximately 30 members of civil society and government officials.
The seminar began with a presentation by Professor Sandra Liebenberg, Vice-Chair of CESCR on the mandates and functions of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This was followed by a panel presentation on the role of the Commission and civil society in monitoring the implementation of ICESCR, including Ms. Yuri Ramkissoon and Dr. Shanelle van der Berg (SAHRC); Ms. Gladys Mirungi-Mukundi (Dullah Omar Institute) and Ms. Nokukhanya Farise (International Commission of Jurists – ICJ).
Notably, Deputy Minister John Jeffery from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development joined the seminar via video conference. He spoke about the role of the State in implementing ICESCR and highlighted the progress achieved thus far including the Department hosting its first national colloquium on Access to Justice for Persons with Albinism, and its efforts in expediting the National Health Insurance Bill. The Deputy Minister also announced that the Department has plans to host a workshop on the implementation of the Concluding Observations where civil society organisations, government, and all relevant stakeholders will have an opportunity to meaningfully engage.
In like manner SERI, with the ICJ, hosted a workshop on the CESCR’s Concluding Observations in October 2019. The workshop focused on the Concluding Observations on the right to work and aimed to provide an orientation on the right to decent work as well as to facilitate a discussion on how the CESCR’s recommendations can be implemented and be used to further the advocacy strategies of the various precarious worker groups like informal traders, domestic workers, and waste reclaimers.