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SAHRC commemorates International Human Rights Day


10 December 2013

The SA Human Rights Commission calls on everyone to commemorate the International Human Rights Day to advance the human rights legacy of former President Nelson Mandela, and promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people everywhere.

As South Africa and the world, we celebrate this day while we mourn the passing of a Human Rights Defender, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Tata Madiba.

We are therefore reminded on this occasion of the words by Madiba when he said “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”.

On this occasion of marking International Human Rights Day, the world commemorates the 20th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of action which will be celebrated under the United Nations theme “20 Years Working for Your Rights”.
The Vienna Declaration, adopted following the World Conference on Human Rights, paved the way for a new international outlook on human rights and resulted in the creation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This year also marks the 20 years since the adoption of the Principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (Paris Principles), and the establishment of international umbrella body for national human rights institutions, the International Coordinating Committee for national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (ICC). The SAHRC is the current Chair of this body – the first time an African country has chaired this international human rights body.

The SAHRC sees the International Human Rights Day as an opportunity for critical reflection on the work that we undertake as required by our Constitution and the various legislative provisions.

It is a day when the world collectively reflects on the meaning of human rights, the accomplishments made and the challenges that need to be addressed. For human rights to have true meaning, requires that every person knows what a human right is and the duties and responsibilities that come with claiming those rights. South Africa today needs a recommitment to the ideals that many, such as President Mandela, fought and lost their lives for.

Notwithstanding the progress made in South Africa, we must put mechanisms in place to combat the challenges to the promotion and protection of human rights in the 21ST century. These challenges include: firstly, poverty which has a direct bearing on how people can access their socio-economic rights and, particularly for communities living in rural areas; secondly, the deterioration of the ecological environment which is a contributing factor to how people can exercise their right to food and which in turn is critical to a person’s dignity and health; and lastly, human trafficking remains a major challenge in the 21st century, where often individuals are not able to exercise their right to security because States are not able to enforce protective laws that are aimed at addressing abuse especially against women and children.

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration, it is worth noting that South Africa is on the eve of celebrating 20 years of freedom. As a country we are better than we were in 1994, with some achievements in the area of housing, health care, education and economic growth. However there are still many challenges that we face as South Africa. For the Commission, the work related to mining activities and the impact on socio-economic rights; questions on poor service delivery and its impact on water and sanitation and related rights such as right to health, to the right to food, right to education, speak to the need to increase our attention on addressing the impact that business has on the realisation of human rights.
As we celebrate 20 years of working for human rights, let us ensure that every person living in South Africa, is treated with equality and with dignity. This is what makes us all human.


Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission
Isaac Mangena
Spokesperson, SA Human Rights Commission

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SAHRC Programmes

Since its establishment, the SAHRC has dedicated itself to:
•  Raising awareness;
•  Monitoring and assessment;
•  Education and training
•  Addressing human rights violations

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08 March – International Women’s Day
21 March - Human Rights Day
27 April – Freedom day
1 May - Workers day
03 May – World Press Freedom Day

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