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SAHRC participates at the Global Child Forum

South Africa hosted the Global Child Forum on 08 September 2015 in Pretoria. This marked the first time the Global Child Forum was held on the African continent. The Forum’s theme was Children and Business Rights in Southern Africa.

The Global Child Forum, which was initiated by the H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf and H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden, is an independent, multi-stakeholder initiative for informed dialogue and thought leadership on how to promote and protect children’s rights as envisaged in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The event was attended by dignitaries such as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Dr Graça Machel, HRH Princess Sofia of Sweden, Mr Bobby Godsell, Chairman of Business Leadership South Africa and Prof Benyam Mezmur, Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and Vice-Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The South African Human Rights Commission (Commission), which co-hosted a discussion with UNICEF (South Africa) titled Digging for a Sustainable Future – Children in Mining, was represented by Commissioners Lindiwe Mokate and Janet Love, together with Ms Lindiwe Khumalo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission.

Dlamini-Zuma delivered the keynote address, titled, Our Responsibility to Support and Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. In her address, Dlamini-Zuma highlighted progress made in enhancing the life of a child on the African continent. She lauded global efforts towards the achievement of Goal 2 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on universal primary education enrolment. “Africa is experiencing the biggest falls in child mortality than any other continent, owing to collaborative work done by the United Nations and other role-players” she said. However, the Chairperson cautioned that other MDGs such as health and access to water and sanitation remain a challenge. All these, including child marriages require a consultative process that would include traditional leaders to confront some of the challenges facing children.

Following the opening session the Forum meeting broke into five parallel sessions. The session hosted by the Commission and UNICEF sought to address challenges and opportunities confronting children relating to mining activities. This session explored opportunities  in the mining sector in South Africa, such as providing employment and growing the economy against  the negative impact of mining on children, such as abuse, exploitation of children and child labour.

Commissioner Mokate, in her address, said there was an opportunity for the mining sector to champion the development and realisation of socio-economic rights in South Africa. Commissioner Mokate stressed the important role of the Commission as a national human rights institution in engaging different role players, to identify challenges faced by children. She shared with the session some of the on-going investigations conducted by the Commission where violations against children are reported.
Commissioner Mokate highlighted a case that the Commission is currently investigating in the Limpopo Province, where it is alleged that a mining company was granted a mining licence without giving consideration to the impact the establishment of the mine would have on the school-going children in the area.

Commissioner Mokate concluded her address by stating that a child-centred approach was necessary in how social and environmental impact assessments are conducted. Public participation, including children, and transparency should be key considerations in social and environmental impact assessments.

Other panellists for this session included: Mr Hervé Ludovic de Lys, UNICEF Country Representative; Mr Paul Kapelus, Director at Synergy Global Consulting; Mr Jackson Sikamo, President of Zambia Chamber of Mines; Mr Wellington Takavarasha, Chief Executive Office or Zimbabwe Miners Federation; and Ms Princess Thwala, Group Executive at African Rainbow Minerals Limited.

Commissioner Love, who subsequently addressed a plenary session on Perspective of the Future, and Lindiwe Khumalo, were amongst those who raised pertinent questions at this session on children and mining.

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