“I’m tired of making a point, I want to make a difference”
- Stavros Lambrinidis
On the 09th of December the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) hosted the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr Stavros Lambrinidis and other EU delegates including the Ambassador H E Marcus Cornaro. Mr Lambrinidis’ visit was part of his special mission to South Africa for the purpose of engaging in bilateral discussions on opportunities for collaboration between South African and the EU on human rights priorities. The EU-organised meeting at FHR aimed to prepare the EU delegation for their upcoming bilateral dialogues by consulting with key members of South African civil society on pertinent human rights issues.
The consultation brought together a vibrant group of participants from various sectors of civil society, including the Wits Justice Project, CIVICUS, CoRMSA, Africa Disability Alliance, SPII, Action Aid SA, Save the Children SA, Mining Dialogues 360 Degrees, Lawyers for Human Rights, Just Detention International, Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, Sonke Gender Justice, Iranti-org, GALA, SERI, HIVOS and the African Diaspora Forum.
Mr. Lambrinidis opened the session by identifying the attack on the universality of human rights as the umbrella challenge to development, he explains, “…to say that human rights should not apply equally everywhere is an entirely fake and false dilemma, it undermines the very architecture of human rights”.
Topping the agenda was a discussion on cooperation at a multilateral level with xenophobia and racism at the forefront of concern. Experts on migration rights spoke to the recent violent attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa, the need to recognize the positive developmental impacts of migrants on society and on the misguided conflation of migration and security. Business and human rights was highlighted as a key priority area globally and for South Africa. Research shared by the Executive Director of Mining Dialogues 360 Degrees, Tracey Cooper, demonstrates the destructive impact that extractive industries have when withdrawing from communities without providing a sustainable safety net. Ms. Cooper explained, that for every worker in the extractive industries who is retrenched the livelihoods of 27 of their dependents is put at risk. Other priority human rights areas debated included socio-economic rights, gender and LGBTI issues.
Mr. Lambrinidis concluded the consultation by committing to bring the outcomes of these discussions back to civil society in a follow-up session.