What does FHR do as part of the ‘Participatory Democracy’?
The legal and policy framework in South Africa requires the state to ensure meaningful public participation in decision-making processes and governance. The Preamble to the South African Constitution states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity” and further stipulates that “(…) through our freely elected representatives we adopt the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to (…) lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law.” This foundation of participatory democracy has been reinforced through a constitutional framework that facilitates and acknowledges public participation in legislative processes (at all levels of government), and establishes mechanisms for civil society to actively participate in the affairs of government.
Legal Empowerment and Constitutional Education
Ultimately, the purpose of the ‘Participatory Democracy Programme’ is to bolster the strength of participatory democracy in South Africa. By providing a basic knowledge of South Africa’s constitutional order, the Bill of Rights, and how people can claim their rights, the programme empowers people to participate in and contribute to the functioning of South Africa’s democracy, the growth of a rights-based culture in South Africa, and the development of their communities.
Sustainability of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)
Civil society, in particular the social justice and human rights organizations in South Africa, have been faced with significant challenges including populist rhetoric, attacks and threats against CSOs, shrinking international donor funding, poor infrastructure of local philanthropy, and large disparities between the large and well-established NGOs predominantly based in Johannesburg and small and under-resourced community-based organizations. Accordingly, the FHR has been involved in activities related to the sustainability of CSOs, by conducting research, supporting policy development and creating space for a greater participation of CSOs in policy development.
Provision of Funding to Individual CSOs
Through its Participatory Democracy programme the FHR funds and supports various CSOs in their efforts to raise awareness about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and to improve public participation in policy development and implementation.
One of our grantees under the Participatory Democracy Programme is the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII). SPII is an independent research think tank that focuses on generating new knowledge, information and analysis in the field of poverty and inequality studies. SPII’s objective is the realization of the transformative principals enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution through the advancement of the socio-economic rights contained in the Bill of Rights. Following the selection of SPII through a call for proposals, the FHR entered into a multi-year contract with SPII. In terms of the contract SPII has to monitor the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights in South Africa.
Over the three years of the contract SPII has conducted valuable research on various topics including access to housing, the right to a healthy environment, right to higher education, the right to employment, the right to water and sanitation, and the right to land. SPII has closely monitored the effectiveness of government’s efforts to promote, protect and fulfil its obligations , and has carried out an analysis of the effectiveness of the medium-term budget allocated to the realization of socio-economic rights.
I tell stories in order to wake up stories in other people because I truly believe that every living being has got a story to tell."
Gcina Mhlope, storyteller and anti-apartheid activists
"Our democracy is designed to speak truth to power"
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswomen