Last week, a coalition of civil society organisations called South Africa’s Ratification Campaign of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and its Optional Protocol (the Campaign) submitted a second parallel report on the South African’s government’s progress in realising socio-economic rights to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee). The South African government ratified ICESCR in January 2015.
As part of its reporting obligations, the South African government submitted its initial period report in April 2017 to the Committee. The Campaign submitted a parallel report in September 2018, challenging some aspects of the government’s report and making recommendations with respect to food security, access to remedies, adequate housing, water and sanitation, health and social grants.
In October 2018, the Committee took into consideration the initial report of South Africa, the reports of the South African Human Rights Commission and civil society organisations on the implementation of the ICESCR, and made a series of Concluding Observations setting out how the South African government can improve its record in fulfilling socio-economic rights. The government is required in terms of its Covenant obligations to report back on its progress on the implementation of specified recommendations by October 2020, which it fulfilled, and is due to provide another full report to the Committee by 31 October 2023.
In its 2020 report the South African government reported on its progress in terms of the implementation of the recommendations specified by the Committee, namely the recommendations contained in paragraphs 48 (a) and (c), concerning the preparation of a composite index on the cost of living and access to social assistance for adults between 18 and 59 years of age; recommendation 57 (c), concerning the adoption of the Social Assistance Amendment Bill (2018) and; recommendation 73 (c), concerning access to education for undocumented migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking children.
The Campaign’s second parallel report to the government’s 2020 progress report addresses recommendations 48 (c), 57 (c) and other recommendations from the Concluding Observations. Amongst several recommendations, the Campaign recommends that the Department of Social Development provide an outline for timeframes and the process for the implementation of a policy on income support for unemployed people between 18- 59 years of age, and that government use the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant to transition to permanent social assistance.
The report also highlights the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on economic, social and cultural rights and argues that the pandemic establishes the need for urgent implementation of other recommendations in the Concluding Observations. The Campaign then provides recommendations on access to education, adequate housing and the rights of domestic workers.
The Campaign’s Steering Group is comprised of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), Black Sash, the Dullah Omar Institute (DOI), the People’s Health Movement South Africa (PHM-SA), and the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII), and also draws on expert inputs from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape, and Prof Lilian Chenwi and Prof Jackie Dugard at the University of the Witwatersrand.