Statement by the Secretary General During Stakeholder Consultations for the GBV Model Law – Un Agencies and Donors, On 21st September 2021 Featured
Dr. Sarah Thomsen,Lead Policy Specialist for Health and SRHR, SIDA;
Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, Regional DirectorUNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office;
Ms Eva Jhala,Legal Drafter
Dear Colleagues and distinguished participants, It is with immense pleasure and gratitude that I welcome you to this Consultation in my capacity as Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum. This consultation today is being held with partners and friends of the Forum which include Sweden, UN agencies as well as development partners that have directly or indirectly contributed to human and social development in the SADC region through GBV related programmes and initiatives.
I. Why is the engagement with UN agencies and Donors important?
Since the establishment of the Forum more than 2 decades ago, regional and international partners of the Forum have been on the forefront of shared initiatives which have aimed to infuse best practices to the SADC region. This forms part of the Forum's commitment to implement SRHR and governance interventions, a culture of human rights through inter-parliamentary cooperation, and in so doing it was imperative to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (1977), as well as the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1977). Certainly, similar legal norms have evolved at the regional level through the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (1986) and its Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, to cite a few. Indeed, through the diverse initiatives of the Forum, the SADC-PF together with its Member Parliaments have over the years succeeded to progressively incorporate international norms and best practices found in the instruments mentioned into domestic law, and this with the close collaboration of its developmental partners.
Dear Colleagues, friends and Partners; In this respect, Model Laws have always constituted an avenue to propel international and regional norms into the legislative calendar of Member States. SADC Model Laws, as we know them, have found their way into domestic legal systems within SADC, as well as acted as useful benchmarks and guiding references for legal systems outside of SADC and across Africa. In addition, SADC Model Laws have influenced domestic laws and regional frameworks across continents. In this respect, the visibility of the Model Laws as well as the impetus for advocacy of same have been largely heightened by developmental partners of the Forum, including the UN agencies and donors. Through partners, the Model Laws have known a ripple effect across the SADC region and outside of SADC borders.
I seize this opportunity to express gratitude to ALL partners who have left no stone unturned to contribute to develop Model Laws, produce advocacy content for the engagement of MPs, or go further by inviting the Forum to disseminate the Model Laws during thematic international meetings.
II. The SADC Model Law on GBV
Turning to topic, we are yet again developing a SADC Model Law today - the SADC Model Law on GBV - and this consultative process would not have been complete without your input and engagement.
As you may be aware, this consultation forms part of a series of consultations with stakeholders on the GBV Model Law and this engagement today will further contribute to the alignment of the SADC Model Law on GBV with best international practices that have been witnessed by partners and donors within SADC and beyond. To be certain, the exercise of alignment has already been conducted since the early preparations of the SADC Model Law by benchmarking the provisions with international and regional legal instruments, and the meeting of today will mainly seek to reflect and brainstorm on how to carry the Model Law forward. In other words, as we finalise the SADC Model Law as a bespoke legal instrument that neutralises GBV in the region, there is a need to consider how UN agencies and partners can assist the Forum to make early gains on the Model Law once it is adopted.
III. Why is SADC-PF concerned and leading the process?
Before I proceed to the post Model Law agenda, I wish to give further context to partners about how the SADC Model Law intertwines with other regional policies, and this in order to demonstrate that investing into post Model Law initiatives will also help fructify other initiatives that aim to promote SRHR and gender equality.
The SADC Model Law on GBV is an initiative that sprang from the stem of the Forum's Strategic Plan (2019-2023) . Indeed, the Strategic Objectives of the Forum are geared towards promoting gender equality, implementing public health and Universal Health Coverage, as well as guiding the SADC region towards a culture of human rights within a democratic context. You will certainly concur with me that there can be no human and social development in an environment that is polluted by GBV. Universal health coverage as well as the promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights do not sit well with GBV to any degree, and the right to physical integrity of individuals is for its part completely abhorrent of GBV. From this angle, it was opined by the Forum's membership that the Model Law on GBV could be the sword that could effectively vanquish cross-cutting social ills, and leave the way open for SRHR, human rights and UHC to finally thrive.
Since Parliaments are the exclusive sovereign authorities that are empowered to legislate in SADC Member States, it thus stands to reason that all GBV policies need to be channelled through Parliament if such policies are to have any legal effect. The SADC Model Law on GBV was thus perceived as a legal remedy that would constitute the pinnacle of regional efforts towards eliminating GBV.
Eliminating GBV in the SADC region would thus assist the Forum to draw one step closer to the implementation of UHC and to build the foundations for the democratic drive to be accelerated and reinforced.
IV. How does the Model Law on GBV fit within other regional initiatives?
Since you as international and regional partners are also involved in other regional initiatives concerning GBV, it is felicitous for me to emphasize that the SADC Model Law on GBV is not a self-standing regional measure in the midst of other SADC initiatives. Indeed, the Model Law is in harmony with the broader SADC Regional Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing GBV (2018 -2030), which many of you have indeed contributed to finalise. Whereas the SADC Regional Strategy for GBV calls for human rights compliant legislative provisions which outlaw all forms of GBV, the SADC Model Law on GBV can is an extrapolation of the Regional Strategy which aims to facilitate the establishment of enabling GBV legislative frameworks in Member States. The Model Law reiterates the gender-related objectives under the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, the Beijing Declaration, as well as Aspiration 6 of Africa Agenda 2063 on women and youth empowerment. The Model Law on GBV is thus poised to act as a catalytic accelerator for the GBV commitments taken by Member States under the various international covenants I mentioned earlier.
V. Is soft law important?
On this note, I wish to add that the efficacy of SADC Model Laws to facilitate domestication is undisputed. As partners operating at the regional level, it is no secret that we all struggle on the issue of domestication of treaties and norms. Since most Member States are dualist in nature, international law has to be domesticated by an Act of Parliament for it to have any binding effect at the national level. In this respect, the SADC Model Law on GBV too will need to be domesticated. However, the Forum has already planned ahead for the domestication process in tandem with its Oversight organ, the Regional Parliamentary Model Laws Oversight Committee (RPMLOC) which is mandated to monitor the domestication of Model Laws developed by the Forum.
Therefore, the adoption of the Model Law by the Plenary Assembly of the Forum will augur a new dawn for domestication of GBV norms.
VI. Why is stakeholder consultation with UN agencies and donors important: the Post Model Law Agenda
Dear colleagues and distinguished participants, Having spoken on the germane importance of the Model Law, I now wish to say a few words on the Post Model Law Agenda, in which the Forum will require your input and reflections. As you are all aware, the Model Law is not an end in itself but the beginning of a promising journey. If we want progress to be made, we must invest now for gains to be made later. We therefore require your input on how best the Forum can enhance its partnership framework and benefit from donor resources to advance the Model Law further through programmes and initiatives that ensure domestication and enforcement. Whether it is by the development of advocacy materials, media articles or sensitisation campaigns, the Model Law on GBV needs to be vulgarised within the SADC region. The Forum is in favour of innovation and is currently considering all forms of advocacy materials, including animated videos and comics, to fulfil the post Model Law agenda and ensure that GBV best practices infiltrates into domestic legal systems.
VII. The effect of the Forum's transformation
At the same time, I am pleased to inform UN agencies and donors today that the Forum's transformation into a SADC Parliament has been approved in principle by the 41st SADC Summit of Heads of States and Government on the 18th August 2021. This means basically that the Forum will ascend to a SADC Parliament within an estimated period of 2 years when the SADC Protocol Establishing the SADC Parliament has been ratified and adopted by Member States. The SADC Parliament will then become an institutional organ of the SADC under Article 9(1) of the SADC Treaty. This welcome development augurs well for the Model Laws of the Forum as the SADC Parliament will have further thrust to push for domestication in collaboration with its Member Parliaments. Partners present today are thus invited to reflect on how best they can contribute and participate in the Post Model Law development agenda, such that the momentum of the Model Law is not lost and culminates into tangible results against the backdrop of the transformation of the Forum.
I wish to end by saying that the Forum has always been an fervid enabler of participatory democracy, and today your contributions as participants is also a means for the Forum to promote participatory democracy at the regional and international level. Today, the world is a global village with technology binding us together, and in this global village, participatory democracy entails that the views of stakeholders at the regional and international level are as important as views garnered at the national level. This meeting is thus important because you are important to us as well-wishers of the Forum, and the safe custodians of democracy at the regional and international level.
On this cheerful note, I wish to thank you again for your attendance today, and I wish you all a pleasant session.
Ms B.Sekgoma, Secretary General, SADC Parliamentary Forum 21st September 2021
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