Distinguished Colleagues and distinguished participants,
It is with humility that I appear before you revered experts in fields of Democracy and Human rights, today, to deliver these welcoming remarks in my capacity as Secretary General of the SADC-PF.
We assemble today under the aegis of the Technical Working Group of the Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Standing Committee of the SADC Parliamentary Forum to perform a heart surgery as a way to validate crucial knowledge tools that can be a game changer for future parliamentary initiatives in the SADC region.
These knowledge tools, notably Principles and Guidelines for Parliaments to curb Corruption and to promote human rights, have been successfully pre-tested with multi-stakeholders during the last 2 days, and today you will benefit from the enhanced and distilled version of these knowledge tools which will be submitted for validation by the Technical Working Group.
Undoubtedly, the knowledge tools are expected to bring further momentum to the Forum's initiatives to promote democratic accountability and assist the Forum in becoming a regional powerhouse to foster leadership in normative standards.
The next steps after this meeting will thus be a recommendation of the DGHR Committee when it considers the matter as an agenda item, refer to the Joint Session of Standing Committees and thereafter the approval of the Plenary Assembly of the Forum, in July, Arusha, Tanzania which is the main policy-making body of the SADC-PF. In other words, pursuant to this validation meeting and usual adoption processes, the Principles and Guidelines will be embedded into the Forum's body of regional parliamentary policy and will buttress the Forum's existing Bill of Rights, that is its Model Laws and other developed Minimum Standards.
II. Why have these knowledge tools been developed?
I would like to say a few words about the rationale behind the development of these knowledge tools.
As you may be aware, the mandate of the DGHR Standing Committee itself gives a strong foothold for the existence of such tools, since both the anti-corruption framework and the promotion of human rights fall within the ambit of the portfolio of the Committee.
In addition, allow me to congratulate you Mr Sheuneni for your sterling work in coordinating and implementing such interventions, in this regard.
I would like to mention that by adopting these Principles and Guidelines, the DGHR Committee is in fact exhausting its work plan in accordance with the 5 year Strategic Plan of the Forum which is to end by the 31st December 2023. Indeed, according to the Strategic Plan (2019-2023), the Forum through its Standing Committee is to promote human rights and contribute to the consolidation of the democratic drive by mitigating corruption and heightening transparency and accountability.
We are thus well within the domain of Committee work in accordance with the Committee's statutory mandate under the Forum's Constitution and Rules of Procedure.
Through the DGHR Committee and its Technical Working Group, we are pushing closer to our long-term goals and targets.
Undoubtedly, this validation meeting which will take place today and tomorrow will propel the Forum several steps nearer to the attainment of its Strategic Objectives.
It is also apposite to mention that the Principles and Guidelines will also concretely support provisions in the developed Model Laws, especially the Preambles which deal with the human rights approach to statutory interpretation.
You will note that one fundamental principle in the human rights knowledge tool is that of "Universality" which means that human rights are universal and apply to all individuals without discrimination.
While all Model Laws developed by the Forum so far depend of course on the notion of "Universality", it is indeed now, through these Principles and Guidelines, that such detail can be considered and embodied into the Forum's body of parliamentary policy.
Looking forward, the Principles and Guidelines will thus become supportive and complementary to the interpretation of statutory provisions contained in Model Laws and other guiding legislative benchmarks developed under the umbrella of the Forum.
These Principles and Guidelines should thus not be viewed as separate documents, but rather as overarching documents which are linked, and give credence to, already existing normative legal standards.
III. Lessons learned during the pre-testing phase
Distinguished experts and participants,
I will now turn briefly to the lessons learned during the pre-testing phase which have informed the validation meeting of today.
I wish to point out that lessons learned from the pre-testing phase included the need to rationalize with domestic human rights provisions, to appreciate the clear demarcations between Parliament and the Executive within the realm of separation of powers, and to further appreciate that socio-economic human rights are as important as civil and political rights, even if they are not usually part of some national Constitutions or Bill of Rights.
In addition, there were recommendations made about streamlining the Principles and Guidelines with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 3 on health and well-being, and SDG 5 on gender equality, as these are national commitments taken by most SADC Member States, and are intertwined with both the anti-corruption framework and the advancement of human rights.
It will also be critical to infuse the instructive Protocols from the region, Africa Agenda 2063, African Charter among other instruments as part of bringing the Guidelines closer to home.
These comments, along with many others, have been duly taken into account and more will be told about adjustments made by the presenters today as we progressively go through the knowledge tools.
Moreover, I would like to highlight that the Principles and Guidelines are also not cast in stone since they do not allude to any specific anti- corruption or human rights provision. In fact, they are to a large extent aids to the interpretation and application of substantive provisions that may exist, or will be in existence, at national level.
Indeed, the Principles and Guidelines provide for a robust foundation, on which Parliaments may act upon to implement specific human rights or make customised improvements to the national anti-Corruption framework.
They constitute the means to achieve an end, more than being the end itself.
The Principles and Guidelines provide the context and doctrinal knowledge necessary for linear progress to be made in enhancing the anti-corruption framework and implementing a culture of human rights.
Accordingly, the Principles and Guidelines are not answers in themselves, however they pave the route for national Parliaments to promptly find the answers that they are looking for in their quest to resolve corruption and human rights predicaments.
IV. Way forward and conclusion
Before I conclude, I would like to highlight that the knowledge tools are also accommodative of the fact that different countries are at different developmental levels, and therefore the tools are to be adapted at national level before being internalized.
We recommend that going forward from the validation, the domestication and internalization process takes place through a Multi- stakeholder platform such as national working groups in view of identifying the bottlenecks and pitfalls that must be surmounted. To ensure a comprehensive acceptance of the knowledge tools, it is recommended that the Multi-stakeholder platforms be as inclusive as possible, with Civil Society Organisations, regional NGOs, traditional and faith leaders and other statutory bodies such as the Human Rights Commission contributing actively to assess the avenues for domestication.
We are confident that the validation phase of today will further assist to refine the knowledge tools until they are adopted. We thus kindly expect an open and frank interaction to ensure that the validated version of the knowledge tools adequately reflects both the lessons learned at pre-testing stage as well as the views of the TWG.
I wish to kindly thank the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the DGHR Committee for demonstrating that relentless support can indeed bring the Forum to the heights of parliamentary excellence.
I also wish to thank members of the TWG and your (organisations) who have shown unflinching commitment and dedication through their assiduous efforts to consistently supervise and monitor the development process of these tools.
Finally, I wish to thank the drafters and the evaluation consultants for sharing their knowledge and wisdom along this journey.
With these grateful words, I wish you all a pleasant session.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Ms B. Sekgoma, Secretary General, SADC-PF
8th February 2023