South Africa and the European Union (EU) today, formally launched a Structured Dialogue Forum on Human Rights. The launch was presided over by the Director- General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Ambassador Jerry Matjila and the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis.
DG Matjila said that: “Given South Africa’s history and fight for human rights, achieving fundamental freedom and dignity is important for all South Africans to attain. It is also an aspiration we wish every human being to enjoy. Forging a partnership with the European Union should advance significantly the realisation of this common objective.”
EUSR Lambrinidis said: “The protection and promotion of human and fundamental rights is a core objective of the European Union’s foreign policy. We consider South Africa, with its history of struggle for liberation, a key partner in achieving this goal in Africa, Europe and the world.”
During the opening session, the EU and South Africa discussed the rationale and principles underpinning the SA-EU Structured Dialogue Forum on Human Rights and jointly endorsed the Modalities Document establishing such Dialogue.
In terms of multilateral issues, both sides discussed the topic of racism in the context of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, MDGs and the post-2015 development Agenda, LGBTI and Business and Human Rights. Other issues under consideration at the meeting were the ICC, the death penalty and trilateral cooperation. The issue of Country Specific Resolutions at the UN level was also covered. At the domestic level, the discussions focused on policing and human rights, violence against women and migration.
The Forum will take place annually, alternating between Pretoria and Brussels and in between sessions to discuss issues of common interest and mutual concern. Civil society will contribute actively to this dialogue. Official Joint Site visits to institutions and facilities such as prisons and refugee centres will allow for an exchange of experience and lessons learned.
The next session will be held in Brussels in the first half of 2014.