Country Reports for Conventions on Rights of Child & Rights of People with Disabilities: Deputy Minister update

Women in The Presidency

29 May 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Women, Children, and People with Disabilities joined the Committee for a briefing on the status reports of their work pertaining to two of their international responsibilities, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Department discussed how far behind South Africa was on these reports, and attributed it to the former lack of a department to deal with these issues, the difficulty in obtaining necessary information from other departments, and the shortage of human and capital resources the Department was facing.

Members were concerned that despite these challenges, the Department was not doing enough to complete these overdue reports. Members emphasised that the Committee received very little communication and reports from the Department on these issues, and expressed a wish to be kept updated in the future. They were also disappointed that the Department did not present on current policies and programs.

Meeting report

Country Reports on Rights of Children: update by Deputy Minister
Ms Henrietta I Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of the Department of Women, Children, and People with Disabilities, noted that the Department carried the biggest burden on international obligations. She was going to focus on the challenges and progress on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography; the Optional Protocol on Children Involved in Armed Conflict; the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and finally the Committee of Experts on the African Charter and Rights of the Child. She said the presentation would begin with the CRC and its protocols and outline its implementation and give a status report. The Department would also highlight the challenges and weaknesses.

In 1995 South Africa ratified the CRC, and submitted its first country report on time two years later. However, South Africa failed to submit its second report in 2002, and its third country report due in 2007 was still outstanding. This was while the Office on the Rights of the Child was still based in the Office of the Presidency. When the Department was established in 2009, it began to try catching up on these Convention Reports. The fourth country report was due in June 2013.

The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Children Prostitution, and Child Pornography was ratified in 2003, and South Africa had failed to meet any of its report requirements in both 2005 and its subsequent reports. In 2009, the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict was ratified; its first 2011 report was still overdue. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified in 2007, with the first report due in May 2010, which had yet to be submitted.

The First National Plan of Action for Children was approved in 1996. The
Second National Plan of Action was currently being developed and was due for submission to Cabinet in 2012. These were a direct response to the CRC and its protocols
 which guided the development of key pieces of legislation as did
the African Union Charter for the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The country plan needed to be a response to the submitted country reports. As those reports were overdue, it had impacted the Plan of Action.

South Africa had asked to consolidate and submit its second, third, and fourth country reports on the Rights of the Child at the same time, as the Department was still forming, and had thus asked for this special leeway. The Department was now finalising the consolidated report by June 2013. An inter-departmental committee had been established for the purpose of completing the reports. The Department was confident that these reports would be completed and submitted on time to the UN, taking it through the proper parliamentary procedures.

For the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography, the Department had received reports from the Departments of Social Development, Justice and Constitutional Development, and other parties, but still had outstanding reports due from other groups. The Minister said that it was the responsibility of the Department to acquire this information, but it was still chasing up those departments (Home Affairs, Transport, Communications, and Basic Education


) with outstanding reports and conducting one-on-one meetings with them. The Department’s goal was to have the first draft of the Optional Protocol Report available by October.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu said the Optional Protocol on Children Involved in Armed Conflict was waiting a submission from the Department of Defence. She noted the Department had not had enough human capital to work on these three country reports at the same time, but were working on getting the information from the other departments.

The African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) submission would be the consolidated second, third, and fourth CRC reports for the first Country Report on the ACRWC. One of the biggest challenges the Department was facing was the lack of quality of information from government departments, making her Department run around and invest a lot of time in getting the information it needed. She hoped to see this change with the establishment of the Department on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation.

The draft of the CRC was expected to be submitted to Cabinet for approval by October 2012, and reach Parliament for public hearings towards the end of January 2013, with the final draft submitted to Cabinet by March 2013, finally reaching the UN before the end of June 2013, which would finish all outstanding reports.

At this point, the Members asked to stop and comment on the first part of the presentation.

Discussion
The Chair thanked the Ministry for the presentation, and wanted to say up front that although the Department was able to explain why the reports were not submitted on time, she thought the Members were undermined as they were often left guessing about information, and she wanted to emphasise that it made the Committee ineffective in engaging with them.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) noted that the Committee had received other reports that information the Department needed from other departments was continually lacking, and this meant none of relevant departments was taking the DWCPD seriously. It was taking a long time to submit these reports, which he thought was very important not to do. He requested that if the Department were to do this all in a timely manner, the Committee should receive practical reports as to what was going on in the country, and be constantly  updated on the status in the country. He thought that this information would help keep people informed.

Ms I Disthetelo (UCDP) thanked the Deputy Minister for the report. She said the CRC was very important to everyone in South Africa, as children were the future, but she was surprised that the Deputy Minister mentioned the Department was waiting on other departments to give them quality reports. She felt this was unacceptable. She asked if the reports could pass through the Portfolio Committee before going to Cabinet, otherwise the Committee did not get any say in the report. She agreed with Mr Kekana that delays needed to be explained.

Another Member added that the Department said it would be strengthened by adequate funding, but departments never thought they were funded properly, and said the Department needed to be careful when dealing with this excuse. In South Africa, police statistics showed 54 000 crimes against children were reported
in 2010/2011 and these crimes happened every day. Regardless of completed reports, Departments were not overseeing properly “who was working with children”. Finally, she asked about gaps and challenges between 2002 and 2007 and how the Department was working to implement their solutions.

Ms S Paulse (ID) asked the Deputy Minister why their obligations had not been met and could it be explained what the portfolios for children and people with disabilities were doing, as there was nothing to show from 2003 to 2006 and 2006 to 2009.

Another Member said the Department did not seem to be doing a quality job in the work they were supposed to be doing. She said it was unacceptable that there was not a single report from South Africa on these Conventions, and she believed that there were just too many outstanding reports. Given the progress the Department had made so far, she believed that there would be no progress made any time soon. The
Second National Plan of Action was currently being developed for 2012 but there was no plan of action for children who were being killed. She wanted to know why country reports could not come to the Committee before going to Cabinet. She emphasised that she would like to see more involvement from the Committee in the Country Rep[orts. The Department was taking a timid approach with other departments, and she believed that they needed to take a bolder approach in monitoring the other departments.

It was noted that the delegation had not been introduced and members were confused as to who was presenting what. A member raised the point that the Committee was “disempowered”, especially as these issues were “too fleshy” without having reports submitted ahead of time. One did not understand the background of the presentation without one.

The Chair apologised for not introducing everyone before the meeting. Members’ questions and comments had covered her concerns too. She was not sure the Committee would get what it wanted out of the meeting, saying their responsibility was to engage with civil society and hopefully something would come out of the discussion. Lacking the content of the Country Reports made deliberations difficult, especially as both parties were concerned about time constraints. The issue of inadequate finances was true, but she asked if the Department was under the impression its budget was going to increase – and what they were going to achieve with adequate human capital and finances.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu apologised for the miscommunication about the agenda of the meeting, as the Department thought the presentation was an update on the country report process, rather than the content of the country report. Secondly, she was the Deputy Minister and she was leading the delegation today and presenting. She then went back and linked their presentations with previous ones made to the Committee. She reminded the Committee that the Department’s first two years were dedicated to establishing the Department, as it was previously located in the Presidency. The Department was working on the country reports, and it was committed to bringing them up to date.

Despite the fact that reports were outstanding, the UN required them to sit at meetings, and therefore travelling was required. The Department had to physically appear in front of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to present the consolidated report. In one year, the Department had been able to pull together two five-year reports. Last year a report called South Africa’s Children, was submitted to the UN Committee which formed the baseline for all the other reports to be done by the Department. The Department submitted the report on the situational analysis on the Rights of South Africa’s Children, which was a secondary source on the African Rights of the Child, submitted in November 2009.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu said that there was a Plan Of Action For Children in place. The country needed to review the plan every 10 years, but South Africa’s plan was not reviewed in 2007 as it should have been. However, progress had been made by nationalising international obligations in terms of the Children’s Justice Act and the Sexual Offences Act, which were responses to International Agreements. In terms of government process, the Department could not submit a report to Parliament that Cabinet had not seen. A more detailed process of report submission was given in order to help them understand better what lay ahead for the Department. Two key aspects were that Parliament was able to change country reports. That was part of their responsibilities and the Committee would then be free to finalise the report, then becoming the Country Report upon its resubmission to Parliament. From the Department side, Parliament could process it as they wanted. Therefore it was difficult to bring any content forward as it was an intergovernmental issue.

As to whether the Department would ever have enough resources, the Deputy Minister agreed the Department would never have enough money. She spoke of the obligations the Department had in addition to chasing after the other departments – such as tracking what was happening in the country as well as researching and drafting legislation. She did not want to sound defensive, but the team had prepared two reports. In terms of overseeing properly “who was working with children”, the National Register for Sex Offenders resided within the Departments of Social Development and Justice who were supposed to ensure the register was consolidated. It was a concern of the Department that it had not happened, but there was a deadline as to when the resister was supposed to be functional. She said they were doing a trial run of electronic tracking, and hoped that with their own service being functional, it would be up and running.

The Department was in agreement about the realities of the violations against South Africa’s children, and there were two matters that the Department needed to balance. First, that the promotion and protection of children’s constitutional rights, and with the violations that were being reported, the identities of the children needed to be protected. She said that with only five people doing this work nationally – this caused a gap in the process. The Department was working with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation on reporting mechanisms. They were looking at quarterly reports and accessing, analysing, and consolidating them so when the time came, it was able to minimise the department chasing up other departments. Other departments did not manage the information in the way the Department needed it. It was the first time the Department was putting this together, and they were developing new systems based on their current ones.

Mr Kekana followed up by saying the Members were not convinced the Department did the best it could given its current constraints. When the Committee talked about content, the Committee did not want ‘ideas’, but rather charts or graphs on statistics, which would show a better picture of the current status.

A Member noted that the Deputy Minister spoke about the reports on equity and child rights that had been submitted. She wondered if the Deputy Minister was referring to the ones done by UNICEF and the South African Human Rights Commission.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu said there had been a miscommunication about what the Committee expected for the meeting. If the Committee wanted a status report, the Department would be more than happy to do so, as the Department had that information available. With regards to who compiled the report that was mentioned, it was the Department report, in partnership with the Human Rights Commission and UNICEF. The Department only had R4 million to do all that it was expected to do and such partnerships were designed to respond to the needs. She said their reports need to be aligned with other country reports that South Africa had submitted to the UN.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): update by Deputy Minister
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had actually been sponsored by South Africa and Mexico. South Africa played an important part in the drafting of that document, as the county had experience
post 1994 of mainstreaming disability considerations in the SA Constitution of 1996, the development of the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy (INDS) and the development of sector legislation, as basis. South Africa was one of the first countries to sign it. The focus in 2007 to 2009 was on raising awareness of the articles contained in the UNCRPD across all three spheres of government as well as in civil society, and in particular the disability sector, but also in structures such as NEDLAC. The establishment of the DWCPD in 2009 delayed key processes such as the legislative audit, update of the INDS through finalisation of the National Disability Policy, as well as roll-out of a coordinated disability awareness and accessibility campaigns and programmes due to capacity and budgetary constraints as Department was established.

2012/13 would see the development and articulation of a National Disability Agenda within context of the five national government priorities.

The first draft of the CRDP was completed in September 2011, but it lacked detail in the provincial and local spheres, so the Department needed to complete a second phase consultations. There was a limited amount of data on people with disabilities, so UN-DESA
facilitated a three day workshop for national departments on reporting requirements in November 2011. To date, there had been 20 submissions from various departments, provinces, but no districts had to date submitted their reports


The second draft would be introduced
to the Cabinet system by the end of July 2012. The Cabinet-approved draft should reach Parliament for public hearings towards the end of August 2012. Their hope was the final draft would be submitted to Cabinet by end of October 2012, and deposit it at the UN before 3 December 2012.

The Department hoped that Parliament would hold public hearings on the reports
to verify the contents of the reports in order to minimise shadow-reporting and synchronise the General Assembly and ECOSOC processes. The Department would request that the reports be debated to facilitate multi-party participation and consensus. It hoped a Parliamentary Delegation would accompany country delegation when the reports were being processed by the UN system to enable Members to contribute to the political declaration and commitments.

Challenges and Weakness
Identified Department challenges included:
Lack of responsiveness by national departments, provincial governments and district municipalities in submitting reports within agreed deadlines;
Poor quality of content in reports – very little detail and data:
Slow pace of focused and treaty-linked mainstreaming of disability and children considerations in government-wide planning and reporting systems
Lack of disaggregated data systems within departments
Lack of knowledge management systems (institutional memory) in departments
High turnover of focal points, planning and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) personnel in departments
Uncoordinated responses to regular as well as periodic reporting on treaties to UN and AU system
Lack of clarity with regards the role of DIRCO
Lack of integrated and centralised information/knowledge management system
Capacity constraints to coordinate consultation, conducting research and drafting reports within the DWCPD
 

Conclusion
In its concluding remarks, the DWCPD said it remained committed to strengthening its reporting capacity to the UN and AU.  Focus was on, among others:
Filling critical vacancies within the resource constraints facing the Department;
Finalising the M&E framework and tools for the mainstreaming of disability, children and gender considerations into the government-wide planning and monitoring and evaluation system, linked to our reporting obligations in the international treaties we have ratified as a country;
This would enable DWCPD to monitor progress with implementation on an annual, rather than 3-5 year period
Meeting deadlines by institutionalising reporting to the UN and AU.


Discussion
The Chair thanked the Department and asked members to respond to the presentation.

Mr Kekana asked that given their expansion of employees from 40 to 100, what the difference in output was. He said if the Department was able to see if things were improving or not, and the reasons for it. He asked if the Department went to local government, he was sure if the municipality had not met the quota, the local governments would not tell DWCPD. He asked them to look at an alternative such as outside institutions, because the provinces were far behind. Finally he asked the Department to look at how city governments had dealt with women and people with disability, and put that in their performance reports.

Another Member commented “there was light at the end of the tunnel” with disability, but the Committee was worried about the local government gaps that Mr Kekana alluded to. In terms of compelling the other departments to comply, the report was not complete without this information, and the Member was worried if the Department could do anything about this. Other departments should not be allowed to do this. She asked if there were plans to push the reports through with these gaps.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu outlined the roadmap, but first acknowledged Mr Kekana’s concerns. She said that the whole country needed to understand what the Department’s role was. On the matter of municipal managers, the Department was already looking at them and Directors General to try and see if they could add the issues on their targeted groups. She said the Department was making lots of progress, but disability rights were difficult as in the past those people were marginalised, and seeing them as equals required a change in mindset. The Department was looking at alternative research, but it was not widely available worldwide. The Department had workshopped the Premiers and their executives on disability, so people were beginning to understand disability issues and integrate disability rights. The Department ran one-on-ones to provide an understanding of disability language with government departments, the Department did not necessarily fund these, but rather it had been done by non government organisations (NGOs).

She said the CRPD described how the county report must be compiled, and it was a prescriptive process. All officials in the Disability Unit were working on chasing up the proper information, and she hoped the report would go through all the processes. She added that at the end of June, the Department would request the Committee to call on the outstanding departments to come to Parliament and present a report, hoping those departments would respond better to Parliament.

Mr Kekana said he was surprised at the lack of international research done on people with disabilities.

A Member noted she was not sure if it was possible to have outstanding departments to submit to the Committee before the June recess. She asked if the Committee could get those communications out now, so they would be better able to assist the Department.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu said she would provide a list of those who had not submitted by the next day. Under the area of disabilities, the research was medically oriented and limited in terms of rights and developmental and social issues. The challenge of the research was that it was done by disabled people sharing their own experiences. There was not a lot available in terms of where disabled people were moving to now, and the research was more quantitative, which made policy impact difficult to determine.

She asked the Chair to close the meeting by presenting a Facebook campaign the Department had put together on dementia. The realm of disability was quite broad, and mental disabilities covered dementia, which could be a threat to everyone as they grow older.

Ms Rose September, DWCPD Chief Director: Monitoring and Evaluation, said that since the M&E department was established, the 2002 and 2007 UNCRC reports had been submitted to Cabinet. The Department had sent drafts of those reports to the Committee for their information.

Mr Mzolisi Toni, Acting DWCPD Director General, thanked the Committee for being so clear in terms of what the Committee would like the Department to do, and for offering to help in addressing the list of outstanding departments.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu noted the Department was hosting an International Children’s Day event at Philadelphia Secondary School. There would be the Day of the African Child, which focuses on the rights of children with disabilities. She hoped the Committee would be able to join them.

Ms Lidia Pretorius, DWCPD Chief Director:
Advocacy & Mainstreaming, said that the Department sent emails out weekly on disabled people relations, which go to the private and public sector, both domestically and abroad.

A Member asked if a bi-polar disorder was classified under disabilities as well.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu said to an extent, as it affected their mental abilities, which was a cluster of disabilities.

Mr Kekana brought up of the issue of emotional disability.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu responded by saying that this fell under psycho-social.

The Department presented its campaign which could be found on www.remembermenot.com

The Chair thanked the Department. She thought the provinces need to be strengthened, as she was not sure as to what extent those areas received information, and without information, oversight would not be possible. The finalising of the M&E work was important and vital. The Committee would look at their schedule, as she hoped the Committee would be able to honour the invitation of the Department. She hoped the errant departments would comply in the future.

The meeting was adjourned.

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