SA Human Rights Commission Chapter on the Environment; International Conservation Union Report: adoption


07 June 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

7 June 2005

Ms E Thabethe (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SAHRC's 5th Economic and Social Rights Report (2002-03) released June 2004: Environment chapter
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources website

The Committee discussed the chapter on the environment in the SA Human Rights Commission Report 2002/03. Members also considered and adopted the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) report. Members were pleased with the Human Rights Commission report. However, they raised concerns about the problematic reporting of various departments and parastatals, insufficient information from relevant committees, lack of capacity, and the inadequate co-ordination between departments. The IUCN report was unanimously adopted after they suggested minor technical amendments. The Committee then briefly discussed the various forthcoming activities of the Committee.


SAHRC Report on Economic and Social Rights 2002/03: Chapter on Environment

The Chair reminded the Committee that discussion on the Human Rights Commission chapter on the environment had been held over from the previous week so that Members could study it.

Mr G Morgan (DA) commented that the 2002/03 Report on Economic and Social Rights of the SA Human Rights Commission was very interesting. It assessed the measures undertaken by departments towards the progressive realisation of the right to environment as enshrined in Section 24 in the Constitution. He then voiced concern about the problematic reporting of various departments and parastatals as indicated by extended deadlines and subpoena hearings. The measures towards the realisation of the right to environment were difficult to assess. Some comments in the report glanced over issues, which presumably was due to the lack of quality in the reporting of certain departments and parastatals. The Committee should thus urge the departments and parastatls to report diligently and on time.

Mr D Olifant (ANC) agreed that the report was excellent, but pointed out that it was difficult to get a broad overview without sufficient information from relevant organs of State. For instance, the Committee had insufficient knowledge about the extent of the communication problem that had led to the delayed submission of reports. He further expressed concern that the chapter on environment contained few recommendations. The problem of lack of capacity, for instance, was not mentioned.

Mr Morgan agreed with Mr Olifant that the issue of capacity had to be addressed. The various state-of-the-environment reports that came out on a national, provincial, and municipal level were excellent; however it had to be ensured that they were submitted regularly. The Committee had to urge more cities and metropoles to provide these reports. Thus far, there were approximately six cities and metropoles that had submitted the reports. The development of environmental indicators had also to be improved in order to ensure the regular and correct measurement of the quality of water, the degradation of land, and the increase of desertification and so on.

Mr Olifant voiced concern that the report did not address monitoring relationships between departments and parliamentary committees regarding environmental control. Parliamentary committee oversight visits sometimes took place without coordination between relevant committees, resulting in the unintended overlapping of work conducted. They had to look at a mechanism that fostered concerted action among departments and parliamentary committees.

The Chairperson agreed with the concerns raised by Members, stressing that the Department had already started to tackle many of these problems. The Committee would continually monitor the progress of the recommendations stated in the report. She reiterated that the coordination between parliamentary committees had to be improved.

Mr M Swart (ANC) pointed out that there was an obligation upon all the three spheres of government to coordinate as described in Point 1.3 (The National Context of State Obligations) in the Chapter on Environment.

Mr L Greyling (ID) commented that participatory processes of departments also had to be looked into. He agreed that one of the major challenges was the coordinating mechanism between departments.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Report
Mr Morgan said that the IUCN Report captured the work conducted by the delegation well. He then went through the report, pointing out minor technical errors that still had to be corrected. He was pleased with the recommendations of the report, however wondered if it was really necessary to summon the IUCN. The Department’s reactions to the resolutions that the IUCN had passed was more important.

Mr Olifant explained that the delegation’s intention was to invite the President of the IUCN, Mr Valli Moosa. Mr Morgan agreed that this was a good suggestion, highlighting that the report had to be clearer on this point, as the mentioned regional offices did not include the President.

Members adopted the IUCN Report.

Committee Programme
The Chairperson said the Department would brief the Committee on fishing allocation on 14 June. All the outstanding committee reports had to be dealt with in the week of the 21 June 2005. Between the 1 and 19 August 2005, the Committee would conduct their outstanding provincial oversight visits to various national parks. The current Committee budget was very limited. Thus, the international study tour that intended to investigate how air quality was dealt with abroad, would have to be postponed to the following year.

Mr Olifant was unsure about the selection criteria that allowed certain committees to travel internationally. The authority delegating the work of parliament should be made aware of the importance of environment and tourism. After all, tourism was one of the largest contributors to the South African economy. He further suggested that their oversight visits should put more focus on lesser known regions. Many parks in the Karoo were inhabited by threatened and rare endemic species. These parks ran on meagre funding while being exposed to international tourism.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) suggested inviting an international scholar to give a presentation regarding the Air Quality Act.

Mr L Greyling recommended a briefing by the Department on the Air Quality Act to inform the Committee whether the Act had been fully implemented, about the companies’ compliance, and what the obstacles were.

The Chairperson emphasised that the coordination of oversight visits had to be improved in order to ensure that not only successful regions were visited, but also unknown areas such as those that Mr Olifant had highlighted.

Mr Mokoena suggested inviting the department branch of tourism to review tourism in Durban.

The Chairperson agreed, stressing that either SA Tourism or the Department still had to brief the Department on the success of the Sho’t Left Campaign One. The Sho’t Left Campaign Two had already been launched. The briefing had to take place before the annual tourism indaba this year.

The meeting was adjourned.


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