Review of the week at the UN

AfriForum Youth, AfriForum and Solidarity attended the 2 461st sitting of the United Nations’ (UN’s) Committee for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva, Switzerland in the previous week.

These three organisations submitted a complaint against the South African government in the form of a shadow report. The complaint deals specifically with the rigid approach that the government follows regarding affirmative action in various spheres of society. This was the first time since 1994 that the South African government had to defend a complaint before the UN, and also the first time in 10 years that this government had to present a report at CERD.

The proceedings basically comprised three parts. The first entailed a submission of the delegation’s shadow report to CERD and answering any questions that the Committee may have. Thereafter followed a private session with some of the Committee’s members. Lastly, the South African government had to present its report on the progress on eradicating racial discrimination in South Africa, followed by a question and answer session by the Committee to the government.

The dialogue between the Committee and the government basically comprised concepts that the delegation’s shadow report had touched on. The Committee was very much surprised by the new perspective that the delegation gave them. The main point that was touched on, was the question of quota systems which are based solely on race and determined mathematically.

The government’s answer was that no racial quotas existed in South Africa, but rather targets which they strived towards. Henrico Barnard, AfriForum Youth’s Spokesperson, is of the opinion that this is not the case, however. According to Barnard, there are clear racial policies that are applied to sport, university admission and professional appointments.

“I am currently a university student. Since my school days I have been subjected to selection processes with race the determining factor. I experienced this specifically in sport, university selection and postgraduate appointments.”

As a whole, the delegation’s experience of the week’s events is positive, also because their concerns were taken to heart.

The CERD will compile a report within two months and make recommendations to the South African government. This carries significant authority, as South Africa has ratified the CERD Convention. Government is therefore obliged to align its legislation with the Convention, and has to report within two years on how the CERD’s recommendation were implemented.

  • By Henrico Barnard