analysisBy Leopoldo Amaral
To celebrate Human Rights Day, the United Nations is highlighting the right to participate and the associated rights that make it possible freedom of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association.
In line with this, OSISA would like to invite you to take a moment today to remember:
Those in Swaziland who are denied the right to peaceful assembly and association to organise themselves into political parties to contest power;
Those who because of their ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability are excluded from public life, and are not heard and not allowed to participate in decision making processes affecting their lives;
The children and women of southern Africa bearing the brunt of violence and conflict, particularly those in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and,
The people of southern Africa who are being denied access to justice and due process by their governments' illegal and illegitimate suspension of the SADC Tribunal.
Furthermore, OSISA would like to remind:
Politicians in southern Africa that there will be no development and no poverty alleviation without social cohesion and political inclusiveness, and that in democratic and rule of law systems no one is above the law and that the people shall speak and have the last say about who should govern them; and,
Governments in southern Africa, which are presiding over abundant natural resources, that without transparency, accountability and equitable access, countries will remain divided, polarised and poor.
And for these reasons we invite you to take a moment to reflect on the issues that divide us and that entrench exclusion, discrimination and poverty and to consider that:
A vibrant civil society is an important stakeholder in a democratic society and that government should not be afraid of engaging with its members;
Enhancing individual and peoples' rights is as important as delivering services; and,
Changing practice is as important as removing unjust and discriminatory laws.
As part of our mission to promote vibrant and tolerant southern African democracies in which people, free from material and other deprivation, understand their rights and responsibilities and participate actively in all spheres of life, we wish you a happy 2012 Human Rights Day.