Advocating for change, whether in the corridors of power and decision-making at national, regional, continental and international levels, or in meeting rooms, communities and informal survivor group support networks in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, is an integral component of CSVR's work. The key message of the advocacy programme is in the work of CSVR, from our research, to our direct services to survivors of conflict and gross human rights violations through our mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS) work, to our community peacebuilding and violence prevention work, as well as our gender work.
Our advocacy programme leads the dissemination and sharing of findings and lessons learnt from our research and interventions to influence or inform the development, adoption, ratification and implementation of policies, soft-law instruments and laws; improve practice and interventions; and shape public discourse. Our advocacy work focuses on the CSVR thematic areas of transitional justice and peacebuilding; gender and women, peace and security; human rights (including victims' redress and justice); and urban violence prevention.
What We Do
CSVR's advocacy work is organised and implemented around six focus areas, namely:
1. Influence the development, adoption, ratification and implementation of national, regional and international policies on issues relating to CSVR thematic areas
Drawing from our research, MHPSS and direct interactions with survivors of conflict and gross human rights violations, as well as affected communities, we identify gaps in policy/legislation and in practice that require policy development, adoption, ratification and/or amendment and make policy recommendations.
To date, we have successfully led the continental processes of developing the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) General Comment No. 4 on the Right to Redress for Victims of Torture in Africa, adopted by the ACHPR in February 2017; the ACHPR Study on Transitional Justice and Human and Peoples' Rights in Africa, adopted by the ACHPR in August 2018; and the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP), adopted by the African Union Heads of State and Government in February 2019.
At a national level, we have worked together with other civil society organisations (CSOs) in recommending South Africa's domestication of the United Nations Convention against Torture, through the enactment of the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act 13 of 2013, which came into force on 25 July 2013, and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the establishment of the National Preventive Mechanism. We have also made a number of submissions to Parliament on various pieces of legislation being developed/amended, as well as submitted shadow reports and CSO reports to United Nations and ACHPR Special Procedures and Mechanisms, and the Human Rights Council during South Africa's Universal Peer Review process.
2. Stakeholder management
Our work at CSVR and our advocacy requires engaging and partnering with high-level political actors, governments, policy makers and eminent persons and experts (as advisors) as well as strategic partners (including developmental partners) whose voices, engagement and strategic contributions to the work and interventions are critical for the impact and success of our advocacy interventions at the national, regional, continental and international levels. As such, stakeholder management is a strong component of our work.
The advocacy programme coordinates CSVR's stakeholder management and leads the identification, establishment and management of these high-level relations through periodic engagement and communication, development of annual work plans, strategic meetings and feedback on impact and milestones, and mapping and conceptualisation of the way forward on interventions and interactions.
To date, our stakeholder relationships are governed by memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with continental policy makers, including the ACHPR and the African Union Commission (AUC), and African governments, where CSVR is a technical partner and provides technical support in policy making and implementation, as well as with developmental partners and CSOs in South Africa and beyond, whose partnerships with CSVR amplify and enhance our interventions. We also work through cooperative agreements with national, regional and international partners.
3. Promote general public engagement with and awareness and understanding of issues relating to CSVR's thematic focus areas
The advocacy programme contributes to shaping public discourse at the national, regional, continental and international levels, through sharing lessons learnt and African expertise on transitional justice and peacebuilding, gender and women, peace and security, human rights and urban violence, including xenophobic violence and collective violence.
Our work includes engaging the media through media interviews; producing knowledge to share our findings, experiences, reflections and expertise; and working with communities and survivor groups through translating and simplifying policy and complex language into user-friendly formats. We host and participate in meetings at various levels, including community engagements, side events at high-level formal sessions, panel discussions, continental and international workshops, and conferences and other platforms to facilitate sharing of experiences, best practices and reflections on CSVR's thematic focus areas.
To date, we are on national, regional, continental and international expert list serves on transitional justice, women, peace and security, and human rights thematic areas. We have been invited to participate in expert panels by the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations. We also sit on various expert advisory panels, working groups and reference groups in the transitional justice and human rights fields.
4. Enhance knowledge, understanding and practice through technical and content support to policy and decision makers, CSO partners, implementers and practitioners
Drawing on more than 30 years of experience in the transitional justice, human rights and violence prevention fields, the advocacy programme provides technical and content support to policy makers, transitional justice mechanisms, CSOs at peer level and communities and survivor networks, fostering local ownership by working with in-country partners at the regional, continental and international levels. Technical support to policy makers and transitional justice mechanisms includes secondment of CSVR expert staff to African Union organs and ongoing transitional justice mechanisms, providing training and capacity building for policy makers, civil society and community-based actors, as well as resource mobilisation for implementation of interventions.
We work in-country in Africa and beyond, on short-term, transitional justice-related intervention projects, assisting countries to develop their own transitional justice processes to address the legacies of conflict and violence. We also provide advocacy- and organisational development-related trainings and capacity-building workshops for civil society and community-based organisations, strengthening their advocacy and organisational strategies. Our support includes conducting reflective learning and evaluation workshops to facilitate documentation of processes and practice impacts of our interventions and projects at the national, regional, continental and international levels.
5. Strengthen engagement and strategic alliances and bolster collaboration towards a pan-African approach on targeted topics
We have a 30-year track record of working on transitional justice and human rights issues, as well as service provision through our MHPSS programme. CSVR's focus is on building a continental network on transitional justice involving policy makers, academics, civil society and survivor groups to share experiences and improve practice. To this end, the advocacy programme collaborates and partners with various stakeholders and engages the media and public platforms to shape public discourse, raise awareness and share expertise and findings from our research, direct interventions and interactions with communities affected by violence. We are also developing the African Transitional Justice Hub, an online resource hub for building knowledge and communities of practice on transitional justice in Africa.
6. Provide victims of gross human rights violations access to interactions with key national, regional and international human rights mechanisms to seek effective and adequate redress
CSVR engages and networks with key national and international human rights mechanisms in order to ensure access to these mechanisms for victims and survivors. We provide capacity-building workshops on human rights and develop knowledge products on human rights issues affecting torture victims. We also develop user-friendly guides on key legislation, human rights laws, policies and instruments for victims and communities to enhance their knowledge and understanding of policy and legal imperatives that protect their rights. We have hosted legal clinics and are in the process of establishing a legal unit within the advocacy programme to enable us to provide legal advice, services, training and workshops for victims and communities we work in. This enables us to provide a holistic service to victims and facilitate their access to justice.