The Young Women Peacebuilders Awards on 6 December 2022

The Young Women Peacebuilders Awards forms part of a larger project on implementing the South African National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security and on Promoting the Women Peace and Security agenda. IJR, SAWID, HURISA, LOPECO, FHR, and ACCESS Chapter were civil society organisations working on the project in collaboration with government departments. The project had several components relating to awareness raising, capacity building, dialogues, research, developing a national peace charter and the awards.

The Young Women Peacebuilding Awards has the objective of identifying, recognising, and awarding best practice of the work that young peacebuilders are engaged with. It is also about encouraging more and more young women’s engagement in peacebuilding. They are our future leaders and as these awards illustrate that they are already doing amazing work in the areas in which they live, nationally and continentally.

Prof Cheryl Hendricks (IJR) and Ms Nthabiseng Malefane (DIRCO) opened the event followed by messages of support by Ambassador Fionualla Gilsenan – Embassy of Ireland, Ambassador Han Peters – Embassy of the Netherlands, Ms Aletta Miller – UN Women Representative – SAMCO, Major General Ntsoaki More of the Department of Defence, Ms Cathy Elando – Human Rights Institute of South Africa. The keynote address was delivered by HE Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disability on “The Role of Young Women in Implementing the Women Peace and Security Agenda”.

The winner of the award was Amber Julius, a 21-year-old third year Bachelor of Education Student lives in Elsenburg, Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. Amber has stood up against bullying, racial discrimination, and sexism. Her activist work includes championing Gender Based Violence, advocating for human rights and she is a climate change ambassador for Mother Earth.

Amber is a founding member of the Sisterhood Movement, a rural female led youth organisation, and the coordinator of the Youth Bank, a project supported by the Social Change Assistance Trust, (SCAT).

Amber lives by the motto of the late President, Nelson Mandela, “peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference”. Well done Amber.

The Diplomatic Briefing: on Transitional Justice and Reconciliation in Africa – 7 December 2022

The IJR, along with the ISS, hosted a diplomatic briefing at the residence of the ambassador of Sweden on 7 December. The briefing was chaired by Prof. Cheryl Hendricks and Mr Christian Fogelström – Minister Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission for the Embassy of Sweden did the welcome and the opening remarks. The event brought together representatives from the diplomatic community, thought leaders from NGOs as well as the Department of Justice into conversation with each other. The need for Transitional Justice and the AUTJP was highlighted through the analyses of the AUTJP and the country examples of Ethiopia, South Africa and Mozambique.

In the current global context, many analysts have made the mistake of thinking that justice and reconciliation are not relevant. Nothing can be further from the truth. The AUTJP is an opportunity for us, but it needs buy-in. The world needs us and there is too much at stake for us to fail. These were the sentiments of Fanie du Toit, former executive director of IJR.

Prof Tim Murithi highlighted the AUTJP in his presentation, agreeing with the previous speaker about this being an opportunity. At the same time he cautioned that the AUTJP is not a panacea and that hard work, such as addressing violations, cross-border conflicts and climate justice.

Thapelo Mokushane from the TRC Unit of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development addressed the group on the work that government has and is doing on making sure that the recommendations of the TRC are carried out. He noted some of the challenges presented by the Khulumani Group who are protesting for reparations for victims of apartheid. The event illustrated the need for ongoing dialogue between government and civil society as we try to come to terms with historical legacies.

Piers Pigou spoke of the challenges being faced in Mozambique. He noted that the current approach by government is concentrating on military force and military solutions to the IS insurgency in the north of that country. He noted that there needs to be a broader range of methods employed. He emphasised the need for dialogue, but that the nature of the dialogue needs to be discussed and agreed upon. He concluded by arguing that there needs to be an augmentation of local voices and local dialogue, which has political support. There is a need for public education to link TJ to broader awareness of contemporary issues and the need for political champions.

Anna Moya concluded by highlighting some of the challenges of the AUTJP, such as language. The AUTJP is published in non-African languages and needs to be translated and disseminated in the vernacular. Given that the AUTJP is a policy of the AU, it has seen a top-down approach to implementation. Ms Moya highlighted the need for it to be taken to communities, to the places where people are. She further noted the need to ensure that many processes are time-bound, which limits their reach and efficacy. She concluded by saying that the AUTJP offers the opportunity to address a wide-range of challenges on the continent and, in spite of the problems, there is impetus to embrace transitional justice.

Otillia Maunganidze from the ISS closed the event by noting that the AU has identified 11 constituent elements of transitional justice, and that it cannot be reduced to just reconciliation and justice. She noted that justice cannot be purely punitive. We also need to recognise that these processes can take decades. Transitional justice implies motion. It requires resources to implement it. She concluded by noting that transitional justice is not for the few, it is for all of us.

The IJR would like to thank Swedish Ambassador, HE Mr  Juholt Håkan, for making the event possible and our partners for their contribution to the discussion and to making the event a success.

Felicity Harrison, Head of Sustained Dialogues