On 19 and 20 June 2008, members and representatives from South African civil society organisations (CSOs) and Government met in Johannesburg for the “Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) Stakeholder Consultative Summit”. Jointly organised by the South African Department of Social Development (DSD) and UNODC ROSAF, and made possible through funding from the European Union, the Summit marked the precursor to South Africa’s 10 year VEP anniversary to be held in Durban in August 2008.
Bringing together stakeholders, building relations and partnerships
This latest VEP initiative is aimed at providing substantive support for project implementation through strengthening partnerships to assist victims of crime and violence, particularly at the community level. Specifically, this will cover several distinct areas such as: juvenile justice; penal reform; restorative justice; alternatives to imprisonment; victim support; and monitoring & civilian oversight of criminal justice performance. Co-supported by the South African Government and UNODC through the European Union’s financial contribution of € 18.6 million, the project activities include a wide number of interventions covering training and skills transfer particularly for CSOs and relevant Government departments; the provision of advice; legal reform; the provision of grants to NGOs; and the development of normative guides, manuals and reports on best practice and training.
With these considerations in mind, the Summit thus held 2 purposes – first, to celebrate this new breakthrough with regards to VEP in South Africa, and secondly, to bring together relevant stakeholders, and continue building a collaborative relationship between the Government, civil society and other partners such as the business community. Furthermore, as the event is part of the lead up to 10-year celebration of the country’s Victim Empowerment Charter, the Summit also provided stakeholders with an opportunity to evaluate the past, and better determine the way forward.
As the lead UN Agency in the field of Victim Empowerment, UNODC’s role was integral in the success of the Summit – something which was certainly reflected in the presentations. UNODC ROSAF Regional Representative, Jonathan Lucas noted in his presentation that the Summit marks a key step towards boosting VEP in South Africa following the visit – and formal signing of the VEP project – to South Africa by UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa in March 2008 together with Ambassador Briët of the EU and the representative of the Minister of Social Development. He commended the DSD for its leadership role in the implementation of VEP and noted that UNODC is “privileged to be working in partnership with the DSD and the EU…in support of Victim Empowerment”, one of the key “priorities of the Government of South Africa in the National Crime Prevention Strategy.”
From the Governments side, DSD congratulated the Agency and thanked UNODC for its commitment towards VEP in South Africa. DSD also praised UNODC’s assistance and partnership such as with the ongoing “Ke Moja, I’m fine without drugs” initiative that the ROSAF has been extensively involved in from a drug prevention/reduction perspective. Furthermore, Ms. Conny Nxumalo, Acting Deputy Director-General at DSD stated that they have enjoyed a fruitful relationship with UNODC, and are looking forward to future partnerships in other areas such as dealing with children in conflict with the law.
Dialogue, discussion, decisions
The Summit provided 2-days of intensive dialogue and a renewed call for multi-stakeholder action within the Victim Empowerment area. With presentations from Government, civil society members and the business community, the Summit offered an important platform to work through what are seen as mutual challenges to be overcome in South Africa. The Summit also held a series of breakaway sessions to discuss some of the vital issues raised around VEP such as the role of the business sector in Victim Empowerment; shelter services and their place in providing Victim Empowerment services; and the issue of financing. The sessions provided valuable insight and recommendations into the VEP which will be fed into the August 10-year conference. Emanating from these sessions, there were a number of cross-cutting issues, and it was evident that the Summit was a success in working towards better facilitating the envisaged growth in cooperation between all sectors involved and offered excellent preparation for the conference to mark the 10th anniversary of VEP in South Africa to be held in Durban from 18 to 20 August 2008.