People's Stories Justice

Global homicide rate rises for first time in more than a decade
by Small Arms Survey, agencies
Dec. 2017
The global homicide rate rose last year for the first time in more than a decade, with marked increases in Venezuela and Jamaica, a study has shown.
The Small Arms Survey report, published on Thursday, estimated that 385,000 people were killed in homicides across the world in 2016, an increase of 8,000 on the previous year.
Despite that, the report estimated that the overall number of violent deaths had decreased, primarily as a result of fewer people being killed in wars in 2016 than in 2015.
Of the five countries with the highest violent death rates in 2016 – Syria, El Salvador, Venezuela, Honduras, and Afghanistan – only two had armed conflicts last year.
The researchers noted that while the increase in the homicide rate “does not necessarily indicate a new trend … it signals growing insecurity in non-conflict areas”. Taking into account population rises, 2016 had a global homicide rate per 100,000 of 5.15 – 0.04 points higher than in 2015.
“As the uptick in homicides affects far more people’s perceptions of local security than does the drop in conflict deaths, however, the overall decrease in violent deaths is unlikely to lead to an increased sense of safety at the global scale,” the researchers said.
Of the 23 countries with a violent death rate of more than 20 people per 100,000, 14 were not not involved in wars: they include Brazil, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and South Africa.
The report said in such countries “crime claimed, in proportion to their populations, as many victims as some high-intensity conflicts”.
The number of people killed as a direct result of armed conflict fell from a peak in 2014 of 143,000, to 119,000 the following year and 99,000 in 2016. That resulted in a fall in the rate per 100,000 people from 1.96 in 2014 to 1.32, according to the report.
This helped the overall rate of violent deaths fall from 7.73 per 100,000 population to 7.50 between 2015 and 2016. The report’s authors, Claire McEvoy and Gergely Hideg, said more than a million lives could be saved by 2030 if the trend continued.
“The annual number of violent deaths is likely to increase to approximately 610,000 by 2030, primarily due to population growth,” they wrote.
“Yet if states were able to replicate the results of the countries that have been most successful at preventing and controlling violence in their respective world regions, that number could drop to about 408,000, meaning that about 1.35 million lives could be saved between 2017 and 2030.”
The Small Arms Survey’s report, Global Violent Deaths 2017, was produced with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The group is funded by several governments and its past work has been supported by international organisations, such as UN agencies.
* Reporting by Kevin Rawlinson for Guardian news, access the report via the link below. The cited figures represent the analysis of Small Arms Survey and should be viewed as indicative rather than definitive, as data collection particularly in armed conflicts remains incomplete.

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How Data is helping in the struggle for the Right to Education in South Africa
by Allison Corkery
CESR, Open Society Foundations
Dec. 2017
More than two decades after the end of minority white rule in South Africa, the entrenched inequities and deprivations created under the systematic racism of the apartheid system remain. The struggle to address these injustices has included legal challenges, brought under South Africa’s 1996 constitution, which guarantees a range of economic, social, and cultural rights—including the right to housing, to education and health care, and to food.
But while the courts have handed down a number of progressive rulings, these are frequently not properly implemented. This limits the potential of such strategic litigation on these rights to bring about change.
The 2014 ruling in Madzodzo v. Department of Basic Education, which challenged the lack of proper desks and tables in schools in the impoverished Eastern Cape Province, is a perfect example of the problem.
Despite multiple agreements, extensions, and a decision from the High Court of South Africa, many schools still do not have enough desks and chairs. Students are obliged to squeeze together at shared desks, balance precariously on broken furniture, or sit uncomfortably on the floor.
Since 2015, the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) has been working closely with the Legal Resources Center (LRC), a leading South African public interest law firm, to monitor, and hold the government accountable for, the implementation of court orders in the case. A recently released case study, coauthored by the CESR and LRC, reflects on this joint project.
Madzodzo was brought by the LRC on behalf of the Centre for Child Law and several schools in the Eastern Cape seeking to remedy the province’s chronic shortage of school desks and chairs. The court declared that the government’s failure to address protracted delays in providing the desperately needed classroom furniture was a violation of the constitution’s protection of the right to a basic education. However, various rounds of litigation had failed to produce the desired results.
“Thousands of children continue to spend their days at school sitting on the floor, or squashed together at desks that are either broken or the wrong size,” says Cameron McConnachie, attorney at the LRC.
“We wanted to get involved in a more constructive dialogue with the education department, based on solid data, to ensure that these students got the resources they need, in line with the court’s ruling.”
The LRC saw potential to pilot the use of the CESR’s OPERA framework as a tool to support the litigation. OPERA’s key innovation is the use of multiple methods for collecting, analyzing, and presenting evidence to assess compliance with economic, social, and cultural rights standards; evidence is organized according to outcomes, policy efforts, and resources, to reach an overall assessment (hence the acronym OPERA).
When combined, evidence on these four dimensions can demonstrate more tangibly the links between policies on paper and their impact on the ground. In the Madzodzo pilot the CESR and LRC used OPERA to identify quantitative and qualitative indicators and analyze data on them to track the progress of implementation and support follow-up action in the case.
A rigorous analysis of the documents submitted in the case revealed a number of alarming facts. Estimates indicated that up to 40 percent of all schools in the Eastern Cape were in need of classroom furniture. There were serious questions about how budgetary allocations had been spent, as procurement and delivery processes were irregular and lengthy delays and poor information management were the norm.
Past attempts to improve the situation failed because they did not address root problems such as poor management systems on the school, district, provincial, and national levels: notably, school furniture was not included as an element in any infrastructure plan for the school system.
However, the starkest takeaway from the analysis was the complete unreliability of the education department’s data on school furniture. A strategy was thus devised that focused primarily on obtaining stronger data to demonstrate to the courts—and to the authorities—the extent of the problems. This helped provide a fuller picture of the political and structural limitations affecting the department’s work. This insight gave the LRC a strong basis to argue for heightened oversight of the department’s compliance with its obligations in the case.
In February 2016, another court order was made by agreement, which set out significantly more detailed obligations for remedial actions to be taken. In particular, it required that the Minister of Basic Education set up a “furniture task team” for Eastern Cape schools and report to the court every 90 days about the team’s progress.
The important role that data has played in the case underlines the observations in Strategic Litigation Impacts: Equal Access to Quality Education, a 2017 publication from the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Education Support Program, which concluded that better use of data could support follow-up in strategic litigation.
The CESR and LRC believe OPERA was instrumental in providing a cohesive framework for categorizing, systematizing, and identifying the gaps in data, which was crucial to support dialogue with the education department. This, in turn, enabled the CESR and LRC to provide detailed recommendations for effective auditing and improvement of information management systems to the national and provincial education departments.
By mid-2017, quarterly reports cited a number of promising developments, including the planned integration of the furniture into a reliable database, advertised tenders for the redistribution of surplus furniture, the placement of orders for 220,438 school chairs, the preparation of bid documents for a tender to repair damaged furniture, and the drafting of guidelines for furniture management in schools.
Litigation is a critical strategy for realizing the right to education and other social and economic rights. But we need new tools to ensure legal victories translate into meaningful action on the ground. We at the CESR are proud to have put OPERA at the service of our partners at the LRC and the school communities of the Eastern Cape. While the furniture saga is not yet over, we are hopeful that the final act will bring lasting improvements in the conditions in which all students there can realize their right to education.

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