The SWEG (Sudanese Women Economist Group) organized two important workshop and a forum in preparation
for a wide participatory national conference. In the previous two parts of this articles the focus was on some of the important papaers presented in these workshops and continue to do so in this part. “ Indicators and Prospects of Social Justice” was a paper presented by Ms. Awadia Alhaj Abashir and Ms.Alaiz Fadlla.
The concept of Social Justice have been the focus of a lot of debates at the academic level and as well as in the media and its importance is increased by been a popular and international demand at the present. This was manifested in many regional and international agreements and declarations and as well in the famous demonstrated in the United Nations designating the 20 October of every year as the World Social Justice Day.
The attainment of social justice is faced by many challenges; international, historical political, geographical and developmental.
In the developmental literature social justice is a social system that aims to reduce disparities between classes within any society represented by a fair share of all in the material resources and inclusive development. And so is considered a basic component in political and social stability.
There are some major factors necessary to attain social justice; equality in rights duties and opportunities which combined with non-discrimination of any kind represent the cornerstones in any social justice system. But same time does not mean total equality in income and wealth in the society. It is also include the degree of the participation of the citizens in the economic development process and in sharing in the outcomes of this process.
Also, Social justice assist in reducing poverty and social marginalization but must be based in the respect of the universal human rights norms. In this context, Social Security is a major tool for social justice and the preservation of human dignity which have been affirmed by many regional and international conventions and declarations and in particular the International Convention on Social and Economic Rights and the ILO (International Labour Organization) various conventions.
The Sudan 2005 Constitution in Article 2(1) have affirmed the state commitment to the respect and promotion of human dignity ,establishment of justice and equality, respect of human rights and basic freedoms and political plurality. Chapter Two of the Constitution stipulated the directives and principles of social justice to be adapted by the policies and programs of governments.
The economic situation has decorated in the last two decades due to a number of factors. These included the secession of South Sudan in 2011, decline in the productivity in the major economic sectors—the agricultural and industrial sectors. This have lead to the decrease in the value of the national currency due to increase in imports with a decrease in exports which resulted in the rapid rise in the inflation rate and the cost of living resulting in the rise of the percentage of poverty among the population. This coincided with a high rate of national unemployment leading to the migration of highly qualified Sudanese which had in turn a negative impact in the economic and social development in the country. A major factor have also been that decades of instability have driven the government to allocate a large portion of the budget for defence and security (70 percent), while 20 percent cover the state administrative expenses and only 10 percent for basic services. So, in such circumstances attaining any kind of social justice is a very huge challenge.
But this said, it may be informative to know what the guidelines are for the targeted social justice. This require a very far reaching economic and social development plans and programs because without a good economic situation it almost impossible to attain any kind of social justice. But same time any development will need in the first place social security and stability attained vide a national reconciliation. So, all these issues are interlinked and must be addressed in a holistic manner.
There is always the question of what are the mechanisms for achieving social justice under any circumstances. Let us focus on some of these instruments which can be implemented to some extent by any country under any condition.
Education is an important tool for development that opens the road to social justice and economic and social development. This is why education have been one of the most important goals of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals; 2016-2016, SDG 4 Quality Education. Education is also the mechanism for a qualified labor force which in turn increases employment opportunities thus reducing poverty. Same time good quality education is essential for any economic and social human development as have been affirmed in many regional and international reports.
But despite this recognition of the importance of education and which was also emphasized on in the National 25 years, 2007-2031, the public budget allocations for education remained very meager. As a matter of fact excluding the teachers’ salaries, the public expenditure on the educational running costs is only 6 percent, while the parents contribute 89 percent and the remaining 5 percent covered by other sources.
At the same time despite that private educations started in Sudan a long time ago but at present private schools and universities have come to represent the disparities in the society which allow the well-off children to receive a good quality education compared to the poor quality provided by the public schools.
Employment is also another essential factor for social justice and according to the Statists National Bureau of 2010 men represented 67 percent while women represented 23 percent of the workforce in Sudan. The majority of the workforce is employed by the informal sector while women mainly work in the agricultural sector.
The International Convention on Social and Economic Rights oblige state parties to provide social security to everyone including children in case of unemployment or illness or in the case the household income is not enough to cover child care. But most of the developing countries in face tremendous challenges with regard to social insurance for the informal sector and in particular in the agricultural sector.
On the other hand pension suffers from the increasing rate of inflation which make pensioners unable increasingly to meet their daily needs for themselves and families. So, there is a need not to make the pensions static but move according to the inflation rates.
One major obstacle in attaining social justice is the availability and quality of the public health services which had witnessed a great theorization both in volume and quality in the last decades. And with the high cost of private medical services this represent a great injustice for the majority of poor families a challenges that have to be addressed as urgently as possible because without a healthy population any economic and social development plans will remain a dream. This means a real increase in the budget allocation to the public health sector which was only 1.9 percent of the 2013 public budget.
Health Insurance have played a positive role in easing the burden of medical care on the working people and their families but the quality of the services have not always been up to the required standard agreed upon at the regional and international levels.
There can of course no social justice without gender equality in rights and duties and this must include equal pay and promotions opportunities as well as family care rights for women. In general any social justice policies should be gender sensitive.
Same time the promotion and reform of local governance can play a vital role in the advancement of social justice when it empowers the local communities to handle some of the developmental issues at the local level.
But this to have a good positive impact must come in the framework of a comprehensive economic and social development plan which must come within a social contract between the state and the citizens.
The essence of the Social Contract without going into a lot of theoretical debates which have started in the issue since the Nineteenth Century by Jean Jack Reissue is that citizens participate directly or through their representatives in the formulations of the constitutions, laws, programmes, decisions and policies that affect their lives directly or indirectly.
The many events that accrued in the country there is a need to study seriously the need for a new social contract that will guide the nation in the coming decades.
The workshops came up with many recommendations but will focus on the most important ones:
1. Reform and promote the agricultural and financial sector.
2. Promote the use of renewable energy.
3. Independent performance supervisory institutions.
4. Focus strongly on environmental issues as Sudan depends largely on agriculture and pastoralist.
5. Transparency in all economic activities.
6. Control and rationalization of the governance institutions expenditure.
7. Legal reforms to make national laws coincide with the internationally ratified conventions and agreements.
8. Expand social security to include the agricultural sector and the informal sector.
9. Taxation Reforms.
10. Expand technical and vocational training.
11. Formulating an effective poverty reduction strategy.
12. Study why past development policies failed.
The coming economic conference is expected to find answers for a number of questions, some of them.
1. Vision for macro and micro economic policy reforms.
2. Role of the financial sector in the proposed economic reforms .
3. How to reform the educational and health sectors to make the right to good education and health services a reality.
4. How to utilize national natural resources in the creation of a strong national productive sector.
5. How to gain citizens confidence during the economic reforms period.