On 11 and 12 October 2023, Uzair Adams and Masi Ncube from ProBono.Org Cape Town participated in Stellenbosch University’s 4th Annual International Conference on Social Justice and 5th Annual Social Justice Summit at the Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town. This year’s theme was “The Role of Business and Civil Society in Advancing Social Justice”.
The conference and summit sought to provide a platform to discuss and share ongoing efforts and to explore the potential of business and civil society to contribute to the advancement of social justice. The Director of the Stellenbosch University Centre for Social Justice, Professor Thulisile Madonsela, emphasised the significance of holding government institutions to account and working collaboratively with business and civil society to ensure the attainment of social justice. Civil society plays a significant role in its attempts to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as poverty alleviation, gender equality and climate justice.
However, civil society’s practical action should be informed by sound theoretical reasoning and should challenge the status quo. Despite civil society’s efforts, the attainment of social justice remains elusive, mainly due to the high levels of poverty and inequality. This year being the mid-term review of the SDGs, it is clear that many countries are yet to achieve the goals – especially SDG 10 pertaining to the advancement of equality. The conference delegates attended plenary sessions and break-away sessions where thematic areas such as economic parity, land equity, the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law, as well as Corporate Social Investment were hotly debated.
It was discussed that business should consider social justice as a moral imperative instead of a business strategy as social injustice is a society’s biggest threat. Furthermore, Honourable Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery drove home the point that business should seek to embody Corporate Social Justice instead of merely implementing Corporate Social Responsibility in order to integrate a deep sense of social justice within the fabric of the private sector. The conference and summit were fruitful as like-minded individuals and organisations engaged to explore further collaboration and opportunities.