With cancer numbers rising and health-systems in South Africa failing, we are making a case for a National Cancer Institute that would hold the government to account.
Cancer Alliance worked with legal and health scholars in South Africa and the UK, as well as the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) to make the case for this vital coordinating mechanism. The result of that research is a comprehensive summary report, policy briefing document and a peer -reviewed paper.
A key appeal of such a coordinating mechanism promulgated by Parliament is that commitments are legally binding and contain accountability mechanisms, unlike measures such as South Africa’s National Cancer Strategic Framework 2017-2022 and National Policy Framework for Palliative Care 2017-202


“Where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works… unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (1958 speech delivered on the tenth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

What is a Human Rights Based Approach?

A human rights-based approach is about empowering people to know and claim their rights and increasing the ability and accountability of individuals and institutions who are responsible for respecting, protecting and fulfilling rights.
This means giving people a greater opportunity to participate in shaping the decisions that impact on their human rights. It also means increasing the ability of those with responsibility for fulfilling rights to recognise and respect those rights and making sure they can be held to account.
A human rights-based approach is about ensuring that both the standards and the principles of human rights are integrated into policymaking as well as the day to day running of organisations.

The PANEL principles

The underlying principles of fundamental importance in applying a human rights-based approach are:

Non-discrimination and equality/equity
Empowerment and

These are known as the PANEL principles

Source: Scottish Human Rights Commission

From the inception of the Cancer Alliance in 2011, the focus has been on advocating for cancer to be recognised as a priority disease.

The ground breaking PHOTOVOICE research allowed the Cancer Alliance to develop the Advocacy Toolkit, highlighting the specific issues in cancer care in South Africa.

The Access to Medicine Campaign funded by the Open Society Foundation allowed us to maintain an independence in developing evidence-based reports upon which our advocacy is based.

The 2021 Cost of Cancer Report paved the way for a dedicated Legal Framework Research project between Cancer Alliance; the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA); the Institute for Cancer Policy, King’s College, London and the Department Family Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand.

The study “Legal Frameworks and policies: advancing innovative approaches to cancer care in South Africa” was funded by the 2021 MSD Global Policy Grant Program. The funder was not involved in any aspect of the research or write up of the findings.

A peer-reviewed article Harnessing the law to advance equitable cancer care in South Africa: exploring the feasibility, desirability and added value of a dedicated national cancer act was published in January 2024.

A Policy Brief highlights the key research findings for policy and decision makers

A SUMMARY REPORT: Desktop Review of six dedicated cancer and South African legislation and policy regarding cancer provides the insights into international best practise using a human rights lens and provide guidance for further action in realising equitable cancer rights.