TODAY: Lawyers For Human Rights and the International Commission for Jurists launch a new Programme focusing on #SocioEconomicRights

South Africa ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in January 2015, thus enhancing its legal framework governing socio-economic rights. This project, which is a collaboration between the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), builds on this opportunity to allow the poor and marginalised to effectively access their socio-economic rights. A progressive jurisprudence, both at national and international level, is a key tool to enable socio-economic rights to be enforced. Specifically the project will aim at increasing the capacity of key civil society stakeholders to effectively use jurisprudence so as to give effect to the socio-economic rights of the most disadvantaged segments of society, in both urban and rural areas.


CSOs are a key target group for this action. Smaller, usually less well-resourced CSOs in rural and township areas often have vast local knowledge and proximity to the poor and marginalised but limited legal capacity to advocate for their rights. These may include community advice offices, which are part of networks to provide basic legal advice at a community level. Based on cases presented to them by local community members or groups, they provide advice, refer, intervene or advocate on behalf of community members. They also serve as an important link between community members and institutions. This action will increase CSO’s knowledge and capacity on socio-economic rights and how to use legal advocacy to enforce those rights. This will be achieved through training workshops, round tables and mentoring of 30 CSOs and 60 community advice offices.


Legal practitioners, including lawyers and legal aid workers, at times embedded in CSOs and community advice offices, are the first line in reports of socio-economic violations but they oftentimes lack the needed tools to seek effective remedies for these violations. While the lower courts are not mandated to challenge the constitutional validity of legislation or executive action, they are required to follow higher court precedents and reflect the values of the Constitution in their decisions. Due to the fact that they are often unaware of these judgments, their role in the application of the South African Constitution and international human rights obligations is limited. Through this action, lawyers will be better equipped to enforce socio-economic rights effectively on behalf of the poor and marginalised and court decisions will increasingly reflect international standards, the Constitution and national jurisprudence. This will be achieved through the development of a legal practice guide on socio-economic rights as well as training workshops and seminars for 360 lawyers and 360 magistrates. The legal practice guide will be available as a hard copy and online, which allows for the continuous updating of the guide.


Under this action, a parallel report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will be developed in collaboration with international and national experts and with inputs from partner CSOs. The report will highlight selected case studies through the innovative use of media such as video and will focus especially on access to justice, legal protection and judicial enforcement of socio-economic rights for the poor and marginalised. It will include a set of recommendations to press for the increased implementation of socio-economic rights. Chapter 9 institutions, including the Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality, government and academia will benefit from the analysis provided in the parallel report by having access to front-line information sourced from local communities, and specific recommendations to progressively implement international standards.


The Project will be implemented over a period of three years and in six of the nine provinces, being Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and the Western Cape.


This programme is funded by the Europen Union