Moderator: Kerigo Odada, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa

  • Michael Gyan Nyarko, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Isabel Cristina Jaramillo Sierra, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
  • Svati Shah, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA Adrian Jjuuko, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum- Uganda (HRAPF), Uganda
  • Anna Braconnier, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), México
8:30 to 9:45 a.m. Friday, Nov 3, 2023 (virtual)

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Friday, November 3rd
8:30 AM

Achieving Social Justice through Social Economic Rights Litigation

Michael Gyan Nyarko, University of Pretoria
Svati Shah, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Adrian Jjuuko, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum- Uganda
Kerigo Odada, University of Pretoria


8:30 AM - 9:45 AM

Human rights defenders are increasingly using to seek social justice. However, opponents have always expressed some disquiet on the suitability of courts in the adjudication of socio-economic rights, which have been deemed as disputes involving the distribution of socio-economic goods and services and, therefore, a prerogative of the political arms of government. Courts and other (quasi)judicial institutions have been said not to have sufficient expertise, information, nor the democratic legitimacy to interfere in the decisions relating to the policy choices that have to be made in the fulfilment of socio-economic rights.

Advocates for the (quasi)judicial enforcement of socio-economic rights have, on the other hand, been convinced. This has been instrumental in several jurisdictions, including South Africa, Colombia, India and the United States, to advance constitutionally guaranteed rights, including the right to health, education, water, and housing. Increasingly, international and regional human rights adjudicative bodies have also become involved in the adjudication of socio-economic rights and have made significant contributions to the normative development of socio-economic rights as well as providing substantive redress to victims.

Whereas socio-economic rights litigation is an attractive avenue for social transformation, critics are doubtful of the extent to which litigation can contribute to social change and achieve social justice. With this background in mind, this round table brings together scholars, activists, researchers, and lawyers from Africa, Latin America and India to discuss whether socio-economic rights litigation is a pragmatic strategy for safeguarding the right of every human person to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all persons can freely and fully realize their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The discussion shall examine socio-economic rights litigation and its potential to contribute to a new future of changing political, economic, feminist, and cultural engagement around Africa and people of African descent in the US and globally