The 21 case studies discussed in this volume clearly illustrate that a wide variety of economic, social and cultural rights are justiciable.  Moreover, this publication set out many concrete examples where legal action has made a difference and has unquestionably progressed the actual realisation of the rights.

Litigating Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Achievements, Challenges and Strategies also reveals the many practical and theoretical obstacles that have been encountered in social action litgation.

South Africa is in the unique posi­tion of hav­ing the right to edu­ca­tion guar­an­teed in the Con­sti­tu­tion. The law has been used to advance this right by trans­lat­ing what is on paper into a real­ity for thou­sands of learn­ers across the coun­try. The LRC and part­ners have been at the fore­front of civil soci­ety efforts in achiev­ing this. We wanted to share our suc­cesses.

In Octo­ber 2013, the Legal Resources Cen­tre was proud to launch Ready to Learn? A Legal Resource for Real­is­ing the Right to Edu­ca­tion at the Open Soci­ety Foun­da­tions in New York (find the press release here). The book was designed for legal prac­ti­tion­ers and shares the LRC’s legal efforts to con­tribute to real­is­ing the right to edu­ca­tion in South Africa. Ready to Learn?

Fight­ing to Learn… A Legal Resource for Real­is­ing the Right to Edu­ca­tion is the fol­low on from Ready to Learn? Using the same for­mat as the first pub­li­ca­tion,Fight­ing to Learn… gives an update on many of the cases rep­re­sented in Ready to Learn? and pro­vides a more gen­eral reflec­tion on the role of edu­ca­tion in the devel­op­ment agenda.

In Fight­ing to Learn…, prac­ti­tion­ers of law in other juris­dic­tions can access a sum­mary and court papers relat­ing to the pro­vi­sion of class­room fur­ni­ture, access to learner-support mate­r­ial and the pay­ment and appoint­ment of teach­ers. It also gives follow-up mate­ri­als for the “mud schools” mat­ter and norms and stan­dards for edu­ca­tion.

It demon­strates how the Con­sti­tu­tional right to edu­ca­tion was inte­gral to our fight for a qual­ity edu­ca­tion that is acces­si­ble to all. It also demon­strates the cre­ativ­ity of LRC lawyers in their work, from using class actions, which is new in South Africa, to our increas­ing use of inno­v­a­tive reme­dies, such as using exter­nal admin­is­tra­tors to imple­ment court judg­ments.

 

Part of a law which allowed the Colombian government to charge for primary education was deemed unconstitutional after a pair of Colombian lawyers, collaborating with the law faculty at New York’s Cornell University and a coalition of civil society organisations, brought a direct challenge against its discriminatory provisions.

The Guide identifies equality and non-discrimination strategies that NGOs, lawyers and activists may employ in seeking to advance economic and social rights (ESRs) before courts. It is also accompanied by an online Compendium of useful cases in which equality and non-discrimination concepts and approaches have been employed to advance ESRs.

The Guide is split into three parts. Having introduced the rights framework, the Guide identifies conceptual and practical reasons why equality and non-discrimination arguments should be employed when challenging violations of ESRs. It then presents clear and practical guidance on how to use equality and non-discrimination strategies in courtrooms around the world.

This guide, issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), focuses on how civil society can follow up on recommendations of United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms and mandates or bodies.

Part I provides an analysis of the various legal issues commonly encountered in economic, social and cultural rights litigation. These include identifying the relevant sources of law, establishing justiciability, defining the nature and scope of rights and obligations, responding to the defences available to governments, and the crafting of appropriate remedies. The next chapters address the right to legal aid for economic, social and cultural rights litigation, specific rights (social security, housing, health and education), as well as the social rights of children. This will provide the user of the manual with a sense of how the application and interpretation of economic, social and cultural rights may vary depending on the group claiming the right and the particular right at issue.

In Parts II and III, the various regional and international complaints procedures are outlined. For each human rights mechanism, there is a description of the relevant legal instruments, the applicable economic, social and cultural rights standards and the responsible adjudicatory body. The procedure for making a complaint is set out in detail, together with the limitations of the various procedure. Each chapter concludes with a brief analysis of the jurisprudence of judicial or quasi-judicial bodies and a list of useful resources. The remainder of the manual seeks to provide the user with a range of practical resources for litigation.

Part IV sets out summaries of leading cases on economic, social and cultural rights,

The Strategic Litigation Working Group (SLWG) has launched a discussion paper with eight key proposals regarding the follow-up on views issued by United Nations human rights treaty bodies (UNTBs). ESCR-Net’s SLWG recognises the significance of decisions issued by UNTBs under the complaints procedures (Views) in the advancement of human rights enjoyment by people around the world, and welcomes the past action and willingness of the UNTBs to continue developing constructive practices regarding the impact and implementation of such Views.

Three principles underpin the SLWG’s proposals: the principle of non-repetition (consistently applied by the HRC in its views and by the CESCR in its General Comments); the principle of reasonableness (developed by the CESCR through its General Comments and 2007 Statement on Maximum Availability of Resources, and made explicit in the OP-ICESCR); and the principle of participation (recognised under a number of UN human rights treaties). Taking into account the practice of different international and regional human rights bodies, the SLWG proposes that the three principles should be applied during the consideration of a case, follow up and implementation, in order to maximise the effectiveness of human rights remedies.

While many authorities can tolerate some traditional campaigning methods, it is usually harder to ignore the law. As part of broader campaigns, the law can be a powerful tool for achieving the changes that children need. Legal advocacy is now being used systematically in a few countries – leading to strong outcomes for children – and it has great potential for wider use.

There are many occasions for legal advocacy. International law sets out the principles and standards that states are obliged to meet but frequently do not, and so their domestic law violates children’s rights. Often, a state meets a standard in domestic legislation but its policy fails to implement the law. Sometimes, it is unclear what a law means in practice, or the meaning is clear but no one knows whether it is being implemented. These various gaps between international legal standards, domestic law and state policy (or corporate policy) present potential opportunities for legal advocacy.

There are also many avenues for legal advocacy. It is a broad term, not limited to taking rights violators to court. Many small-scale legal activities can enhance traditional campaigning, such as reporting on the implementation of a law, or raising awareness of what the law says. Sometimes, simply documenting and publicising the gaps between law and practice is enough to persuade decision-makers to act. But only sometimes. Towards the other end of the spectrum is work that demands more time and resources, including taking a government or corporation to court in order to bring broader social change. A successful case might improve the legal standards that apply to children, or lead to a major policy change of long-term benefit to children.

This introductory guide offers a brief overview of avenues for legal advocacy. It also offers guidance on how to explore your options, and how to promote legal advocacy work with other children’s rights advocates.

In South Africa, SECTION27 has used rights-based strategies, including litigation, to hold the state accountable for not ensuring the procurement and delivery of textbooks to schools across Limpopo, a poor rural area of the country.

Key resource

RTE's background paper for the Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8: Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments.

The purpose of the paper is to show how a human rights-based approach offers insights and practical solutions to address the accountability deficits found in both education policy decision-making and implementation, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Specifically, the paper argues that a human rights-based approach to accountability can bolster public policy accountability by defining the responsibilities of authorities, ensuring they are answerable for actions regarding those responsibilities, and how they can be subject to forms of enforceable sanctions or remedial action for failures to carry out those responsibilities.

As the national government is the primary duty bearer for the right to education it is important for any report on accountability to start with the responsibilities of government. The paper provides an overview of the right to education legal framework to which States have legally committed, as well existing international and regional accountability mechanisms.

The paper then explores the connections between the 2030 Agenda, the Incheon Declaration, and human rights law. The Incheon Declaration affirms, ‘the vision and political will reflected in numerous international and regional human rights treaties that stipulate the right to education and its interrelation with other human rights” (para. 2). In the Declaration education is framed as both a “public good” and a “fundamental human right” (para. 5). However, whether a rights-based approached is consistent or present in the operationalisation of SDG4 has not been clearly debated. Part of this challenge is the diluted and often, overly simplistic notion of what the right to education entails. The paper seeks to better understand the similarities and differences of these two large global frames for education and includes a matrix that links the normative content of each framework. This matrix shows that the content of each is largely aligned, even if the processes are not. The paper argues that by recasting the content of SDG4 as part of the right to education, the legal obligations owed to that content can be invoked. This renders various elements of SDG4, if the state in question has legally committed to the right to education and incorporated the right to education in their domestic legal orders, amenable to adjudication by competent mechanisms, offering the possibility of legal accountability through legal enforcement.

The second half of the paper explores the prevalence of the right to education in national laws and the conditions necessary for the right to education to be successfully adjudicated at the national level. It provides an overview of how countries have incorporated the right to education in their domestic legal orders, as well as a list of countries where the right to education is justiciable. This is complemented by a series of case studies that draw out the requirements for successful adjudication at the national level.

At the national level the incorporation and implementation of the right to education, as required by international treaties, requires at least three stages. Firstly, countries must translate their international legal commitment into concrete action to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to education. This includes the incorporation of the right to education into the domestic legal order, through the adoption of education laws and policies. Secondly, countries must secure the right to education as a justiciable right. Lastly, the justiciable right to education must be able to be adjudicated fairly through the judicial system. Whilst the first stage is completed at a near universal level by countries, the final two stages, essential for the fulfilment of the right to education, are achieved by significantly fewer countries. Even when justiciability is present, various barriers may be present that hinder the adjudication of the right to education. Understanding how countries move from incorporation to application and implementation is essential to understanding whether the right to education is truly realised in a country. Our analysis shows that legal enforcement, through mechanisms competent to hold duty-bearers legally accountable, has a positive impact on the realisation of the right to education. Furthermore, little is known about how the political, social, and cultural context of a country limits or enables the adjudication of the right to education. This paper examines court cases from countries around the world to identify the conditions that enable the right to education to be realised through adjudication.