This article considers the question of the justiciability of social and economic rights from both a conceptual and an experiential perspective. It first reviews some of the major concerns that are frequently raised in relation to whether social and economic rights can, or should be, adjudicated by courts, drawing on commentary from experts and judicial and quasi-judicial bodies considering this question. This is followed by an overview of the growing body of jurisprudence from domestic courts and regional and international bodies that have adjudicated social and economic rights. 

This article critically evaluates case-law developments regarding the right to basic education as enshrined in the South African Constitution and argues that litigation, or at the least the threat of it, plays an important role in the realisation of the right to education. 

Chapter two (p.47-56) is dedicated exclusively to the clarification of justiciability and the challenges of justiciability as a tool for social transformation and inclusion of the most vulnerable. It presents ‘justiciability’ as one of the steps of a holistic strategy to overcome poverty. It defends the role of judges as guarantors of rights and freedoms of the most invisible members of society.

Drawing upon a full range of case law, the report shows that adjudication of economic, social and cultural rights is possible, desirable and already being carried out by courts in all continents. The report addresses the legal and political objections to the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights and confirms their justiciability.

This paper argues that social and economic rights, defined as rights to the satisfaction of basic needs, are constitutional essentials at domestic level and claims of the highest priority at supranational level. Their inadequate legal protection in national and supranational orders is not justified. Social rights have common foundations with civil and political rights, but have been neglected in law because of Cold War ideologies. The paper explores the role of courts and the role of legislatures in the protection of social rights, and identifies the key challenges in each of these fields. 

Many countries have incorporated the right to education in their constitutions. The present article discusses the modalities of how a number of key dimensions of the right to education have been subject to judicial or quasi-judicial review. In other words, it discusses how the courts have dealt with the educational issues brought before them. Such cases do not always use right-to-education language, but generally speaking they deal with two aspects of the right to education, namely the right to receive an education and the right to choose an education. One of the major arguments against economic, social and cultural rights being on an equal footing with civil and political rights has always been that the former are not justiciable. The present article will reveal that the right to education is and has been fully justiciable in many jurisdictions.

This article was published in Erasmus Law Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 427-443.

This issue of the INTERIGHTS Bulletin focuses on litigating the right to education in Africa. It includes the following articles:

Litigating the Right to Education: Editorial
Solomon Sacco and Susie Talbot

Africa and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Malcolm Langford and Rebecca Brown

Litigating the Right to Universal Primary Education: Challenges and Prospects
Iain Byrne

Toward Recognition of the Right to Free Education in Colombia
Esteban Hoyos-Ceballos and Camilo Castillo-Sánchez

Expropriation as a Means to Protect the Right to Basic Education: The Case of a Farm School on Private Property Facing Eviction
Dmitri Holtzman

Lessons from Litigating Universal Primary Education in Swaziland
Ruchi Parekh

Developing a Litigation Strategy Regarding Non-Fee Barriers to Equal Access to Free and Compulsory Education for Children in Kenya
Hellen Mutellah

Litigating the Expulsion of Pregnant Girls
Solomon Sacco

Tactics to Secure the Right to Education for Children Living with Albinism in Kenya
Gertrude N Angote

Dzvova v Minister of Education, Sports and Culture & Ors
Bellinda Chinowawa

Republic v Head Teacher, Kenya High School, ex parte SMY
Charlotte Leslie

The Legal Way of Doing Things: The Competing Powers of School Governing Bodies and Education Authorities in South Africa
Karabo Ngidi

The ECOWAS Decision on the Right to Education in SERAP v Nigeria
Adetokunbo Mumuni and Chinyere Nwafor

Advancing the Right to Education Through the Communication Procedure in the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
Charlotte Leslie

This publication is intended to support everybody that works in the basic education field in South Africa. It aims to provide a common legally grounded planning, monitoring and advocacy framework that is child-centred and recognises the interconnectedness of human rights.

This Guide will inspire and help judges and lawyers working at national level to litigate cases involving economic, social and cultural rights.

In particular, it aims at giving examples from a large variety of countries and jurisdictions of how courts and other bodies have dealt with the adjudication of these rights.

The Guide also addresses issues that legal practitioners are faced with at the different phases of litigation, from initiating a case and evidence building to the provision of remedies and the enforcement of judicial decisions.

Please note, that this Guide is an updated version of Courts and the Legal Enforcement of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Comparative Experiences of Justiciability.

In addition to the electronic version of the Guide in a book format, the ICJ has also launched a searchable online version that is accessible on the ESCR page.

This publication includes an overview of key right to education decisions made by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the UN Human Rights Committee. They are judgments that have taken place in these courts from 1988 to 2014 and deal with the fulfilment of the right to education for various groups, such as people with disabilities, migrants, persons deprived of liberty and Indigenous Peoples.

The Summaries of Jurisprudence series has been published since 2010. This recent publication is available for download via the following websites  (in both Spanish and English):