Africa Regional Social Rights Litigation Workshop: 12-14 March 2012, Johannesburg South Africa

Over the last decade, the legal opportunities for claiming economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights have greatly increased in many parts of Africa. This can be seen in the growing use of litigation strategies amongst civil society, increased legal mobilisation of marginalized groups and continued constitutionalisation of ESC rights, most recently in Kenya. At the regional level, the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has established a Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted guidelines and indicators for ESC rights while the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR) opens up the potential for international litigation.

Ensuring effective ESC rights litigation is obviously dependent on many factors, including the justiciability of the rights in a jurisdiction, preparation of the case, mobilization and enforcement strategies, socio-political conditions and judicial attitudes. With members around the world, the ESCR-Net Adjudication Working Group, has been working to share and support litigation strategies that tackle these different dimensions. Further, the International NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR is campaigning for better access to international remedies and the building of global support for the new Optional Protocol. However, ensuring that litigation plays a meaningful role in people's daily lives and challenges the socio-economic frameworks, discourses and power relations that determine the realization of ESC rights, requires not only committed action but reflection, partnership and solidarity-building.

In this spirit, ESCR-Net together with SERI, the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR and the Norwegian Centre on Human Rights convened a three-day workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa (Monday 12 through Wednesday 14 March 2012) with the kind support of the Ford Foundation and the Finland Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The workshop brought together human rights lawyers, activists, social movement groups and scholars from Africa, as well as different parts of the world, with the aim of supporting effective strategic litigation and enforcement. The workshop specifically aimed to: 1) Examine ways to improve the justiciability and judicial acceptance of ESC rights in Africa. 2) Build regional support and develop strategies for OP-ICESCR ratification; 3) Discuss lessons learned in enforcement of judgments and identify cases which could be supported for implementation through regional and international advocacy; 4) Provide space for for discussion of litigation strategy, including how affected groups and social movements can be more central and national litigators can utilize regional and international solidarity and networking.