Our Group

Our group has been founded on 9/12/2010 in the framework of the VIII Congress of IACL, on the common initiative of Victor Bazan, Sandra Liebenberg and George Katrougalos.
Its main aim is to develop a network and a forum for constitutionalists interested in social rights from countries throughout the world. Among its activities will be, inter alia, the development of comparative research projects on topics to be decided collectively, advocacy and public Interest litigation on social rights issues and further involvement to related activities of IACL.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Promotion of efficiency of constitutional and legal protection of social rights: A project funded by Ford Foundation (Subject to final approval by the IACL Executive Committee)

A- Outline and objective of the project

The ultimate goal of the proposed project is to cause a qualitative change in the level of expertise and engagement in the discourse and practice related to economic and social rights and their promotion through international, constitutional and statutory law. Although the protection of economic and social rights has received increasing attention in recent years, there is a clear gap in engaging, on the international and global level, constitutional law professionals, i.e. scholars of constitutional law, judges of constitutional and other courts, who focus on constitutional law issues. On the other hand, there is an increasing number of NGO’s, activists or practicing lawyers trying globally to promote social rights that often ignore recent developments of the field, or successful techniques of adjudication.
Respectively, the project has a dual objective: First, to promote awareness of economic and social rights among international and constitutional law professionals. Second, to associate the two worlds active for the protection of social rights, that is on the one hand the academic scholars and on the other the NGO’s,  in a common endeavor to accomplish concrete goals such as greater awareness surrounding the adoption and implementation of  Optional Protocol (ICESCR-OP) to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the institutional and legal improvement of international and national mechanisms for the enforcement of Ec-Soc rights.
The project is action-oriented and seeks to support local advocacy and litigation. It includes, however, an important cognitive element: transfer of knowledge, experience and good practices in two different but complimentary axes:
·       An academic one, through the network of scholars who participate to the IACL Social Rights Group and the IACL Group of Judges, both representatives of various national jurisdictions.
·       An “activist” one. The members of the Social Rights Group will ensure the participation of representative NGO’s of their respective countries through an osmotic procedure of exchange of information and co-operation in advocacy or litigation in pilot cases.

IACL is a global network of academics and practitioners, comprising an African and an European network of constitutional lawyers. The participation to its social rights Group of scholars from Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe guarantees not only the representation of most jurisdictions, but also –and more importantly- an effective “North-South” exchange of views and policies. Moreover, its self-governing nature ensures also that learning through doing in the course of the project will keep the project practically oriented.

B Countries in focus

The countries in focus should be representative of various jurisdictions, levels of economic development and maturity of the welfare state. The inclusion of economic and social rights in several recent constitutions (e.g., South Africa, Kenya, Finland) and the judicial evolution of the understanding of these rights  (e.g. India, Brazil, Argentina) provide a good basis for choosing these countries as a focus group. Greece is also added, in order to examine the possibility of effective implementation of social rights in environment of acute economic crisis.
The rationale of the choice is to test, evaluate and then suggest ways of promotion of the actual effectiveness of the constitutional and legal protection of social rights in the widest possible spectrum of legal and social systems.

C- Main activities and phases of the project

The duration of the project will be two years, divided in three stages. Its milestones will be three Round Tables of IACL, which will organize and evaluate the work between them.
Stage 1. The project begins with a Round Table conference of the IACL in Xi’an (China) in October 2011. This conference, with the substantive theme of the right to social security, will explore various alternatives for the implementation of social rights in social and political environments other than their typical, European birthplace.
Parallel to that, the IACL Group of Social Rights will schedule and organize the targeted interventions of advocacy and litigation. These will include a common campaign to raise awareness in key constituencies about the  merits of the Optional Protocol and one specific to each one of the focus countries. The latter could be campaigns of advocacy or litigation in pilot cases at the domestic or international level, focused on a right chosen for its importance or its special protection by the relevant domestic courts. Eventual partners to this endeavour will be representative NGO’s, preferably ones having consultative status at ECOSOC.
The blog of the Group will monitor the progress of these campaigns, but it will also be used as a platform for direct interaction between academic scholars and constitutional court and other judges, in issues related to justiciability of the related rights. Through this network of judges, a process of cross-fertilization can be facilitated so that active interest in economic and social rights becomes a source for professional pride within relevant segments of the judiciary. The central Website of IACL will monitor the whole process and associate it with other relevant activities of the Association.
Stage 2. The second Round Table will be held in 2012 in one of the Latin American focus countries, in order to evaluate the progress of the campaigns and the related theoretical work. Its main theme will be, consecutively, the justiciability of socio-economic constitutional rights.
Besides the overall evaluation of the ongoing campaigns, during this phase the Group of Social Rights will try to appraise synthetically the adjudication methods and institutional good practices with regard to the rights in focus. In this framework, the evaluation of the activities of the project will seek to identify which factors, besides the inclusion of social rights in constitutional charters, may have an influence on their effective implementation.
A questionnaire addressing these issues will circulate among the members of the Social Rights Group, in association with the Judges Group, in order to identify similar factors, at all levels:
Legal (such as the concretization of the constitutional provision by statutory legislation, the related case-law, easy and inexpensive access to the courts)
Institutional (establishment of a framework of social services, budgetary issues)
Social (inequality factor, economic development, unemployment etc.)
Societal (related activity of NGO’s, perception of social rights as genuine rights vs pure individualism, etc., knowledge of vulnerable groups about their rights.
These factors will be quantified to concrete indicator-based indexes allowing the monitoring of efficiency of specific progress in the implementation of social rights. This work will be culminated to a synthetic report and a collective volume, to be presented at the final Round Table of the project.
Stage 3.
The third Round Table will be held in Europe, preferably Geneva, in 2013. It will present the findings on the efficiency of social rights implementation, in association with the policy impacts of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The IACL website will host the synthetic report of the project together with a depository of all related materials.
The project ends with a three-day training course for judges. This course will diffuse the scientific and empirical findings of the project, together with other legal essential information of comparative constitutional law.

D- Expected outcomes

            The basic outcome of the project is to promote greater awareness for the protection of economic and social rights and their actual implementation.
            Its specific outcomes include, among others:
- specific progress in awareness amongst judges and other constitutional law professionals;
- greater awareness about the Optional Protocol, facilitating the process of adoption and eventually of implementation ; and
- delivery of demonstrable progress in the actual enjoyment of economic and social rights, in selected countries in focus through advocacy and litigation.
- elaboration of a concrete indicator-based index allowing the monitoring of efficiency in the implementation of social rights.


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