The role of civil society in fostering the realization of human rights in Africa: The case of the right to development

The right to development (RTD) is the most controversial human rights of our time. Questions on the nature, content, duty bears, rights holders, justiciability and binding nature of the RTD have fueled the controversy amongst scholars and diplomats. Even in Africa where the RTD is binding, states do not agreed on the content and nature of the RTD. This disagreement can be observed in the state reports to the African Commission on measures taken to give effect to the RTD. In these reports, the RTD is either presented as a right to culture or right to land or various other items. Yet in recent time, as a result of civil society activism and advocacy, the RTD had been given a meaning and its nature had been clarified by the African Commission. The latter underlines the multifaceted of the RTD which comprises elements of non-discrimination, participation, accountability, transparency, equity and choices as well as capabilities. The aim of this paper is to explore the role of civil society in giving a meaning to the RTD in Africa and beyond. To this end, the paper explores how significant was the involvement of civil society organisations in cases which shaped the RTD. As part of assessing the significance of civil society’s action in shaping and furthering the RTD, the paper will examine the extent to which civil society organisations have led RTD litigations, the outcome of these litigations and the impact they have on the RTD discourse in Africa and beyond.  In this enquiry, the paper relies on the jurisprudence of African the Commission on the RTD. Ultimately, it concludes that civil society action had been essential in shaping and furthering the RTD.


Sergei Djoyou Kamga . Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, University of South Africa .

This entry was posted in Paper and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.