From the 17th to the 21st of November of this year, doctoral candidate Tarryn Bannister participated in the annual intensive one-week advanced course on the justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The course was organised and facilitated by the Institute for Human Rights, which is situated at Åbo Akademi University, in cooperation with the Socio-Economic Rights and Administrative Justice Research Project (SERAJ) at Stellenbosch University (South Africa) and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights at the University of Oslo (Norway).
The course focused on developing specialist-level knowledge in the field of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs), with a particular focus on justiciability at the national, regional and international levels. Of particular benefit was the knowledge and insight provided by an expert panel of academics and practitioners who presented lectures and facilitated seminars. The panel for the 2014 course consisted of Sandra Liebenberg (South Africa), Catarina Krause (Finland), Tara Melish (United States of America), Jayna Kothari (India), Sisay Alemahu Yeshanew (Finland), Katie Young (United States of America) and Malcolm Langford (Norway). The seminars focused on both theoretical and practical considerations within international and regional systems, as well as national jurisdictions, regarding the judicial interpretation of ESCRs. The course therefore drew on a range of material from across the world in order to analyse a number of relevant debates surrounding these rights. Examples of these discussions included attempts to give content to the indeterminate ideals underlying the ESCRs, debates surrounding the minimum core, as well as the justifications, obstacles and responses to the role of the courts in interpreting and enforcing ESCRs. The lectures also covered the different models of review, the potential catalytic role of the courts in stimulating more human-rights sensitive legislation and policy, the review of resource allocation decisions; the application of ESCRs to non-state actors; the impact of globalisation on these rights and the remedies available when they are violated.
The course therefore afforded participants the opportunity to seriously engage with several fundamental issues associated with the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights at the international level. The examination of specific national jurisdictions, such as South Africa and India also highlighted the manner in which international law can enrich and influence domestic laws. The course was further enriched by the diverse nationalities of all the participants, many of whom were advanced masters students or PhD candidates in law, judges, lecturers, legal advisors and practitioners, policy and human rights officers, researchers, programme coordinators and members of government. The countries that were represented at the course included Austria, Botswana, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Denmark, Ethiopia, Estonia, Italy, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, Peru, Poland and Uganda. The course also consisted of group assignments, a moot court exercise and an optional written exam. On the final day of the course, participants were provided the opportunity to present on specific cases they were litigating on. This allowed the group to brainstorm over the practical application of many of the theoretical issues raised during the course, as well as the strategic planning that is required when litigating on these issues.
The course is part of the Global School on Socio-economic Rights and is particularly valuable for PhD students, advanced masters students, scholars, policy makers and practitioners (involved in human rights or development).