EU-Rise LoGov Visiting Researchers: Dr. Vijitha Fernandes-Veerakatty and Dr. Sofía Simou

The Dullah Omar Institute (DOI) is one of 18 international partners in the EU-Rise LoGov project, ‘Local Government and the Changing Urban-Rural Interplay’.

The LoGov project contributes to improved resilience of communities in the face of changing urban and rural realities. The project seeks to establish an international and intersectoral training and research network to identify, and evaluate best-fit practices for local governments in order to address the changing urban-rural interplay and manage its impacts. The LoGov project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (MSCA-RISE) programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) grant agreement No 823961. Read more on the Dullah Omar Institute’s participation in the LoGov project here. 

As part of this project, we are hosting two researchers – Dr. Vijitha Fernandes-Veerakatty from Ximpulse (Switzerland), and Dr Sofía Simou from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Autonomous University of Madrid, UAM, Spain).


Dr. Vijitha Fernandes-Veerakatty

Vijitha is a Swiss Attorney at Law and holds a PhD in international humanitarian law from the University of Bern. During her work for the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights, she has published several expert reports on the implementation of international human rights guarantees in Switzerland. Vijitha currently works for the independent consultancy Ximpulse, based in Switzerland. Ximpulse supports stakeholders in political reform processes and has very broad expertise ranging from constitution making, power sharing and good governance to mediation and conflict transformation. Vijitha’s research in the LoGov Project includes a comparative study of the participation of rural populations in local decision-making processes in Switzerland and South Africa – this falls under Work Package (WP) 5 –  ‘People’s participation in local decision-making’.

Vijitha has been in Cape Town for a month now and will stay here for another month. Her impression so far:

"I am very excited to be here and learn more about South Africa's multi-level governance. The right of citizens to participate in political decision-making is a key feature of the federal system in Switzerland. At the municipal level, the opportunities for participation are particularly far-reaching in Switzerland. I am curious to know what forms of citizen participation exist in South Africa at the local level and how they are implemented. I greatly appreciate the support and valuable exchanges I have had so far from Prof. Nico Steytler, Prof. Jaap De Visser, Prof. Tinashe Chigwata and Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Michelle Maziwisa.


Dr. Sofía Simou

Sofía, is a Lecturer in Administrative Law and Researcher at the Local Government Law Institute (Instituto de Derecho Local) at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. The purpose of her stay is to undertake comparative research and engage with other researchers and practitioners in the field of local government law, with a focus on the urban-rural interplay. Concretely, her research focuses on the intergovernmental relations of local governments (WP4) as well as local responsibilities and public services (WP1). Sofía holds a PHD in “Climate Change and Local Government law” from the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid and has previously conducted research stays in the USA, Greece and Germany. She has published several scientific articles in legal journals and books and participated in various international and national projects.

Sofía has been in Cape Town for a few weeks and describes her stay in Cape Town as follows:

“My research stay at the UWC is one of the most valuable personal and professional experiences that a research programme has offered me in the last twelve years of academic research. My stay in this amazing city is a great opportunity to delve deeper into the object of my research from a completely different perspective. So far, I have observed that some of the trends detected in the urban-rural interplay in Europe are significantly different from the ones in South Africa. It is a great intellectual challenge for me to approach the same object of study from a totally new socio-political and legal context. It is a great pleasure and honor to have met Prof. De Visser, Dr. Maziwisa, Prof. Chigwata and, of course, Prof. Steytler and their entire team at the Dullah Omar Institute. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their complete support and commitment to this global research program”.