Socio-Economic Rights Project

The Socio-Economic Rights Project (SERP) is one of the four programmes of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape.

SERP is involved in research, advocacy, teaching and supporting litigation in the area of socio-economic rights. Through acting as amicus curia, SERP has played an important role in most of the landmark socio-economic rights decisions of the Constitutional Court. These include cases such as Grootboom, Treatment Action Campaign and Joe Slovo. Also, SERP has played a major role in the drafting and adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which came into force on 5 May 2013.

For the past years, the SERP has been involved in various aspects of socio-economic rights without focusing on all the rights at a particular point in time. More recently, SERP has focussed on the rights to housing, health, social security and food.  The choice of focussed rights is influenced by current realities and context.



SERP’s vision is “Ensuring rights make real change”. The socio-economic rights project aims to locate the current debates and scholarship within the socio-political and economic context of transformation in South Africa through teaching, research and advocacy. More importantly, SERP hopes to contribute to the development of norms and standards on socio-economic rights regionally and internationally,

SERP examines socio-economic issues from a governance perspective, emphasising civic engagement, attention to power process, and strengthening linkages between research, policy, practice and social change.

In order to ensure that there is synergy in the work of SERP and other projects at the Dullah Omar Institute, the issues of democracy, human rights and good governance should be seen as the pillars that inform the SERP’s work. Also, a key principle that underpins SERP’s work is the interdependency, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights, as there are linkages between socio-economic rights and the rights to equality, human dignity, life and just administrative action. While the SERP promotes this principle, special emphasis is placed on socio-economic rights.



SERP was founded in 1997 by Professor Sandra Liebenberg, who is currently the H.F Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law and Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Law Stellenbosch University and focuses on the realisation of the socio-economic rights of groups and communities living in poverty. The SERP was instrumental in the inclusion of socio-economic rights in the South African Constitution; and has been involved in prominent cases on these rights, intervening as amicus curiae before the courts.

The SERP was founded with the following main objectives:

  • To assist in the development of a normative framework for the effective implementation, monitoring and enforcement of socio-economic rights that is responsive to the South African context and realities through research and supporting litigation. An African focus has now subsequently been included.
  • To advocate for policy and legislative reforms in various areas pertaining to socio-economic rights, and the effective implementation of such legislation and policy.
  • To develop accessible resource and educational materials on socio-economic rights aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge of socio-economic rights and the mechanisms through which they can be claimed and defended that enhance the knowledge and capacity of civil society to defend and claim their rights.



The SERP is currently headed by Acting Project Head, Ms. Gladys Mirugi-Mukundi.


Project administrator: Crystal Nitsckie


Cases Cases

DISCLAIMER The case summaries herein do not constitute legal advice and, whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained therein is accurate, the Socio-Economic Rights Project and Community Law Centre take no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by any person because of the reliance upon it. Readers are advised to refer to the relevant cases as originally published.