Inequality is one the most pressing issues in the Global North and South, and could become even more extreme as the effects of climate change, COVID-19, disruptive technologies associated with machine learning, and so on, develop and persist. These inequalities expose the vast gap between the egalitarian norms of constitutional democracies and the reality of people’s lives. Until recently, inequality (as opposed to poverty) has received surprisingly little attention in the academy, public policy debate and in political discourse in South Africa. This is particularly the case in law, where engagement with inequality is often confined to a handful of public lawyers. Even here, however, there is often a limited questioning of the background concepts and institutions of public and private law, emerging from ideas of liberalism that assume that inequality is inevitable.
Constitutional scholars committed to more egalitarian outcomes in South Africa have laboured with concepts like universal, individual rights and sought to reconstruct these rights in line with more transformative outcomes, thus seeking more transformative readings of the Constitution. But this project, while necessary, was never a sufficient basis for eradicating inequalities. The constitutionalisation of rights, alone, can never fully nor adequately address material inequalities. We need a clearer understanding of the role and limits of law in addressing deep structural inequalities. We also need to engage multiple economic and social policy processes and their relationship with law and the Constitution. To a large extent law-making and economic/social policy-making have followed parallel processes. In our view, scholars with different expertise and insights – including lawyers, social scientists, economists, scientists and philosophers - and from different jurisdictions have to work together and across disciplinary boundaries in order to consider the challenge of rising inequality holistically, and to contribute meaningfully to public discussion, policy development and legal reform
In partnership with the Mandela Institute, Wits School of Law and the Wits Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, this seminar series aims to foster public seminars and exchanges between South African and global scholars on these issues.
COVID-19, INEQUALITIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS – CONFERENCE AND SPECIAL EDITION OF SAJHR
Call For Abstracts For Conference And Special Edition Of SAJHR
The Covid-19 pandemic has altered life as we know it. South Africa has been widely praised for its decisive early action in declaring a state of disaster and instituting a national lock-down to flatten its infection curve, avoid deaths and a devastating burden on our health-system and buy time to track, test and contain the pandemic. Yet, from the outset, it was clear that the trade-off between public health and the economy was to have profound, and deeply racialised and gendered, consequences: deepening hunger and poverty, loss of livelihoods, evictions, increased security force abuse and heightened domestic violence, are some of the reported symptoms. Across the country, our centuries-long legacy of deep and systemic, racialised and gendered, inequality and poverty shapes the pattern of the pandemic and its effects.
In partnership with the South African Journal on Human Rights (SAJHR), the SARChI Research Chair in Equality, Law and Social Justice, has invited Expressions of Interest for participation in a (virtual) conference and special edition of the SAJHR on ‘The Covid-19 Pandemic, Inequality and Human Rights in South Africa’ to be published n 2021.