Courting Social Justice: Judicial Enforcement of Social and Economic Rights in the Developing World

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This book is a first-of-its-kind, five-country empirical study of the causes and consequences of social and economic rights litigation. Detailed studies of Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa present systematic and nuanced accounts of court activity on social and economic rights in each country. The book develops new methodologies for analyzing the sources of and variation in social and economic rights litigation, explains why actors are now turning to the courts to enforce social and economic rights, measures the aggregate impact of litigation in each country, and assesses the relevance of the empirical findings for legal theory. This book argues that courts can advance social and economic rights under the right conditions precisely because they are never fully independent of political pressures.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Human rights are meaningless if they cannot be claimed. The formal court system is playing an increasingly important role in enforcing human rights claims in many countries, frequently with life-saving impacts, as part of the overarching institutional architecture and social mobilization for human rights accountability. Gauri and Brinks have produced a timely, distinctive and important comparative empirical analysis of prerequisites for effective legal claims to socio-economic rights, and their social policy implications. I have no doubt that this book will appeal to a wide readership of public policy makers, economists, social scientists and lawyers, transcending stale theoretical dichotomies between rights of different kinds and showing vividly what a cross-disciplinary field human rights has become."
—Louise Arbour, UN Commissioner for Human Rights

"Judicial enforcement of social and economic rights has generated much theoretical controversy but little empirical work. Gauri and Brinks have taken a giant step forward with this methodologically innovative volume. The chapters fit together seamlessly, and provide a host of comparative and theoretical insights into the causes and consequences of judicial intervention in social and economic rights. The result is a major contribution to the literatures on rights, judicial power and social change, and the role of law in development."
—Tom Ginsburg, Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School

"...The book offers a comparative analysis of five countries, South Africa, Brazil, India, Nigeria and Indonesia. Each case is rich in empirical data, as well as relevant social and political factors...This book is written to be accessible to both the serious empirical scholar of law and justice, as well as anyone interested in social justice and the protection of rights for disadvantaged populations. The ideas presented offer academics, scholars, and activitsts, alike, the possibility of applying theoretical and empirical analysis to their own practices to further social justice... Overall, this book successfully merges theoretical analysis regarding the courts as policy makers and their ability to protect rights with empirical data through the case studies..."
—Jamila Smith-Loud, Department of Government & Politics, University of Maryland, The Law and Politics Book Review [Vol. 19 No. 5 (May 2009)]

"For decades now, governments and commentators have debated at a level of stunning abstraction whether economic and social rights are really rights, and whether courts could or should adjudicate them. At last Gauri and Brinks have brought to the debate a sophisticated empirical analysis of the experience in key countries. The result is a thoughtful, original, and deeply insightful comparative study." - Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

"The detailed, well-documented, and distinctive country studies offer rich empirical accounts in their own right. Bookended by the editors' efforts to explain the role and impact of legal actors and institutions in the development of SE rights, the country chapters work to both expose diverse legal landscapes and uncover the circumstances that give rise to legalization."
Perspectives on Politics, Helena Silverstein, Lafayette College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521873765
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/8/2008
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Varun Gauri is Senior Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. His research focuses on politics and governance in the social sectors and aims to combine quantitative and qualitative methods in economics and social science research. His research has addressed HIV/AIDS policies in Brazil, South Africa, and Mozambique; basic immunization in Pakistan; the behavior of development nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Bangladesh; payment modalities for health-care providers in Costa Rica and Nigeria; litigation for social and economic rights in developing countries; and the relationship between international human rights treaties and development outcomes. He is the author of School Choice in Chile: Two Decades of Educational Reform. He has published widely in development journals, including World Development, the Journal of Development Studies, Studies in Comparative International Development, World Bank Research Observer, and Health Policy and Planning. Since joining the World Bank in 1996, he has also worked on and led a variety of operational and analytic tasks, including project and program evaluations, investments in privately owned hospitals, health-care decentralization, and public expenditure reviews.

Daniel M. Brinks is Assistant Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. He teaches in comparative politics and public law, with emphasis on comparative judicial politics and democracy in Latin America, and his research focuses on the role of the law and courts in supporting or deepening democracy. In addition to his research on the judicial response to police violence in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, he has written on judicial independence, the role of informal norms in the legal order, and the use of law-based approaches to extend social and economic rights in developing countries. His research appears in journals such as Comparative Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, Comparative Political Studies, and the Texas International Law Journal.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: the elements of legalization, and the triangular shape of social and economic rights Varun Gauri and Daniel M. Brinks; 2. Litigating for social justice in post-apartheid South Africa: a focus on health and education Jonathan Berger; 3. Accountability for social and economic rights in Brazil Florian F. Hoffmann and Fernando R. N. M. Bentes; 4. Courts and socio-economic rights in India Shylashri Shankar and Pratap Bhanu Mehta; 5. The impact of economic and social rights in Nigeria: an assessment of the legal framework for implementing education and health as human rights Chidi Anselm Odinkalu; 6. The implementation of the rights to health care and education in Indonesia Bivitri Susanti; 7. A new policy landscape: legalizing social and economic rights in the developing world Helen Hershkoff; 8. Transforming legal theory in the light of practice: the judicial application of social and economic rights to private orderings Daniel M. Brinks and Varun Gauri.

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