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Poverty and Fundamental Rights (Oxford University Press, 2007), a book which provides a justification for and approach to determining the content of socio-economic rights, has just been translated into Spanish. The book is by Prof David Bilchitz, the Director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC), a leading South African research centre within the Faculty of Law at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and Secretary-General of the International Association of Constitutional Law.
The book addresses the pressing issue of developing a rights-based approach to addressing severe poverty and inequality. It starts by asking why it is that violations of socio-economic rights – which include the rights to food, housing and health-care – are often treated with less urgency than violations of civil and political rights, such as the right to freedom of speech or to vote?
“The first half of the book aims to provide a justification for fundamental rights in general. In doing so, it aims to establish that socio-economic rights are rooted in a similar normative justificatory base as civil and political rights. This is also accompanied by a strong argument for judicial involvement in the enforcement of these rights,” says Bilchitz.
The book, however, is not focused on philosophical argument alone and seeks to demonstrate its implications for legal doctrinal attempts to give content to fundamental rights as well as government policies.
Bilchitz explains: “The book, utilizes the philosophical theory developed in the first half, to argue for a revised and expanded ‘minimum core approach’ to determining the content of socio-economic rights: the model that is developed requires placing greater urgency and priority on the survival interests of individuals whilst requiring concrete steps to be taken towards ensuring a higher ‘sufficiency’ threshold of provision (which is specified in the book). This doctrine stands in contrast to the ‘reasonableness’ approach adopted by the South African Constitutional Court which is vague and fails to offer poor people (and the courts) a clear understanding of what may be claimed in terms of these rights. The book ends by considering, in a comparative context, the policy implications of the minimum core approach defended therein”.
The book has received much attention in the legal academic community and has been published in Spanish by the publisher Marcial Pons which makes it accessible in Latin America and Spain. Indeed, some courts in Latin America such as the Colombian Constitutional Court are already leaders in providing concrete content and consequences to socio-economic rights which broadly give effect to a minimum core approach.
In a new preface for the Spanish edition, Bilchitz writes, that he hopes the book will “go some way to providing a jurisprudential basis for an approach such as that of the Constitutional Court of Colombia and stimulate its deepening and development.” He also “hopes, once again, that this book may provide a catalyst for further thinking as to the approach these societies will adopt towards the content of these rights so as to render them maximally effective in addressing the pressing needs of those who are poor.”
Poverty and Fundamental Rights was translated by Prof Jorge Portocarrero Quispe, an adviser to the Constitutional Court of Peru. More information about the Spanish edition can be found here.
More information about the original English edition can be found here.