Human rights and development: the case of local government transformation … (L.J. van Rensburg et al)


Linda Jansen van Rensburg, Wim Naudé


Sustainable local economic development (LED); local government; local economic development; socio-economic rights; South Africa; human rights approach; governance.


Local governments throughout the world are assuming a more important role in economic development of their communities as an increasing number of governments begin to decentralise powers and functions. As these lower levels of government seek sustainable local economic development (LED) strategies the human rights approach towards development becomes pertinent as globalisation accelerates. This article proposes an emphasis on socio-economic rights as the basis for sustainable LED in developing countries. The article is based on the experience of South African local government in the period after 1994, leading up to the first democratic local government elections on 5 December 2000. Proceeding from the view that the promotion of human rights is necessary for the promotion of economic development, the article critically assesses the role of local government in the promotion of LED through a rights-based approach. It is argued that the identification in the South African Constitution of local government with basic service provision (recently emphasised by a Constitutional court judgment) will place socio-economic rights at the centre of LED strategies in South Africa. It is argued that this is indeed the most appropriate cornerstone of LED in South Africa. However, the transformation process that leads the country towards its progressive Constitution needs to be maintained and this article identifies five broad areas for transformation that may still be needed to entrench an adequate human rights culture within the sphere of local governance.


(2007) 27(5) Public Administration and Development, 393-412.


Human rights and development: the case of local government transformation in South Africa.