This special issue of Law, Democracy & Development focuses on strengthening parliamentary oversight and civil society participation with Parliament to improve the implementation of human rights in South Africa. It has grown out of the work of the Parliamentary Programme at the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape which is funded by the European Union (www.peopletoparliament.org.za).
The South African Constitution entrenches democracy and human rights and provides the promise of social justice for all. This is strengthened by international human rights law (IHRL) obligations that South Africa has committed to. The spirit and values of the Constitution generate great hope for people living in conditions of poverty and deprivation. In spite of this, however, there is overwhelming evidence that structural vulnerability to serious human rights violations persists for poor and marginalised people in South Africa. Poor realisation of human rights is partly a consequence of a superficial understanding – and at times disregard – of South Africa’s obligations under domestic and international law. Poor parliamentary oversight is an additional systemic weakness that perpetuates these violations.