Democratic Governance & Rights Unit

About us

The Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) is an applied research unit within the Public Law Department at the University of Cape Town. The Unit was formally established in 2004 and it seeks to fulfil its mission by creating a safe intellectual space in which key stakeholders can think through possible solutions, with a range of inter-disciplinary projects that support the process and inform the debate in order to promote public accountability and the rule of law.

The DGRU is primarily concerned with the relationship between rights and governance. Thus, it focuses on public administration, with the challenge of public accountability, on the one hand, and the realization of constitutionally-enshrined human rights on the other.

The DGRU aims to influence policy-making and law reform in Africa through the development of fresh ideas on the most demanding and cutting-edge democratic governance obstacles to the full and effective enforcement and enjoyment of rights, especially socio-economic rights.

The two broad areas of focus currently are:

  1. Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law
    In many parts of Africa, we have moved beyond the constitution-writing phase. The emphasis now is on enforcing the rights and on making the institutions work well enough to sustain legitimacy and build a new culture of constitutional democracy based on justiciable rights. Where constitutions are still being designed or built, then it is imperative that the learning from South Africa and elsewhere around the continent is shared in relation to the challenges of implementation.

  2. New Rights & Governance
    At this point in history, every organisation that is working in the field of democracy and human rights must heed the sustainable development challenge and, at the very minimum, think through its own responsibilities. There is a very distinct governance and rights dimension to the sustainable development puzzle - whether it is around identifying key new rights, such as the "right to mobility", or teasing out the rights and governance issues connected to breakthrough science such as that on human genomes or patents.

Visit the DGRU website for more information.