Budgeting for Change – Budget Advocacy in South Africa

South Africa is a constitutional democracy.  South Africa’s constitution contains justiciable socio-economic rights (SERs).  These rights include the rights of access to housing, health care services, sufficient food and water and social security.  These rights are however subject to an internal limitation clause that provides that ‘(t)he state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights’.

Budget monitoring in the early years of South Africa’s democracy was a strength within civil society.  Both gender and children’s budget monitoring was strong, and a number of CSOs provided practical training and advocacy for other issue specific NGOs, such as the Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa’s (IDASA) Budget Information Service and Children’s Budget Unit; the People’s Budget Campaign of the South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), as well as the group of CSOs of the Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF).  This skill has sadly been severely weakened as skilled people have left the sector, and some of the institutions themselves have closed due to, inter alia, issues of sustainability.  The impact of this is that there is no longer an enabling organization that seeks to co-ordinate a progressive civil society voice, and there has been a very real depletion of skills and people able to provide the necessary training to new entrants in to civil society in South Africa on budget monitoring.


SPII was invited as a key Respondent to one of the first Consultative process organised by the Standing Committee on Appropriations following the tabling of the national Budget in February this year.  SPII is active in promoting broader participation in the budgeting process which is supported by our analysis as part of our Socio-Economic Rights Monitoring Project.



This factsheet examines the enjoyment of economic and social rights in South Africa, ahead of the country’s first appearance before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in October 2018. Specifically, it uses indicators based on national and international data sources to explore whether the South African government is fulfilling its obligations under Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to take steps to progressively realise these rights using the “maximum of its available resources.”