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Matthew Hamilton Evans


University of York


October 2013

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Transitional justice mechanisms have largely focused upon individual violations of a

narrow set of civil and political rights and the provision of legal and quasi-legal

remedies, typically truth commissions, amnesties and prosecutions. In contrast, this

thesis highlights the significance of structural violence in producing and reproducing

violations of socio-economic rights. The thesis argues that there is a need to utilise a

different toolkit, and a different understanding of human rights, to that typically

employed in transitional justice in order to remedy structural violations of human

rights such as these. A critique of the scope of existing models of transitional justice

is put forward and the thesis sets out a definition of transformative justice as

expanding upon and providing an alternative to the transitional justice mechanisms

typically employed in post-conflict and post-authoritarian contexts.

Focusing on a case study of a network of social movements,

nongovernmental organisations and trade unions working on land and housing rights

in South Africa, the thesis asks whether networks of this kind can advance

transformative justice. In answering this question the thesis draws upon the idea of

political responsibility as a means of analysing and assessing network action. The

existing literature on political responsibilities and transnational advocacy networks is

interrogated and adapted to the largely domestic case study network.

Based on empirical research on the case study network and an analysis of its

political responsibilities the thesis finds that networks of this kind can contribute to

transformative justice. They do this by providing space in which affected

communities articulate their concerns over socio-economic rights issues. Providing a

means by which existing structures and practices may be contested contributes to

processes of transformative justice. However, based on the case study it is not certain

that network action of this kind will necessarily lead to transformative outcomes.

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III: Interrogating assumptions from the literature

The themes identified in the earlier literature review chapters bring to light a number

of assumptions which it is necessary to interrogate in regard to the case study

network. There is the suggestion that domestic networks can be analysed in the same

terms and are likely to display the same features as transnational networks. There is a

suggestion that NGOs (especially Northern NGOs) are the key actors in human

rights networks and that human rights networks are analytically distinct from those

addressing other issues such as labour networks. None of these assumptions are

wholly confirmed by exploration of the case study network.

(a) Boomerangs and spirals

The boomerang effect and the spiral process have been identified as key tools

utilised by advocacy networks. Both these processes require significant transnational

elements to the network. Significant transnational elements are not evident in the

case study network. Moreover, neither process is

repertoire of action. Severe limits on the capacity and resources of actors within the

network (discussed in more detail in the next chapter) exclude the use of these tools

from the realm of possibility. Additionally, the (few) transnational connections in the

case study network are not in any significant way based upon the mobilisation of

constituencies of support into the sort of action the boomerang effect and spiral

process require.

In the case study network there are relatively few NGOs. Far more numerous

Alliance, which is identified as a key cluster in the network, does not contain any

actors other than social movements. Where NGOs are present in the network they are

not always key elements. On the one hand ILRIG is an important hub node in the

Housing Assembly and the NGO elements of the SDI-associated cluster are central

to its structures. On the other hand, NGOs such as SERI and the Legal Resources

Centre (LRC) are less integrated into the network with long term strong ties than

other actors, and other NGOs, such as Planact, are not strongly connected to most of

the network. Moreover, international (especially Northern) NGOs are almost entirely

absent from the network. Where there are connections to such actors, these have

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been described as funding relationships rather than as being based on participation in

(b) Framing, expertise and venue shopping

In the case study network the various characteristics and positions of network nodes

are utilised in the action taken by the network. For instance, the legal expertise of

nodes such as SERI and the LRC are at times utilised by social movements within

the network whereas at others the industrial relations mandate of the trade unions in

the network is utilised.

Whilst actors within the network make use of their

relationships with one another to leverage resources (in the form of expertise as well

as financial resources for instance), which is in line with descriptions of transnational

networked action in the literature, wider strategies surrounding the mobilisation of

disparate transnational constituencies of support and harnessing pressure from states

or powerful international actors remain absent.

There is some evidence that actors in the case study network do make use of

venue shopping to some extent. Translation of issues into a variety of different

frames is also evident. For instance, some of the actors in the case study network are

explicitly rights based in their framing of issues they work on, whilst most are not.

However, strategies which are utilised by the network include framing land and

housing rights issues in terms of labour and industrial relations, political

emancipation and, in some cases, in terms of rights (including legally defined rights).

The network as a whole does not frame the issues of land and housing rights in a

consistent or uniform manner. Rather, the elements within the network put forward

their own analyses and understandings which, where there is a degree of

compatibility, facilitate the forging of relationships. Moreover, as mentioned above,

actors in the network engage in venue shopping, for instance framing anti-eviction

action in terms of legally codified rights when pursuing court cases and in terms of

political emancipation and ongoing resistance to the effects of apartheid in other



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E.g. Twalo, personal interview; Tissington, personal interview.

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