Promoting Environmental Justice through Civil-Based Instruments in South Africa


Michelle Toxopeüs
Legal Researcher,
Helen Suzman Foundation,
South Africa


Louis J. Kotzé
Research Professor of Law,
Faculty of Law,
North-West University,
South Africa


Achieving environmental justice in South Africa is critically important, not only because of historical reasons rooted in the country’s apartheid past, but also to ensure that everyone in the country, especially marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society, are properly protected from disproportional environmental impacts. Another aim of environmental justice in South Africa is to ensure that everyone equally shares in the benefits of the country’s resources. In this article, we interrogate ways through which to achieve environmental justice in South Africa through the use of civil-based instruments (CBIs) of environmental governance. The central hypothesis is that CBIs are particularly well-suited to contribute to the achievement of environmental justice since they are essentially instruments which empower civil society to become central stakeholders in environmental governance by fostering active participation in the decisions that may impact on the environment and people’s health and well-being. Through these instruments all of society, particularly disenfranchised people suffering most from environmental injustice, are afforded a platform to pursue their environment-related interests that may be affected by the decisions taken by government and private actors such as polluting companies. For the purpose of the discussion we focus specifically on public participation, access to information and access to justice, all of which are generally accepted as CBIs, including in international law.


Access to information, access to justice, civil-based instruments, environmental justice, public participation.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893