David Bilchitz, a Professor and Director at the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC), a leading South African research centre within the Faculty of Law at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), has been elected to the position of Secretary-General of the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL).
The overriding objective of IACL, which has a longstanding relationship with SAIFAC, is to provide a forum where constitutionalists from all parts of the world can network and understand each other’s systems, explain and reflect on their own, and engage in fruitful comparison, for a variety of purposes.
The Secretary-General, one of the most important positions in the Association, and an internationally respected academic in the field of constitutional law, is responsible for ensuring the efficient organisation and running of the Association i.e. efficient administration of its activities.
Prof Bilchitz has previously been the African Regional Co-ordinator of the IACL project on Socio-Economic rights, and has to this end organised and functioned as a constitutional expert in two workshops held for legal profession in Kenya on socio-economic rights provisions in the new Constitution in light of comparative constitutional law. He also supervised a joint project and research with the Socio-Economic Rights Institute on possible litigation relating to the right to food.
Prof Bilchitz holds a BA (Hons) LLB cum laude from Wits University. In 2001, he graduated with an MPhil in Philosophy from St John’s College, University of Cambridge and with a PhD in law (and political philosophy) from the same university in 2004.
He worked as law clerk to Chief Justice Langa of the Constitutional Court in 2000 (who was then Deputy Judge-President). From August 2004 until 2006, he worked at Ross Kriel Attorneys, a law firm dealing with public sector law. He was also a Senior Research Associate at the University of Pretoria, where he lectured on the LLM programme and worked in the PhD programme, and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he lectured jurisprudence for five years.
Prof Bilchitz is widely published in a range of fields relating to fundamental rights including proportionality and fundamental rights, socio-economic rights, business and human rights, gay and lesbian rights, religious rights and animal rights. He has also presented at numerous conferences both in South Africa and internationally.
As a committed activist working towards social reform with his involvement in feminist, gay rights, poverty and animal rights issues, Prof Bilchitz was one of the key drivers in the campaign for civil marriage for same-sex couples in South Africa and acted as legal adviser to the Joint Working Group, a coalition of 17 lesbian and gay organisations, in 2006. He also campaigned for shelters for the homeless, taught literacy and numeracy skills to street children, and was involved in a campaign to prevent the culling of elephants.