The rights-based implications of the privatisation of public space in cities of the South

Room F
Monday, 31 August 2015
17.15 – 19.00
human rights, public space

Public space is key in allowing people to appropriate, inhabit and participate in a city and its processes. Without public space, a city becomes overwhelmed by a network of private property, in which space is commoditised and characterised more by its exchange value than its usage value. In this regard, much has been written about how the privatisation of public space infringes the right to the city. In this paper, I aim to take this further, by looking at how the privatisation of public space infringes justiciable rights. This allows the right to the city to find concrete application within the institutional framework of domestic constitutional law as enforced by the judiciary. The courts, in other words, become the forums in which competing claims to the right to the city are facilitated and haggled over in terms of a bill of rights which, through a process of negotiation, has gained legitimacy among groups with different interests and agendas. I then look at how the privatisation of public space has very real and direct implications on the rights of those marginalised by such spaces. This is done against the backdrop of a history of spatial apartheid, as well as within the contemporary context of emerging, globally-competitive cities in developing countries.

Thomas Coggin
University of the Witwatersrand
South Africa
thomas.coggin [at]

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