David Bilchitz, a human rights and constitutional law Professor and Director of 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 selected as one of this year’s (2015) ten new members to join the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).
SAYAS, with 20 founding members, was launched by the Department of Science and Technology and the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2011, with the aim to nurture the development of top emerging young academics and unlocking their collective potential to tackle national and global problems.
Prof Biltchitz was promoted to full professor in 2012 at the age of 37, only two years after joining UJ. He was one of the youngest academics to be appointed in the University’s Faculty of Law. In 2012, he was awarded a “B” rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and so became the youngest individual in the Faculty of Law ever to have received such a rating. This was the result of the prolific publication record Prof Bilchitz had built up, particularly since he joined academia. He is currently one of the top performing researchers in the Faculty of Law, and by far the top performer amongst his peers of similar age.
Prof Bilchitz has one monograph (published with Oxford University Press) and two co-edited volumes (one published by Cambridge University Press and one by Pretoria University Law Press). The co-edited volume published by Cambridge University Press was launched at the United Nations Library.
He has published ten book chapters, 26 journal articles in journals accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training, and eight publications that are not accredited The 26 journal articles accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training were mostly published in journals appearing on international indices (ISI and IBSS). He also published in leading journals such as the International Journal of Constitutional Law, and the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal.
He was appointed as a Director of SAIFAC at age 34. SAIFAC is one of the leading research centres in South Africa on Constitutional Law.
Prof Bilchitz is currently Secretary-General of the International Association of Constitutional Law, having been elected to this position at the World Congress of the IACL in Oslo in June 2014, after serving as Acting Secretary-General from April 2013-June 2014.
Prof Bilchitz’s academic work focuses on the critical role that law plays in entrenching and consolidating the constitutional democratic project. As such, his works engage with areas that are of societal importance and can thus contribute towards local, regional and international research and development agendas. His work on socio-economic rights is at the heart of debates concerning how to establish a just social order both nationally and internationally. His work on business and human rights is at the cutting edge of legal discourse. He advocates a treaty in this area which provides both regional and international opportunities for collaboration. Much of his work offers the potential for collaboration with other disciplines, helping to break the barrier between law and other fields.
Prof Bilchitz’s contribution to society goes beyond his written work. He is a committed activist working towards social reform with his involvement in feminist and gay rights, as well as poverty and animal rights issues. In 2006, he was one of the key drivers in the campaign for civil marriage for same-sex couples in South Africa and acted as legal advisor to the Joint Working Group (a coalition of 17 lesbian and gay organisations). He has also campaigned for shelters for the homeless, taught literacy and numeracy skills to street children, and been involved in the campaign to prevent the culling of elephants.