Who we are

Developmental, Capable and Ethical State

Who we are

The HSRC’s Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES) division provides research, implementation and advocacy support to build a capable, ethical and developmental state, as well as strengthen social cohesion, and create safe, inclusive and resilient communities in South Africa and on the continent. Knowledge gained through this DCES’s work contributes to more sustainable peace-building and strengthens participatory democracy, enabling better accountability and citizenship where people are at the centre of governance, and socio-economic and environmental rights are promoted and protected. The division’s work is informed by Agenda 2063 of the African Union, which seeks to establish peace, security and integration on the continent, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals and South Africa’s National Development Plan.

What we do

Sustainable Human Security

South Africa is a key player in the quest for peace and sustainable security on the continent and globally. It occupies this position as the world faces climate change, environmental crises, food insecurity, pandemics, energy and water shortages, as well as the changing nature of employment, which all affect sustainable development. South Africa’s own challenges also include high crime rates, gender-based violence, inequality, poor service delivery and poor governance. The DCES’s peace and sustainable security unit provides insight into these challenges and highlights more effective response options. Researchers also look at social protection measures to address human and social vulnerabilities, including the planned National Health Insurance system, a transformative health-financing intervention to address social injustices due to limited and inequitable access to quality health services. Research themes include economic and political security; climate change; food, water and energy security; migration, violence and social protection, with a particular focus on generating knowledge that informs policy, programmes and practice.

Democracy, governance and citizenship

South Africa must confront the problem of a lack of trust in leadership, slow progress towards service delivery and socioeconomic rights, and persistent, historical exclusions. The DCES division’s democracy, governance and citizenship unit works with government, oversight bodies and civil society to improve and strengthen participatory democracy through research and implementation support, advocating for the adoption of a values-based approach to development, with a focus on developmental local government and accountable leadership. It views the interface between governance, leadership and citizenship as a nexus for policy-relevant and impactful research. Research themes include electoral research; social cohesion and citizenship; local governance; and democracy and constitutionalism.

View the Post Zondo Future of Democracy Report

BRICS research centre

Work by the DCES’s BRICS research centre strategically links the peace and sustainable security and democracy unit and the governance and citizenship programme through addressing critical issues of economic growth and development; peace, security and international relations; social justice; sustainable development and quality of life; political and economic governance; and knowledge and innovation. This includes research collaborations with BRICS member states, governments, the private sector and civil society stakeholders. Research themes include BRICS and multilateralism, South-South relations, sustainability and governance, and the right to development.

The role of traditional food systems in rapid urbanisation

The global population is increasingly urbanised, with Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing the fastest rate of urban population growth. South Africa is a centre for regional migration, with Johannesburg the destination for the largest proportion of both within-country and international migrants. Urban populations are dependent on markets for food, hence it is essential that access to affordable, acceptable and nutritious food through markets is prioritised by cities. This project will focus on two migrant groups in Johannesburg – South Africa; rural to urban migrants and international regional migrants. By identifying the drivers of food choice in these urban migrant populations around traditional African vegetables and fruits and the barriers to their consumption, this project will generate knowledge that can be used in urban planning and development to help tackle the problem of urban food insecurity and malnutrition. Read more about the project.

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Developmental, Capable and Ethical State

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