Alan Wallis

Information, expression and accountability programme manager, Open Society Foundation

‘We are fortunate to have functional levers for accountability in South Africa,” says human rights lawyer Alan Wallis. “Things could be worse, but they could be better.” Wallis holds an LLB from the University of Cape Town, and an LLM from the University of Michigan. After growing up in South Africa, Namibia, Armenia and the UK, he had his heart set on studying something related to the environment, but settled on law because it “involves building skills and ways of thinking that would be useful in a variety of contexts.”

Wallis has played an active role in South African civil society for a number of years. After clerking at the Constitutional Court, he worked as a project lawyer in the International Criminal Justice Programme at the South African Litigation Centre. Inspired by the law’s unique ability to find itself in the most unlikely, yet appropriate, settings, He is currently the manager of the information, expression and accountability programme at the Open Society Foundation (OSF-SA).

As a passionate advocate for human rights who has previously worked in the nongovernmental organisation sector himself, Wallis currently performs a key behind-the-scenes role in providing fundamental support to civil society organisations working to make South Africa’s constitutional rights a reality. “Working in a donor allows for a bird’s eye view of the phenomenal work South African civil society does,” says Wallis. “It is a sector that is often wholly dependent on philanthropic support. This support, must be appreciative of and familiar with South Africa’s unique socio-political landscape and the challenges facing the sector.”

His message to young people? “Remember that you don’t need to be a lawyer to promote human rights. Human rights and social justice need to feature more prominently outside of the courtroom.”

— Aaisha Dadi Patel