Vision and Mission

Since 1929, the Institute of Race Relations has advocated for a free, fair, and prospering South Africa. At the heart of this vision lie the fundamental principles of liberty of the individual and equality before the law guaranteeing the freedom of all citizens. The IRR stands for the right of all people to make decisions about their lives without undue political or bureaucratic interference.

Towards a free, fair and prosperous South Africa

The IRR has a unique track record of using rigorous analysis, face-to-face lobbying, and media exposure to convince politicians, government officials, and business leaders to adopt policies that safeguard the liberty of the individual and equality before the law, and reject every measure that stands to undermine them.

In the long, hard years of oppression, the IRR emerged as the most courageous and influential anti-apartheid think tank in the world. In the period since, the same ideas that served it well for so much of the 20th century continue to inspire its work in promoting every measure and policy reform that will be necessary to make a free, fair and prospering South Africa a meaningful reality for all its citizens.

Read below to learn about the IRR’s values, strategy, initiatives, and research & publications.

The IRR’s core values

At the IRR, we unapologetically ground all our work in the ideology of classical liberalism – an effective way to defeat poverty and tyranny through a system of limited government, a market economy, private enterprise, freedom of speech, individual liberty, property rights, and the rule of law.

We approach socio-economic problems and solutions from the point of departure that the freedom of the individual within every community is fundamental. Classical liberals seek to affirm and promote the humanity and dignity of every individual. Holding the humanity and dignity of the individual to be non-negotiable commits classical liberals to non-racialism.

As classical liberals, we champion the right of all people to make their own decisions to live a fulfilling life. It is this right to have more say over one’s own life that makes classical liberals advocates for the freedom of expression and belief, freedom of association, and freedom of labour and enterprise of all people.

These freedoms are, however, not unlimited or free of obligations. They are subject to the limitation that no individual, in exercising his or her freedoms, has the right to encroach on the freedoms of others. Dedication to this principle of mutual assurance and protection of individual freedoms makes classical liberals firm believers in the rule of law.

The rule of law ensures that just and properly adopted laws apply to all people equally and mandates the state to enforce the law in defence of the freedoms of individuals. This mandate of the state, however, must be limited. Whilst the precise limitations on the power of the state can vary from country to country and community to community, classical liberals are committed to ensuring that the state is equipped to act in defence of individual freedoms while remaining limited in extent and accountable to those whose interests it defends.

This accountability manifests most significantly in the South African Constitution of 1996 that establishes democratic elections as the only means by which state power can be justly gained. Crucially, however, the Constitution also limits the power of government and guards against majoritarianism, by entrenching fundamental rights against simple majority rule. Some rights are so key to human dignity and individual freedom, that a simple majority mandate cannot see them diluted. The Constitution therefore establishes a framework whereby the individual holds fundamental freedoms, but no freedom to unjustly inhibit the freedoms of others – the state acting as guarantor. Their commitment to this guarantor rule of the state motivates South African classical liberals to be advocates for constitutional democracy and free and fair elections: the means by which the state can justly gain from the citizenry a limited mandate to act in proportional defence of individual freedoms.