Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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Civil Society Resistance in Liberal Democracies in a Time of Rising Non-Accountability

By Cynthia Banham*

School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, and RegNet, ANU

No way

Political accountability, we are taught to believe, is a defining feature of liberal democracies. A basic relationship of accountability lies at the heart of democratic government: citizens elect their political representatives, and these representatives become accountable to voters. Yet political accountability, as we have traditionally understood it to exist in liberal democracy, is under stress.

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Brazil is in crisis. And once again, the poorest will bear the burden

A protester in Brasilia. The banner reads ‘Out Temer! Out everyone!’ Photograph: The Guardian/Adriano Machado/Reuters

A protester in Brasilia. The banner reads ‘Out Temer! Out everyone!’ Photograph: The Guardian/Adriano Machado/Reuters

As Brazil faces its worst economic crisis in decades, its government is taking steps to constitutionally enshrine a 20 year austerity plan that will freeze public spending at 2016 levels until 2037. Former CIGJ Visiting PhD scholar, Mariana Prandini Assis has written an article for The Guardian decrying the precedent the policy sets in South America, and the burden it will impose on the poor in what is already one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Transitional Justice and Civil Society in Asia and the Pacific

In September, CIGJ’s Lia Kent co-hosted with the Bell School’s Joanne Wallis a two-day workshop at ANU on ‘Transitional Justice and Civil Society in Asia and the Pacific’. Among the workshop’s international visitors were Associate Professors Vasuki Nesiah, from New York University, and Jelena Subotic, from Georgia State University. As well as their contributions to the workshop, each gave a public lecture – Vasuki on ‘Commissioning Civil Society’ and Jelena on ‘The Evolution of International Transitional Justice Advocacy’.

Civil Society Asia PacificThe workshop was part of a broader project (also involving Griffith University’s Professor Renee Jeffery) that looks beyond state based approaches to examine the politics of reconciliation in Asia and the Pacific. In their introduction to the workshop, Joanne and Lia noted that the Pacific tends to be left out of global transitional justice debates, perhaps because of the paucity of formal state-led transitional justice mechanisms in the region.

Joanne and Lia suggested a focus on Asia and the Pacific would enrich the existing scholarship, especially given what is distinctive about the region. This includes the central role of customary actors and institutions in resolving conflict; and understandings of civil society that diverge from common accounts in western scholarship and that question whether civil society is a distinct sphere separate from the State. The significance of faith-based actors and organisations in Asia Pacific is also distinctive, challenging the secular focus of much transitional justice scholarship.

In his concluding remarks, RegNet’s Professor John Braithwaite emphasised the issues associated with the professionalisation and commodification of civil society organisations, particularly where non-government organisations come to see themselves as businesses beholden to key performance indicators. John contrasted this process to mass mobilisations that – as theorised by Theda Skocpol – build social capital through the involvement of many actively contributing individuals.

Duterte deliberative symposium a great success

By Jayson Lamchek

Duterte - Beyond FacebookThe symposium ‘Let’s talk: Duterte beyond Facebook’ was co-sponsored by the CIGJ with the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra and ANU’s Filipino Association. It brought together individuals with different views about the Philippine government’s War on Drugs to engage with each other and Philippine-based human rights advocates. Participants came mainly from the Filipino community in Canberra, but some also travelled from Sydney, and a representative of Migrante-Australia came from Wondonga, Victoria. The Philippine Embassy as well as the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also sent delegations to observe the event.

 Participants engaged in workshops that drew out their underlying reasons for supporting, opposing, or feeling neutral about the War on Drugs. Very few said they felt neutral; the audience was almost evenly split between supporters and opponents. Those who supported Duterte’s efforts in the War on Drugs nevertheless said that protests should be welcomed. Some supporters expressed their view that the police are already adhering to strict rules of engagement in the arrest of drug suspects. During the discussion with guests from the Philippines, a relative of a victim, Mikas Matsuzawa, gave an account of the police operation that killed his uncle to illustrate how police violate rules. The Chairperson of the country’s Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, noted that police investigations into wrongful killings have not resulted in any cases being filed in court.

After the symposium, many participants described the community dialogue as a model of respectful interaction and commented that such interaction is sorely absent in social media. Organisers were approached by a number of the participants keen to participate in follow-up activities and to support the campaign to stop the killings in the Philippines.

The event was livestreamed on Facebook and was viewed by more than 1,000 people. Watch the recording online here.

End of Year Good Wishes

Regarding Rights wishes all our readers a happy and peaceful end of the year, and joy in the year ahead.

 


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Rethinking the International Criminal Justice Project in the Global South

By Michelle Burgis-Kasthala*

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

ICC in Ivory Coast in 2013. Image: BBC News

ICC in Ivory Coast in 2013. Image: BBC News

Concerns about the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) continuing relevance in Africa following exit announcements by Burundi, South Africa, and Gambia are widespread. But the picture across the continent is more complex. While some African states have clearly rejected the Court, the majority remain members. How can we explain the fracturing of the Court’s support in Africa? More fundamentally – what is the best way of studying international criminal justice and its effects in the Global South – whether in Africa or elsewhere?

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The role of civil society in Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review

By Kirsty Anantharajah

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

Sri Lankan civil war. Image: Andy Freifeld/Pinterest

Sri Lankan civil war. Image: Andy Freifeld/Pinterest

Sri Lanka’s game playing at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) during its first two reviews in 2008 and 2012 tested the ability of this human rights mechanism to achieve its aims and maintain the integrity of its principles, including objectivity and transparency. This post explores how the proactive participation of civil society pushed back against the rights ritualism displayed by the Sri Lankan state at the UPR.[i]

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Wonderful news for Ciara

ciara vivaRegarding Rights contributor and former CIGJ Visiting PhD scholar, Ciara O’Connell has successfully defended her doctoral thesis in a viva held at the University of Sussex School of Law, Politics and Sociology on 16th November. We are delighted to congratulate Ciara on this very significant milestone, and to report that she actually found the experience rewarding and empowering!

Ciara’s PhD examined the role of women’s reproductive rights in redressing gender-based harm in the Inter-American human rights system. Read Ciara’s Regarding Rights post, discussing aspects of her doctoral research here, and some of her other academic work here.

Duterte beyond Facebook

Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ is polarising political debate in the Philippines and beyond. Tomorrow (Saturday 3rd December), ANU will host a public deliberative forum designed to transcend the acrimony that Duterte’s policies have spawned on social media. The forum will encourage deeper reflection and respectful discussion about what is at stake. Sponsors include the CIGJ, the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra, and ANU’s Filipino Association.

Duterte - Beyond Facebook