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Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Examiners applaud ‘an exceptional’ PhD

Shane, supervisor Jeremy Farrall, and ‘Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law’

Shane, supervisor Jeremy Farrall, and ‘Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law’

Regarding Rights is thrilled to announce that Shane Chalmers’s PhD has been approved. Shane is a popular RR contributor (see his posts, ‘The Living Dead’ and ‘The “call and answer” of the Universal Periodic Review’), and the introduction to his thesis, Law’s Rule: Liberia and the Rule of Law appeared earlier this year in the post, ‘Being detained: Prelude to a thesis on Liberia and the rule of law’.

Shane’s examiners described his thesis as both a pleasure to read and ‘a truly interdisciplinary work of scholarship’. Peter Rush commented:

This is an exceptional thesis….Its contribution is not only to the study of the discourses and institutions of the rule of law in Liberia, but also to contemporary theories of law’s rule, of legal pluralism, and of post-conflict studies, as well as to the jurisprudence of law. Its facility with the existing debates in these fields, as well as the politics of rule of law debates in international law and in Liberia, is nothing less than remarkable.

Shane is currently undertaking an Australian Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellowship on ‘The Rule of Law in Transition’. The Fellowship is hosted by the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Spain, and Shane plans to spend his time transforming his thesis into a book. Enjoy your time at Oñati Shane – and congratulations on a wonderful PhD result!

Masterclass on investment treaties

StopTheTPPsurfboard%20flickr%20attribute%20to%20SumOfUsCIGJ Associate Professor, Anthea Roberts, held a masterclass recently on the global Investment Treaty System that has emerged since the 1990s.

Based on thousands of bilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements, the system has also seen hundreds of investor-state arbitrations. These arbitrations, in which private corporations can take states to arbitration under the terms of state-based investment treaties, have been hugely controversial. In some cases, investors have been awarded large damages – in one case the Czech Republic was required to pay a sum equivalent to its annual health budget.

Originally promoted as a way of encouraging foreign direct investment in states, whether the system actually has any impact on business investment decisions is now unclear. Also troubling is evidence that poor or weaker states have entered treaties that contain ‘investor-state dispute settlement clauses’ – allowing private companies to sue states – with little understanding of the liability implications.

While wealthy states have also found themselves drawn into costly arbitrations, including the case brought by the tobacco company, Philip Morris, against Australia, these states are now drafting investment treaty obligations more carefully and narrowly, attempting to achieve a better balance between investor protection and state sovereignty. However, many older style investment treaties remain in effect, causing risks for treaty parties.

Following Anthea’s masterclass, RegNet visitor Richard Braddock gave a seminar on recent developments in investment agreements, discussing how governments are attempting to exercise greater control over the terms of the agreements and the resolution of investor-state disputes.

Regarding Rights will publish a post based on Anthea’s masterclass in coming weeks.

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Being Detained: Prelude to a thesis on Liberia and the rule of law

By Shane Chalmers*

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

‘Nimba County Prison Inmates, Liberia’ (photo: United Nations/Christopher Herwig)

‘Nimba County Prison Inmates, Liberia’ (photo: United Nations/Christopher Herwig)

The Training and Development Officer from the Corrections Advisory Unit of the United Nations Mission in Liberia is standing outside the prison gate, her white skin marking her out as much as her blue UN insignia. I have crossed this street innumerable times before but have never noticed the ‘corrections facility’. Its towering perimeter wall blends into the Ministry of Defence and military barracks that run alongside, but even these do not stand out in Monrovia; this could have been any other international NGO compound. The urban streetscape of Liberia’s capital city is dominated by walls topped with razor wire and patrolled by private security guards. Continue Reading →

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Centre for International Governance & Justice: News & Events

John's blogIntroducing the Braithwaite Blog

John Braithwaite – RegNet founder, champion of restorative justice, and leader of the epic ‘Peacebuilding Compared’ project, has established a new blog on war, crime, and regulation. In his introduction to the blog, John explains how overcoming domination in our world has been a central focus of his work, and the connections between war, crime, and regulation:

War and crime are among the most severe forms of domination that exist. They are both phenomena that cascade from hot spot to hot spot, and they often cascade into each other. Yet the prevention of war makes a significant contribution to the prevention of crime and the prevention of crime contributes to the prevention of war.

[My] work contributes to our understanding of how good governance might reduce the amount of domination in the world – an idea that has been around since the time of the ancient Roman Republic. One way to resist domination is through exposing the connections between unjust inequality, crime and war. Peace based on a continuation of domination, or peace without justice, is rarely sustainable…Read more here.

John’s first post discusses the report produced by Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence released on 30th March. The Commission was chaired by former Judge of the Victorian Supreme Court, Marcia Neave and is, in John’s view, ‘a stupendously impressive piece of social policy’.

Congratulations Shane

Shane, Jeremy, and ‘Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law’

Shane, Jeremy, and ‘Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law’

We are thrilled to congratulate RegNet PhD scholar and Regarding Rights contributor, Shane Chalmers, on the submission of his PhD earlier this month. Shane’s thesis was supervised by Jeremy Farrall and is titled, ‘Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law’. Shane’s research, he says, involved:

asking the question, what takes place in the rule of law?, and more specifically, what is taking place in the rule of law in Liberia? [Through this question] the thesis undertakes a study of the life of law’s rule in a country that is on the frontline of the global spread of powerful ideologies. With Theodor Adorno’s negative-dialectical philosophy as intellectual guide, and based on fieldwork carried out in Liberia and the United States, my thesis examines how these ideologies – above all capitalism – inform the rule of law, and how the rule of law provides a medium for them to take place.

Shane has promised Regarding Rights another blog when he has had a chance to recover from the rigours of finishing his thesis, so we are looking forward to learning more about this fascinating research!

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The Living Dead — An Independence Framework

By Shane Chalmers*

Centre for International Governance & Justice, RegNet, ANU

‘Untitled, 1960’ (Photograph: Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, published by The Guardian)

‘Untitled, 1960’ (Photograph: Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, published by The Guardian)

This studio portrait was taken in 1960 by the Beninese photographer Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, within months of Benin gaining independence from France. What is remarkable about the photograph is its critical-representational style, that is, its self-conscious use of the representational framework of the art form to create the art work.

The art form is studio photography, which in its traditional mode was developed to create an idealised image. The result is supposed to be a representation, of the family for instance, that one can hang in the entrance of the home as a reminder of its real nature; thus the reality of family life is the one on display in the photograph and not the dysfunctional one on display in everyday life.[1] In this way, the traditional mode of studio photography uses the representational framework uncritically to create a fantasy portrayed as reality. Continue Reading →

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The ‘call and answer’ of the Universal Periodic Review. Against ‘ritualism’?

By Shane Chalmers

Regulatory Institutions Network, ANU

AHRC Australia's Universal Periodic Review 2012

AHRC Australia’s Universal Periodic Review 2012

The following piece draws on the work of two scholars: Jane Cowan’s paper on ‘an anthropology of the UPR’ presented at the Centre for International Governance and Justice’s Workshop on Rights, Ritual and Ritualism: The Universal Periodic Review at the Australian National University, Canberra, 13–14 December 2012; and Desmond Manderson’s book Kangaroo Courts and the Rule of Law (Routledge, 2012). Where these two scholars meet here is in the notion of ‘call and answer’ (to use Manderson’s phrase) — in the contention of many voices resounding inharmoniously — in the ritual dialogue of the international human rights Universal Periodic Review process.

In what briefly follows I reflect on how the United Nations’ human rights Universal Periodic Review (UPR) might represent a form of ‘regulatory ritual’ that denies, by its very form, the calcifying effect of ‘ritualism’. Before I turn to the UPR itself, however, first a few words on how I understand the terms ‘ritual’ and ‘ritualism’—two concepts employed by Professor Hilary Charlesworth in relation to human rights through her project ‘Strengthening the International Human Rights System’.

Continue Reading →