We welcome readers to this issue which includes a continuation of the Baxi Festschrift, a Special Feature on International Development Law on Human Rights of Warwick Law School and two General Articles.
The Baxi Festschrift Continues!
We continue the celebration of the lifework of Upen Baxi with two contributions to the Baxi Festschrift Volume. The volume now stands at an impressive 22 articles from eminent scholars. At the recent Warwick International Development Law and Human Rights Conference, Professor Baxi was presented with a printed volume of the Festschrift signed by many colleagues, students and friends.
In the substantial paper on If God were a Human Rights Activist, Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos addresses religious identity politics in terms of his own intellectual commitment to subaltern activism:
In the logic of this paper, if God were a human rights activist, He or She would definitely be pursuing a counter-hegemonic conception of human rights and a practice fully coherent with it. In so doing, this God would sooner or later confront the God invoked by the oppressors and would find no affinity with this other God. In other words, He or She would come to the conclusion that the God of the subalterns cannot but be a subaltern God. The logical consequence of such a conclusion would be rather illogical from a human point of view, at least as regards the monotheistic religions that provided the background of my inquiry: a monotheistic God making a plea for polytheism as the only solution, if the invocation of God in social and political struggles for progressive social transformation is not to lead to perverse results. The subaltern’s God idea would be that only polytheism allows for an unequivocal answer to the crucial question: which side are you on? I recognise that a monotheistic God pleading for a polytheistic set of Gods and thus for His or Her own sacrificial suicide for the sake of humankind is a complete absurdity. But I wonder if the role of most theologies has not been to prevent us to from confronting this absurdity and drawing the conclusions therefrom. As if the logos of God has been all along a human exercise to prevent God from speaking Her or His plurality.
This raises some most interesting points of debate about the way monotheisms and polytheisms deal with plurality involved in social struggles. We welcome readers’ opinions!
The second contribution to the Baxi Festschrift is by Dr. Ayesha Shahid on Women Domestic Workers in Pakistan. It attempts to deconstruct the role of law in empowering women domestic workers by exploring the relationship between law, gender and empowerment in a plural legal society. It suggests that only through activist social justice organisations can women achieve effective access to justice in the formal and informal systems.
The International Development Law and Human Rights Special Feature
A second highlight of this issue is the feature on Warwick’s International Development Law and Human Rights programme. Warwick’s focus on global social justice has attracted eminent scholars as well as students in LLM and PhD programmes. This issue features the work of students who developed their ideas in dissertations for the LLM programme, students who are now all contributing to the wider struggle for global social justice.
Goulet argues that adopting the concept of food sovereignty can help the state reassert its role as the defender of its citizen’s right to food. It can counter neo-liberal policies on agriculture which have made it increasingly difficult for the state to fulfil its primary obligation to ensure the realisation of the right to food as provided for under international human rights law.
Wan’s article on the Congo Basin Forest Partnership explores the multiple and novel governance structures involved in the Congo Basin Rainforest and the innovative Partnership between international organisations, global and regional NGOs, states and commercial organisations to provide sustainable development for one of the world’s great rainforests. The paper suggests that global forces ‘from above’ have historically dominated and excluded local interests ‘below,’ and urges this to be articulated as an injustice rather than an unsustainable development.
Silungwe’s critique of Malawi’s proposed Land Tenure Reform Development, suggests that Malawi is too readily attempting to follow a policy of individualising customary land as a way of creating a formal land market and integrating the economy into the global market. It may perpetuate landlessness of the ‘poor’. He suggests the creation of a trust over all land in a traditional land management area with a traditional authority as the public trustee of his or her community with microfinance initiatives to complement customary land tenure.
Verdier-Stott’s article on Mainstreaming Fair Trade asks whether as fair trade moves from a small ‘alternative’ niche market to the mainstream, does it risk losing its very raison d’être by conforming to conventional market practice? It suggests that such ‘mainstreaming’ does not automatically imply an undermining of fair trade values in comparison to purist positions which reject growth and considers the effectiveness of actor practices and regulation in ensuring appropriate development of fair trade.
Alessandrini provides an incisive critique of the ‘development promise’ of the Doha Round of WTO negotiations and argues that GATT and the WTO have contributed to the creation, consolidation and transformation of a development apparatus that links forms of knowledge about the so—called Third World with forms of power and intervention which constitute a permanent ‘civilising mission’. The normative assumptions involved, and especially the market-access mindset which becomes the basis for the ‘science of development’ , provide the basis for activist critique and challenges.
Hasan’s article on Biodiversity and Tourism on St Martin’s Island in Bangladesh reviews the relationship between biodiversity, eco-tourism and local livelihoods and suggests that the preservation of biodiversity requires a range of measures which integrate legal regulation with scientific research and tourism and bio-diversity policy.
The theme linking these otherwise diverse articles is a concern for global social justice with a perspective which is on the one hand critical of ‘neo-liberal’ global strategies as translated into national and local ones and on the other suggestive and supportive of pluralist but people based responses whether it is in terms of a critique of the WTO ‘civilising mission’ (Alessandrini), of marketisation of customary land (Silungwe), or of religious oppression (Santos). Yet in place of Nietzsche’s superman, we live in interesting times when God or Gods may take her/his/their place as human rights activists.