Wednesday, November 9

10:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m.

A) Human Rights and Trade Agreements
Andrew Lang, Senior Lecturer in Law, Department of Law, London School of Economics

Over the last decade and a half, it has been recognized anew that private economic actors and structural economic forces deeply affect the extent to which human rights of all kinds are effectively enjoyed, and that therefore venues of global economic governance must be a core focus of attention for the international human rights movement. However, the increasing engagement of human rights actors on issues around global trade, investment and finance, has led to certain recurring difficulties. For one thing, human rights actors almost always begin by approaching these issues as non-specialized outsiders, so that a good deal of the initial engagement is primarily about familiarization with the existing terms of economic debates. Furthermore, the technical language in which these issues are usually discussed raises questions that are rarely the kind to which human rights expertise is designed to respond. How, precisely, can human rights law and language have purchase in debates about global economic governance, and what role should the human rights movement define for itself in them? One familiar response is for human rights actors to focus more on the procedures, techniques and institutions of economic decision-making, and rather less on the advocacy of particular policies. This paper identifies some difficulties with this approach, and instead suggests a role for human rights actors focused on (a) disrupting the boundaries of existing economic expertises; (b) expanding the scope of existing conversation to include new questions, and (c) challenging the causal assumptions on which economic policy debates often rest. It explores these ideas in the context of human rights engagement with the global trade regime.

B) Trade and Labor Standards
Sanjay Reddy, Associate Professor of Economics, The New School for Social Research

Justice and fairness provide criteria for assessment of the processes and outcomes of the world economy as well as criteria for assessment of actions of individual actors. Basic human rights fulfillment, as an aspect of minimal justice, provides a privileged vantage point for such assessments. Normative and empirical criteria can be fruitfully integrated to assess alternate policies, even in the absence of a first best moral account. We present a case study of such an analysis, arguing that labor standards considerations ought properly to enter not only indirectly into the assessment, but also directly into the design and functioning of the international trading system.

C) Access to Medicines
Manjari Mahajan, Assistant Professor of International Affairs, The New School for Public Engagement

The Access to Medicines movement has been strikingly successful in challenging an increasingly globalized regime of intellectual property and in winning concessions from pharmaceutical companies from around the world. A key, though by no means exclusive, reason for the success of this movement has been its deployment of a human rights discourse. The movement’s human rights claims have led to international alliances between activists, governments, and companies, which in turn have profoundly shaped the agenda of international treaties, donors, and pharmaceutical companies. Equally notably, the human rights discourse has led to the legislation of the “right to health” as a constitutional mandate in a growing number of especially post-colonial democracies. However, the Access to Medicines movement’s focus on pharmaceuticals, and its primarily rights-based narrative, have contributed to a fundamental shift in the orientation of public health: there has been a move away from prevention towards treatment. Public health’s traditional focus on the well-being of a people at large has been replaced by an individual rights focus on entitlements. This shift in the practices, policies, and indeed conceptualization of public health has crystallized new inequalities and a changed image of citizenship and the state.

Moderator: Nehal Bhuta, Assistant Professor of International Affairs, The New School for Public Engagement

2:15-5:00 p.m.

A) Do We Have Legal Obligations to Strangers?
Margot E. Salomon, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and the Law Department, London School of Economics and Political Science

Virtually all industrialized states are keen to limit the possibility that there are positive human rights obligations to people other than their own. However, decades of United Nations consideration and human rights standard setting in the area of international cooperation have advanced interpretations of the obligation whereby economic and other policies should be designed to avoid causing injury to the interests of developing states and to the rights of their people and, moreover, should actively seek to address existing deprivations. This obligation to fulfill socioeconomic rights elsewhere gives rise to a host of important, and in many cases unresolved, legal issues. Should we understand the obligations to be those of individual states, or can we speak of collective legal obligations in this area? Is the obligation to fulfill socioeconomic rights limited to the transfer of resources, and if not, what else might it entail? Are they best framed as secondary obligations, triggered only if the right holder’s own state is unable or unwilling to fulfill them, or as simultaneous obligations? In seeking to determine the basis for assigning these obligations, how might we interpret the conclusion by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that the obligations belong to those “in a position to assist"?  If, like the Committee, we recognize capacity as a basis for assistance, how might the obligations be divided among all those states with capacity? What would constitute an unreasonable cost for a state fulfilling its positive obligations of international assistance and cooperation?

B) Shifting Ideas and Politics of the Right to Development
Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Professor of International Affairs, The New School for Public Engagement

The Declaration on the Right to Development (RtD), adopted in 1986, is widely viewed as a failure; it has been contested by legal scholars as a human right, and negotiations for further elaboration of the right have been deadlocked in the UN Human Rights processes. Debates about the Right to Development, both in the academic literature and in the UN Human Rights mechanisms have focused on defining the normative content of the right and defending its potential as law, and attributes the failures to politics of North-South divides in international negotiations. This paper departs from this literature in considering the relevance of the right to development in today’s international economic environment, and exploring the failures in the domains of economic concepts and development discourses. The core claim behind this right for a socially just economic system is perhaps even more relevant today and necessary in today’s globally integrated economic environment than when it was adopted. The value added of the Declaration is that it calls attention to the global dimensions of human rights obligations related to development, recognizing that problems created when actions or inactions of state A impinges on the fundamental rights of individuals in state B. Yet there is hardly any mobilization around this right, or rather the civil society mobilization around this right does not make use of the language of human rights. The failure of this right to move forward reflects a disconnect between human rights, civil society advocacy for global economic justice, and the evolution in development theory.

C) What Responsibilities Flow from Having Benefited from Global Injustice?
Christian Barry, Deputy Director, Research School of the Social Sciences (RSSS), Australian National University

Of course it's wrong to commit a wrong. Of course it's wrong to conspire, collude or connive with others in their committing a wrong. But what if you have done none of those things, and you find yourself merely benefitting from a wrong committed wholly by other people? This happens often, not least through the medium of the market--so many goods and services we enjoy seem likely to have been produced via processes that involved some sort of significant wrongdoing. Is there anything morally problematic with that, and if so what and why? Even if you have done no wrong by benefiting from another's wrong-doing, might anything else morally follow from the fact that you do so? In this paper I try to answer these questions, with particular reference to the benefits of global injustice.

D) Why Culture Matters in International Institutions: The Marginality of Human Rights at the World Bank
Galit A. Sarfaty, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Why has the World Bank not adopted a human rights policy or agenda despite internal and external pressure over the past two decades? Contrary to existing literature, legal and political constraints do not fully explain this phenomenon. I argue that bureaucratic obstacles have impeded the adoption of human rights norms. These obstacles include the Bank’s employee incentive system as well as an interpretive clash between lawyers and economists over how to define human rights and justify their relevance with respect to the Bank’s mission. The recent initiative to translate human rights norms for economists (by defining them as instrumentally valuable to achieving the institution’s development goals) represents an effective strategy in line with the Bank’s organizational culture.

Moderator: Philip G. Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

6:00-7:30 p.m.
Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; Visiting Professor, Columbia University (2011-2012)

A discussion of the question of the fragmentation of international law and governance and the concepts of human rights and the right to development, conceived in the post-World War II era as a means of overcoming the resulting inconsistencies. Professor De Schutter examines whether and how the concepts of human rights could help reshape, inter alia, the international trade and climate change regimes and the attempts being made in this direction.

Moderator: David E. Van Zandt, President of The New School

Thursday, November 10

11:00 a.m.–1:45 p.m.

A) Climate Change Lawfare
Siri Gloppen, Research Director, Chr. Michelsens Institute (CMI), Bergen, Norway; Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen
Asuncion Lera St. Clair, Research Director, Centre for International Climate and the Environmental Research (CICERO), Oslo, Norway; Associated Senior Researcher, Chr. Michelsens Institute (CMI)

Climate change poses unprecedented challenges. Recent scholarship shows high likelihood that the 2C degree threshold will be passed in less than two decades in large parts of North Africa, Eurasia and Canada, and for the whole planet by mid-century (Joshi et al 2011). Others consider that adapting to temperature increases of 4C or more may be required in the course of this century (New et al., 2011; Stafford Smith et al., 2011). No one knows the suitability for human life in a planet four degrees warmer on average. But we know climate impacts are already changing socio-ecological systems and will lead to profound changes and conflicts over resources. Philosophical scholarship presents climate as a human rights challenge. The reverse relationship between the causes and the accumulated benefits of a changing climate (with advanced, high consumption societies and groups contributing more to the changes and benefitting more from them) and its adverse impacts (disproportionally on developing, low consumption and highly vulnerable societies and groups) makes climate a perfect moral storm that violates many basic rights (Caney 2010, Gardiner 2011). While acknowledging the insights of this climate ethics literature, this paper looks at how issues concerning the injustice and human rights violations caused by climate change are transformed and manifested in legal conflicts. It investigates ways in which climate change impacts are legalized, judicialized, and debated in relation to concrete conflicts about natural resources and environmental degradation.

Today the law can be said to be the ‘new politics’, and the legal field is expanding in social and political significance. Law is at the center of efforts by national, local and international actors – state and non-state – and particularly in the global south, to transform and develop these societies. We draw from the concept of social lawfare and coin the term of “climate lawfare” to theorize about how emerging rights-related issues around climate change manifest themselves in legal strategies. Like social lawfare, climate lawfare aims to capture the diverse strategies in which rights and legal institutions figure prominently, are adopted intentionally and used strategically with the aim of helping deliver or at least catalyze social transformation and human development in their relations to climate change. This includes both legal reform strategies/engineering from ‘above’ and ‘outside’ and diverse forms of legal activism from ‘below’. This paper develops the concept of “climate lawfare” and seeks to develop an analytically useful typology by systematizing the emerging material on climate related legal conflicts. This may in turn provide a better starting point for systematic investigations into the conditions that place rights and courts at the center of these disputes, and of the effects and impacts of various legal strategies.

B) Rights Mobilization in South Africa in the Context of Acute Environmental Harm
Jackie Dugard, Executive Director and co-founder, Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), South Africa; co-author with Jennifer MacLeod and Anna Alcaro

Mining in the Witwatersrand basin, once a site of natural beauty, has been taking place for more than 100 years and has resulted in severe environmental damage. Dust from tailings dams, known colloquially as mine dumps, large deposits of radioactive and heavy-metal mining waste, is blown across vast swathes of occupied land in frequent dust storms. Additionally, because marginal and new Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) mines have failed to maintain the requisite (and costly) pumping of water to prevent decanting of mine water into the water sources, acid mine drainage is beginning to surface across the western part of the basin, polluting lakes and rivers and destroying religious sites, farmland, and clean water sources. The ground is often polluted with waste from pipes carrying radioactive material across the country and is unstable in parts because of the age of the mine shafts. In the context of this acute environmental harm, researchers from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) have undertaken an in-depth qualitative survey to examine community engagement with these issues, seeking to ascertain the extent to which affected communities understand and prioritize environmental issues, especially the level of rights mobilization within the communities living in the Witwatersrand basin. In particular, we aim to analyze the factors underlying any mobilization or failure to mobilize in response to the mining-related environmental harm. This paper presents the first phase of this research (conducted in the affected communities between August and November 2011), noting the responses of community members and pulling out themes and general observations regarding how and why communities mobilize (or fail to mobilize) against severe environmental damage.

C) Climate Rights and Obligations for Emerging States: The Cases of Brazil and South Africa
Kathryn Hochstetler, CIGI Chair of Governance in the Americas and Professor, Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA); Professor of Political Science, Waterloo University, Ontario, Canada

The global climate regime has been oriented around a sharp distinction between developed and developing states. Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed states have obligations to reduce their climate emissions, while the developing states do not. The 21st-century rise of countries like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa has unsettled that status quo. As large and fast-growing emitters with continuing problems of deep poverty and inequality, they do not fit easily in either category. This paper examines their climate rights and obligations, building an analysis of how Brazil, South Africa, and the BASIC countries collectively present themselves in climate debates. How do they balance claims of the developed world's historic responsibility for global warming with the possibility that they might be developed enough to take on responsibility for reducing their emissions? What rights do they claim in the global governance of climate, and what obligations might they accept? The paper concludes with a discussion of whether the emerging powers force rethinking of some of the rights claims of global environmental politics more generally, including concepts like ecological debt, environmental justice, and the environmentalism of the poor.

Moderator: David Scobey, Executive Dean, The New School for Public Engagement


4:45-7:00 p.m.

A) Business and Human Rights: A Transformative Agenda
Chris Jochnick, Director of Private Sector Department, Oxfam America, Boston

After many years of neglect, corporations have surged to the front of the human rights agenda. The UN endorsed "Ruggie Framework and Guiding Principles" have become common currency among the business, diplomatic and NGO elite; and corporate leaders recently rated human rights as their leading sustainability concern. Whether these advances lead to real change on the ground remains uncertain. To date, the business and human rights discussion has focused on obscure normative questions and has failed to penetrate mainstream consciousness and popular movements. Real change will require a more deliberate focus on power, politics and activism. This presentation will survey the state of play in the field of business and human rights and describe what a transformative agenda might look like.

B) Do Codes of Conduct Protect Workers? The Pitfalls of Private Regulation at Work
Gay Seidman, Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Over the past two decades, labor activists have often sought to imitate human rights campaigns, invoking global consumer pressure as a strategy for improving workplace conditions around the globe. Corporations have learned to respond quickly to the threat of boycotts, often promising to hire independent monitors to make sure their suppliers comply with corporate codes of conduct. But these programs have a mixed history: Too often, competitive pressures mean that corporate offices reward cost cutting over worker protections. This paper describes some of the problematic dynamics of consumer-based workplace strategies and contrasts them with alternative labor proposals.

C) Coffee, Certification and the Incorrigibility of Capitalism

Chris London, Assistant Professor, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Public Engagement

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads in part “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity…”. To say that this right is routinely violated, and indeed that its violation is a structural feature of the global economy, is not unusual. But saying so, rather than making the UDHR a dead letter instead leads me to a question: What is it about the structure of the economy such that, despite wide recognition of the essential moral truth that humans ought to be able to live dignified lives, we find ourselves routinely unable to do much about it? I will approach this question through a consideration of the move to construct alternative value chains in the global coffee economy through social, agricultural and environmental certifications, the so-called ‘cause coffees’. Emerging in time with the post-Cold War liberalization of the coffee market, cause coffees promise to humanize the market by making transparent the social and environmental relations on which it is built. This transparency however, works in only one direction: it is producers who are made transparent, not the consumers, or even the retailers who serve the consumers. By reproducing the default relation that has always underwritten the global coffee economy, that of dominating core and subordinate periphery, coffee certification at best opens up a conversation about the content of market relations but it does not change those relations. Thus, while certifications may help us to at least think about fulfilling the spirit of Article 23, I am pessimistic that they can do more than ameliorate some violations in a few places.

Moderator: Miriam Ticktin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, The New School for Social Research

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