Teaching IEL as a Nigerian Teacher in the Era of Decolonisation (IEL Collective Symposium II)

By Suzzie Onyeka Oyakhire, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, (University of Benin, Nigeria; suzzie.oyakhire@uniben.edu)

This piece reflects on the teaching of International Economic Law (IEL) in Nigeria specifically within the legal education curriculum of undergraduate studies. It considers the status of IEL as a course of study and considers some epistemological challenges encountered in teaching IEL, including the content to be covered within the curriculum.

The studying and teaching of IEL in Nigeria is largely undeveloped. This is because within the legal curriculum of undergraduate studies, IEL is not prioritised in the research agenda and teaching within the Faculties of Law. For several years IEL was excluded as a course of study in Nigerian universities and, where it is taught, it is relegated to the status of an optional course. Consequently, over the years, several lawyers have graduated without any significant exposure to IEL. Often, the earliest exposure with IEL occurs during postgraduate studies overseas in which the knowledge and understanding of IEL is influenced by the perspectives of their teachers, usually teaching from, or at least influenced by a Eurocentric position. (more…)

‘Doing and knowing’ IEL through the lens of Caribbean Rastafarian philosophy (IEL Collective Symposium II)

By Yentyl Williams, PhD Candidate (Bristol University Law School)

Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) scholarship over the past 21 years has innovated how we know and do international law. Yet, I argue that TWAIL scholarship can better connect to the Caribbean in general, and the Rastafari, maroon and indigenous knowledges/epistemologies and being/ontologies. Indeed, despite the growth in TWAIL scholarship, neither Westlaw nor HeinOnline contain any entries that refer to Rastafari philosophy. This, I argue, is a missed opportunity or a shortcoming, given the intellectual convergences of TWAIL and Rastafari philosophy. There are epistemological and ontological convergences of TWAIL and Rastafari scholars and activists across, at least, six concepts of Rastafari philosophy: Babylon, ‘poly-tricks’, ‘fire’, ‘livity’, ‘know thyself’ and ‘I-an-I’. (more…)

A Neo-Gramscian Analysis of the Neoliberal Discourse of the WTO Judge (IEL Collective Symposium II)

By Dr Edoardo Stoppioni, Senior Research Fellow (Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law).

This post aims at using the work of Gramsci to analyse the hegemonic structures of the discourse of the WTO judge and to disentangle its relation to the neoliberal structural bias of its normative space. The objective is to transpose to international economic law the critical lenses that neo-Gramscian scholars, like Robert Cox, used in international relations. A neo-Gramscian approach focuses on the « material structure of ideology », in order to show how certain norms and practices emerge in a certain context and what is their emancipatory potential concerning a given legal order. By so doing, Cox enlarged the notion of hegemony to include those institutional practices of internalization of a certain ideology and the way they project it externally.

Critical doctrines on international law’s “fragmentation” have demonstrated that certain jurisdictions are capable of exercising hegemonic power in the international legal sphere and that a link should be established in that regard with the peculiar bias of economic jurisdictions, such as the WTO judge and the investment arbitrator. The WTO judge is a perfect example thereof (“judge” as, en passant, I find the judicial nature of the mechanism largely demonstrated and recently reaffirmed). As I previously theorized using Gramscian concepts, its discourse constantly oscillates between two poles. The first pole is the one of “prestige” or hegemony via expansion: the judge uses a language of dissemination; it exercises pedagogy to make its own idiom (the language of trade values) the dominating form of legal expression. The second pole is the one of “economism”, or of hegemony via isolation. The judge prefers using a discourse of self-containment to make its power uncontested. It refuses to listen to a foreign language not to put into danger its domination over its own normative regime. (more…)

The Coronavirus Crisis: Compassionate Leadership is Relevant Now More than Ever

By Prof Charlotte Villiers, Professor of Company Law and Corporate Governance (University of Bristol Law School)

The world is now in almost complete lockdown as this Covid-19 public health crisis has reached its ‘boom’ stage[1] for many countries. People are frightened for the health of themselves and their loved ones and the financial security of huge numbers of workers is at risk. In the UK, the front-line workers with the task of treating the sick and caring for them are the care professionals, clinicians and nurses in the NHS. One of the key words that guides the NHS and is embedded within its constitution is ‘compassion’.  Principle 3 states that: ‘Respect, dignity, compassion and care should be at the core of how patients and staff are treated not only because that is the right thing to do but because patient safety, experience and outcomes are all improved when staff are valued, empowered and supported.’ In its Values section, the constitution adds: ‘compassion is central to the care we provide and respond with humanity and kindness to each person’s pain, distress, anxiety or need. We search for the things we can do, however small, to give comfort and relieve suffering. We find time for patients, their families and carers, as well as those we work alongside. We do not wait to be asked, because we care.’

It was notable that in recent announcements from our new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, both expressed the need for compassion. Rishi Sunak said: ‘Now more than at any time in our history we will be judged by our capacity for compassion. Our ability to come through this won’t just be down to what government or businesses do but the individual acts of kindness that we show each other.’[2] Nicola Sturgeon also said ‘This crisis is reminding us just how fragile our world is. But it is also reminding us what really matters – health, love, solidarity. With compassion and kindness – and with the dedication and expertise of our NHS – we can and we will get through this.’[3] These speeches indicate that our political leaders recognise that compassion is a necessary response to the crisis that we must confront, collectively, as human beings. (more…)

Global resource governance and IEL: can human rights advance social justice? (IEL Collective Symposium II)

By Dr Lorenzo Cotula, Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development; Honorary Professor at the University of Strathclyde.

As our demand for material goods drives natural resource extraction, the law reconfigures control over resources to facilitate the production of tradable commodities. Faced with profound social transformations, indigenous and agrarian movements have mobilised human rights to reclaim land, resources and development pathways. This recourse to rights provides distinctive insights on the place of human rights in social justice struggles.

Resource control and international economic law (IEL)

The growing levels and expectations of material consumption in the rich world rest on the large-scale production of commodities for food, energy and raw materials. The correlative expansion and intensification of natural resource extraction has historically involved large-scale mining, petroleum, logging and agribusiness developments, but also more indirect forms of resource control, for example through the integration of small-scale producers into commercial value chains. (more…)

Looking at Investment Arbitration through Roland Barthes’ Eyes (IEL Collective Symposium II)

By Dr. Paolo Vargiu, Lecturer in Law (University of Leicester)

Roland Barthes was never particularly interested in the law. Were he alive today, however, it is hard to imagine that he would be a strong supporter of a regime like investment arbitration – a system which, in spite of its best original intentions, has long been exposed by its critics for the lack of balance in rights and obligations and the abuse of the mechanism to increase the already disproportionate power of multinational corporations vis-à-vis the state where they invest. However, his literary production can nonetheless serve as a model for inquiring on aspects of the investment arbitral regime that remain somehow at the margins of the scholarly critique.

In his essay “Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers” (1971), Barthes theorised an imaginary contract between teachers and students, with specific tasks and expectations brought into the contractual relationship by both parties. Barthes’ teachers are neither mere providers of information nor simply the means used by the school to educate students: instead, they are at once erudite, educators, mentors, instructors and tutors. The term magister may be more appropriate to define Barthes’ teachers for they carry the burden to not only instruct on specific tasks, but also to represent schools of thought, and to act as guides, almost gurus, towards enlightenment, knowledge, and skill. They are vested, in other words, with the duty of developing the community they guide; and, rather than self-conferred, it is a duty given to them by such community. (more…)

The IEL Collective Symposium II – Disrupting Narratives on International Economic Law: Theory, Pedagogy and Practice

By Dr Clair Gammage & Dr Amaka Vanni, For and on behalf of the IEL Collective

In 2019, a group of scholars in the discipline of International Economic Law (IEL) launched the IEL Collective to provide a space for critical reflections of the regulation and conduct of states, international organisations and private actors in economic governance within and across state boundaries. International economic law (IEL) as an arena of scholarship, policy and practice has developed exponentially over the past three decades, evolving from a sub-field of public international law into a multi-layered, highly specialised discipline of its own. As a field of study, IEL encompasses a broad range of issues relating to the law, regulation and governance of the global economy, including trade, investment, finance, intellectual property, business regulation, energy and competition law. It is a discipline that intersects with other disciplines, such as international and domestic labour law, human rights, and environment as recognised by the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, in the discipline of IEL there remain significant questions over the plurality and diversity of methodologies, voices and viewpoints. (more…)

The Future of ‘Citizenship Policy’ in the UK

By Katherine Tonkiss, Agnes Czajka, Tendayi Bloom, Eleni Andreouli, Devyani Prabhat, Cynthia Orchard, Nira Yuval-Davis, Kelly Staples and Georgie Wemyss.

As the Windrush scandal has shown, when a person is unable to show evidence of their citizenship, the results can be devastating. In August 2019, the think tank British Future launched an independent inquiry into UK citizenship policy, chaired by Alberto Costa MP,  inviting experts to submit evidence. In response, one group of academics and NGOs came together to map an agenda for citizenship policy in the UK. This blog summarises some of their recommendations.

Some Background

Traditionally, UK citizenship has been associated with commitment to and participation in certain political institutions and traditions. More recently, increasing politicisation of immigration and emphasis on ‘national belonging’ have been linked to a shift towards associating the legal status of citizenship with socio-cultural interpretations of ‘integration’ and ‘national belonging’. However, these are ambiguous concepts and lead to different meanings of citizenship for those who are born into it and those who must apply for legal recognition of their citizenship later in life. (more…)

A Governance Revolution or Costly Distraction? Reassessing the promises of blockchain for public procurement governance

By Prof Albert Sanchez-Graells, Professor of Economic Law (University of Bristol Law School).

Blockchain or, more generally, decentralised ledger technologies (DLTs), are capturing the attention of policymakers. ‘Blockchain’ has become shorthand to refer to technology usually identified with the properties of a decentralised, trustless and immutable (or at least, tamper-proof) mechanism for information verification and recording that can enable self-executing digital transactions between anonymous parties (‘smart contracts’).

Blockchain’s touted tamper-proofness and potential to enable smart contracts are driving initiatives that seek to create automated ‘trust in trustless environments’ for public sector use cases, in particular concerning activities highly-exposed to corruption risks and/or the automation of administrative procedures devoid of discretion.

There are high economic stakes at play in public procurement—which represents around 12% of GDP and over a third of public expenditure in OECD countries, and even higher proportions in other economies. Coupled with the growing (over)reliance of policymakers on business consultants, the hype around blockchain—and, more generally, about public procurement 4.0—is perhaps particularly intense in this field of GovTech and RegTech.

Some legal scholars are rather optimistically jumping on the ‘disruptive technologies bandwagon’ and identifying blockchain as a main tool to increase the probity and efficiency of procurement governance at a national level.1 Some officially-backed ‘visions for the future’ go as far as promising blockchain-supported global e-procurement platforms capable of covering the entirety of procurement transactions carried out worldwide.

This is creating a set of expectations about how blockchain will revolutionise public procurement governance that does not translate into real action. Even further, I submit, blockchain is and will remain structurally inapt to generate such a governance revolution, for several reasons. (more…)

Deradicalization and the London Bridge attack of 29 November 2019

By Prof Steven Greer, Professor of Human Rights (University of Bristol Law School)

Two central questions are raised by the horrific knife attack by Usman Khan upon some of those attending a criminal rehabilitation workshop at Fishmonger’s Hall, London Bridge on 29 November: how, if at all, could it have been prevented? And how, if at all, could other similar incidents be averted? While there are, regrettably, no entirely reassuring answers to either question, there are, nevertheless, ones we must be content to live with.

Khan, from Stoke-on-Trent, joined the jihadist movement al-Muhajiroun in 2006 at the age of 15 and was arrested for terrorism in 2010. Two years later he was convicted with several others, of involvement in planning to establish terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and conspiracies to attack several London targets, including the Stock Exchange, the US Embassy, and the home of the then Mayor, Boris Johnson. He was sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment with a recommendation that he spend at least eight years behind bars. This was, however, altered on appeal to a fixed term of 18 years with the standard entitlement to automatic release after half the sentence had been served. Khan is said to have been a model prisoner. By contrast with the majority of his terrorist peers, he willingly cooperated with the available opportunities for deradicalization and rehabilitation. But it is not entirely clear what precisely these involved. It has also been reported that he applied to join a more intensive programme but was unsuccessful. The reasons have not yet been fully disclosed. But it is said that there is a long waiting list. (more…)