In a recently published article, I draw together some thoughts on the relationship between international law and social change. While I can do no more than provide a flavour of some of the themes explored in the article, I hope these reflections are at least thought-provoking.
A brief glance at the preamble to the UN Charter, which commits to the promotion of ‘social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom’, is indicative of the unique way in which international law asserts its own inherently ‘progressive’ character. Regardless of whether one shares this vision, a more modest connection between law and social change will be familiar to many. This is the idea that international law can be harnessed to advance a particular cause – that it is, in essence, an empty vessel that can be filled with progressive content. This assumption, often implicit but rarely articulated or confronted, is what my article seeks to address. (more…)
Children are often the hidden victims in adult-dominated conflicts. This appears to be particularly the case when citizens of other states travel to an area of on-going conflict in order to participate and/or support a side in the conflict. As evidence relating to foreign fighters supportive of ISIS demonstrates, the decisions of the parents have significantly affected the position of their children who either travelled with them or were born there. Such children number in the many thousands. While the documented numbers are already high, commentators note that it is likely that these figures do not represent the full reality. The statistics may be omitting those children recently born in or currently residing in besieged, and almost impossible to access, areas. These estimated figures are also unlikely to include those who have not had their births properly recorded, those of whom the authorities have lost track, and those who were unknown to the authorities in the first instance. (more…)
By Marc Johnson, Lecturer in Law (Truman Boddon Law School)
Brexit has been a source of emotionally-charged debate. One point which has received plenty of attention is the sovereignty of Parliament and its relationship with EU membership. It is often explained that the EU’s ability to make laws (which can apply in the UK) is some form of forfeiture of sovereignty. However, this statement has a number of shortcomings, not least that it ignores the election of Members of the European Parliament by the UK, providing (at least to some degree) a democratic mandate to the European Parliament. I will use Schrödinger’s cat to suggest that sovereignty can be present in multiple places and remain intact, allowing the normal operation of both the UK Parliament and European Parliament, without offending a nuanced view of sovereignty. In order to do this, one must cast aside the orthodox views of sovereignty and start with a pragmatic and philosophical approach to Parliamentary Sovereignty as it today. Brexit is akin to lifting the lid of Schrödinger’s box to observe the actual state of sovereignty at a specific point in time, but in doing so it reduces the observers to that of a quantitative measurer, and asks ‘is it dead or alive’ – when, in fact, reality is far more complex than this. (more…)
Two new edited volumes, which add new perspectives on international law, have recently been published by OUP and CUP. The first is International Court Authority (published by OUP during the summer of 2018 and edited by Karen Alter, Laurence Helfer and Mikael Rask Madsen), and the second is Legal Authority Beyond the State (published by CUP early in the spring of 2018 and is edited by Patrick Capps and Henrik Palmer Olsen (the writers of this blog)). The books are similar insofar as they present interdisciplinary scholarship on the authority of international law. Both are, at root, an exploration of how legal authority is established and evolves in international organizations, such as international courts. An important difference between the two books is how each sees the plausible limits of theoretical inquiry into the nature of authority. International Court Authority is more empirical, while Legal Authority Beyond the State is situated in the rationalist philosophical tradition. We argue that the empirical inquiry found in International Court Authority is limited to measure factual, observable behavior which appears to be engaging with international organizations and their laws, but it cannot account for authority per se, which is commonly accepted (in both books) to be the self-conscious orientation of actor’s behavior towards international law, so that it is consistent with the practical reasons offered by international organizations. (more…)
Bridge schools are backed by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. The schools claim to have 12,000 students in Uganda and 100,000 students across Africa, mainly. According to their teaching model statement, teachers read scripted lessons from a tablet. The content of learning is standardised and not adapted to individual needs. It is suggested that this is an effective low-cost way of providing ‘quality’ education. Nevertheless, Bridge Schools in Africa have been the subject of much controversy. The UN has suggested that funding such schools could contribute to violations of international law. Those who suffer the most from this are poor Ugandans, they are caught at the intersection of a convergence of disadvantage: government education is unreliable, often unsanitary, and almost always underfunded. Private education is unaffordable and inaccessible for most Ugandans. Yet Bridge education is barely education at all. (more…)