Human Rights International Law Social Movement

Human Rights and Social Justice

Can human rights bring social justice?  This crucial question is the focus of the latest Amnesty International publication edited by Doutje Lettinga and Lars van Troost. The publication aims to discuss the changing perspective of human rights in 12 thought-provoking essays. Authors contributing in this volume are scholars and analysts with various scientific backgrounds, who build their arguments based on contemporary challenges to human rights implementation, in order to advance the debates on the potential contribution of human rights to deliver social justice.

From here authors reach different conclusions.

In order to become effective in the social and economic realm, a first group of authors suggests that human rights advocates must (re-)enter the political arena. They cannot afford to provide only ideologically neutral, technocratic solutions to politically-charged problems but must take these head-on.

On the other hand:

Authors disagree that human rights can be effective tools to reduce or eliminate inequality and oppose the politicization of human rights in this way.

A very interesting discussion, indeed. The volume is free to download here.

Human Rights International Law

Imagining Human Rights

The relation between law as declared and as practice continues to be regarded as an ‘unfinished business’ in academic scholarships. A new online book has just been released to take the stock of this debate. Susanne Kaul (University of Münster, Germany) and David D. Kim (University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA) are the editors of a collection of essays brought together in the book  Imagining Human Rights.

The book raises critical questions about common and divergent points of departure for interrogating the limits of common humanity in the twenty-first century. Instead of conceptualising human rights as divisible subjects of investigation, it begs for answers that come from multiple disciplinary, historical, and geopolitical perspectives. It is structured into two themes; claiming human rights and human rights in political imagination.

The abstract reads:

Why is it that human rights are considered inviolable norms of justice at local and global scales although the number of their violations has steadily increased in modern history? On the surface, this paradox seems to be reducible to a straightforward discrepancy between idealism and reality in humanitarian affairs, but Imagining Human Rights complicates the picture by offering interdisciplinary perspectives on the imaginary status of human rights. By that the contributors mean not merely subject to imagination, open to interpretation or far too abstract, but also formative of a social imaginary with emphatic identifications and shared values. From a variety of disciplinary perspectives, they explore critical ways of engaging in rigorous interdisciplinary conversations about the origin and language of human rights, personal dignity, redistributive justice, and international solidarity. Together, they show how and why a careful examination of the intersection between disciplinary investigations is essential for imagining human rights at large. Examples range from the legitimacy of land ownership rights and the inadequacy of human faculty to make sense of mass violence in visual representation to the stewardship of human rights promoters and the genealogy of human rights.

The book is published as open access and table of contents can be found here.

Indigenous Peoples Indonesia International Law

A Critical Look on the Negotiation of the Right to Food

An article written based on my most recent research project has finally been published in Human Rights Review.  The article examines how non-governmental actors invoke human rights and what are the impacts thereof. It is published as open access online, the printed version will appear in June 2015.


The norms and ideals of human rights are increasingly invoked by civil society organisations to construct claims related to land tenure and access to food, particularly to challenge a massive expansion of agricultural investment in a developing country. While this has facilitated negotiations on rights and the formulation of claims, studies that investigate to what extent such endeavours achieve the transformational goals advocated by human rights proponents or in particular whether they have been successful in instigating any institutional reform in the governance of massive agricultural modernisation projects are scanty. After discussing a national agricultural modernisation project, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), set up in Merauke, Papua, the article concludes that the analysis of the transformative role of human rights requires a prudent examination of the role of the State in the negotiation process, the patterns of socio-cultural interactions signifying the political setting and the pressure experienced and perceived by actors that affect the issues selected and omitted.

Human Rights International Law

Law and the Realisation of Human Rights in Asia

A special issue that discusses law, support structures and the realisation of human rights in Asia is published in the journal of Asian Studies Review.

The issue includes the following articles:

Food Security International Law

Transformative potential of the right to food

In his final report the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, presents his conclusions regarding the interdependency of the food system. He asserts that reaching the eradication of hunger requires a combination of (1) empowering local communities, (2) implementing supportive policies at the national level, and (3) creating an enabling international environment that can affect the ability of countries to guarantee the right to food.