Governance Human Rights

Book Review Customary Justice and the Rule of Law

A book review from a very interesting volume on customary justice and the rule of law written by me was published last year in  Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law. Vol. 64/2011. You can read it here.

The book consists of case studies that go beyond traditional legal analysis to include historical perspective as well as the complexities of actors and institutions in Mozambique, Guatemala, East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia and Sudan.

It is worth reading for any scholars working in the field of access to justice and conflict studies.

Development Food Security

A missing link in the interdisciplinary research on food justice

Many researchers have studied how social factors shape agricultural production. Institutional and bureaucratic changes, like the self-sufficiency policy, the pattern of land holdings (in terms of size distribution of farm), land tenure and other contractual arrangements have contributed to efficiency of productions (i.e. Fagerberg, 2000). Diversity in cropping systems and market arrangements have also been argued as having implications for soil fertility management (Sanchez, 2002; Adjei-Nsiah, 2006). In the similar vein, gender-linked differences in the adoption of modern crop varieties and chemical fertilizer result from gender-linked differences in access to agricultural inputs (Doss and Morris, 2000).

The abundant amount of such streams of studies provides us with sufficient knowledge of and methodological suggestions for studying how social factors shape the physical and technical environment for agricultural production. This interest in insights on the social determinants of physical and technical environments has come at the expense of complementary studies regarding physical and technical determinants of social and, in particular, legal strategies.

The physical and technical environments are indeed connected with societal legal concerns, particularly pertaining to claims and strategies as well as settlement of disputes. A recent finding of research on land management in the oil palm based cropping system on the Adja Plateau in Benin conducted by the Soil Quality Department WUR shows that what looks as one field with crops and trees is in fact an arena for competing claims where informal and formal tenure rules interact; and where formalisation that results in increasing clear ownership may also weaker positions for the landless that use the land for growing food crops (Yemadje et al, forthcoming).  Conflicts between herders and agriculturalist could also show the same connection, especially in the context of land grabbing (Deininger and Castagnini, 2006; Peters, 2004).  Recommendations for treating specific physical and technical factors crucial for farmers, such as land (de Schutter, 2011) and seed (de Schutter, 2011), in different ways has been advocated a way to essentially deliver possible safety net from marginalisation.

What critically missing from the foregoing studies on the intersections between law and natural sciences is an explicit methodology how to study the influence of physical and technical features pertaining to food production to legal representations and strategies, where plurality is not only a character of the legal orders and the agricultural features but also in their interaction with the societal settings.

Development Human Rights Indonesia

Challenges Facing the Use of Human Rights to Address a Negative Impact in Development, A Case Study of Indonesia

I’ve been wanting to publish a kind of short version of my dissertation. The idea is to highlight the concept of development hazard. It hasn’t been easy, unfortunately.

My article on “Challenges Facing the Use of Human Rights to Address Negative Impacts in Development” published in The Law and Development JournalVol. 4(1), 2011: 247-268, is one of these attempts. This article brings into focus the complexities between state-market relationship as one of the challenges.


The importance of human rights in development is gaining prominence. In concrete settings and contexts, however, contesting development practices with human rights normative standards is controversial. The article outlines this controversy and complexity in Indonesia. It highlights tensions in human rights regulatory frameworks and development policies pertaining to housing and promotions of healthy environments. The main challenge faced by human rights to address development in Indonesia is to understand the complexity of state and market relationship, in designing the process and mitigating the negative impacts of development. Such a complexity is argued to shape the enforcement and susceptibility of international and national human rights laws.

Development Human Rights

Bare necessities: have human rights been effective to secure basic needs?

Worldwide consensus expressed among others in the Millennium Development Goals demands a considerable reduction if not eradication of poverty and hunger in the world. One of the attempts to come closer to the fulfilment of these desires is a shift in development cooperation initiatives from ‘needs based’ to ‘rights based’. This shift is motivated by the conviction, voiced most prominently by Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen, that in most cases hunger is caused not by an overall quantitative lack in availability of food, but by exclusion of the poor from access to food. It is believed that access to the necessities of life, including food, can be improved by promotion of recognition of human rights.

Development Human Rights Indigenous Peoples Indonesia

Declared – Not Acquired

I am planning to do a field research on the negotiations of human rights in the context of agricultural modernisation in Merauke, Papua, next year. In preparation for this visit, I have written a paper that addresses the complexity, or cornucopia, of laws in Indonesia regarding food, food security, and general food law. I added a small case study on hunger in Yahukimo to illustrate my argument.


The right of everyone to be free from hunger is recognised as fundamental in the international human rights laws. This means that states have the obligation to take immediate measures against this adversity. However, optimism towards state compliance in this regard is challenged by the intricacies in state laws, regulations and practices that buttress the measures to eradicate hunger. This chapter depicts the complexity of addressing hunger as a violation of the right to food in Indonesia. Based from a comparative analysis of the Indonesian human rights law, general food law and disaster management law as well as an examination of state measures against the hunger in Yahukimo, Papua, the chapter highlights that one can expect little when normative points of the right to food are being used as the standards of enforcement. In reality, people’s actual command to food commodity is being governed according to the prevailing struggles and relationships of people, context and power.

This article will be published in the book ‘Governing Food Security: Law, Politics and the Right to Food’, which I co-edited with my colleague, Dr. O. Hospes.