Food Security Human Rights Indonesia

Who owns the right to food?

The journal of Third World Quarterly recently published my article entitled: “Who owns the right to food? Interlegality and competing interests in agricultural modernisation in Papua, Indonesia”.

The  article dicusses the extent to which the competing as well as conjoined interests of actors involved in agricultural modernisation are reconfiguring the right to food. Agricultural modernisation provides such a context to study the interplay between global and local levels and between various legal and normative frameworks, as well as how the right to food is promoted or jeopardised in these interactions. The focus here is twofold: first, it is on existing norms linked to the wider understanding of the right to food; and second, on the diverse interests supported by the state, corporations and civil society organisations, particularly indigenous rights movements.

Human Rights

A Political Race

In a recent interview, Stephen Hopgood raises an interesting question: how politically effective is human rights to a normative progress?  Although human rights are globally spread, one could easily argue that they at the same time stand on a shaky ground. There are various views on gender equality for example, there are also many aspects that determine the autonomy of indigenous peoples over their lands. In such fields, is claiming for human rights in its normative nature politically feasible?

Not an easy question to answer. Many have tried to. Normative lawyers might refer to the minimum core obligations. Others might refer to philosophical and historical basis for justice. But in realities these things often do not matter as much as in legal and abstract opinions. For many different reasons. Majority of the population might not consider it as important to promote gender equality, to respect LGBT rights, or to abolish death penalty. The government sees it as its obligation to convert native land into productive agricultural plantations, or to move people so dams or transportation infrastructures can be built. Obviously, there are many norms, rules and customs in the field, as much as there are many interests and agendas.

Does this imply a normative inadequacy of human rights? Another complex issue. To some extent, there are still strong western views in the ways human rights are constructed and challenged. Critiques on how ASEAN juxtaposes human rights and human responsiblity in one single authoritative document represent how certain standards should be maintained for human rights to work. Yet, many authors have successfully mustered the relevance of global south in the making of human rights. Although one should also bear in mind that the processes and outcomes of these endeavours are not altering the western influence in constructing and challenging rights.

Assessing normative inadequacy implies also an examination of the scope and jurisdiction of the human rights norms. Again, this is a contested territory, but one certain thing is that it is impossible to predict what each model of norms codification can deliver. Legal binding documents can have the same impacts as non-legal binding documents. The latter can face comparable drawbacks as the first one. Similarly, one can not simply gauge the extent to which monitoring-based system, penalties, or statistically based indicators can benefit or jeopardize rights holders.

Indeed, it is not easy to asses the political effectiveness of human rights in the race of normative progress.


Governance Human Rights

Human Rights and Sustainability

To live in dignity, all human being needs a healthy environment. A safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is thus integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation. Increasingly, the intertwine between human rights and the environment is being acknowledged and recognised.

Routledge series of Sustainability recently publish an edited volume entitled Human Rights and Sustainability: Moral responsibilities for the future. The editors of this book, Gerhard Bos, Marcus Düwell, develop the idea of environmental obligations as long-term responsibilities in the context of human rights. The book proposes that human rights require recognition that, in the face of unsustainable conduct, future human persons are exposed and vulnerable. In doing so, the authors explore the obstacles for long-term responsibilities that human rights law provides at the level of international and national law, and scrutinise the question of whether lifestyle restrictions are enforceable in view of liberties human rights.

Some chapters that might be of interest are:

  • International Human Rights and Duties to Future Generations: The Role of an International Constitution. Stephen Riley
  • A Chain of Status: Long-term Responsibility in the Context of Human Rights. Gerhard Bos
  • Human Rights as a Normative Guideline for Climate Policy. Michael Reder and Lukas Köhler
  • On Current Food Consumption and Future Generations: Is There a Moral Need to Change our Food Consumption in Order to Safeguard the Human Rights of Future Generations? Franck L.B. Meijboom
  • The Institutional Representation of Future Generations. Sandor Fulop

On a similar subject, a recent edition of the Oslo Law Review contains a publication on Legal Pluralism, Human Rights and the Idea of Climate Justice, by Aled Dilwyn Fisher. The article can be downloaded here.

Approaching the subject from a governance perspective, a chapter published by Laura Horn entitled Human Rights and International Environmental Governance is certainly worth reading. The chapter considers the failure of the international legal system to provide adequate mechanisms for global environmental governance. It also discusses some proposals for change to environmental government from existing institutions, by focusing on a possibility for an international human rights to a healthy environment.

International Law

Justice Research Explored

How to do research on justice? Can we establish a specific methodology for it? Or do we need to study justice from different discipline? The editors of the Handbook of Social Justice Theory and Research attempt to substantiate the academic legacy and the research prospects of studying justice. The volume includes a wide range of topics, such as disciplinary approaches to justice research (e.g., sociology, philosophy), the theory of the justice motive, mapping of the multifaceted forms of justice (e.g., distributive justice), and justice in context-bound spheres (e.g., politics and work) and related domains (e.g., morality). In doing so, the handbook is meant both to present a comprehensive “state of the art” in the field of justice research theory and to put forward an agenda for future interdisciplinary and international justice research. The compilation of their research within a single framework exposes readers to high quality academic work that embodies past, current, and future trends of justice research.

International Law

Extraterritorial Scope of Human Rights

If you are interested in the study of extraterritorial aspect of human rights, the last edition of the Journal of the Community Law discusses this subject comprehensively. From the aspect of national courts, which regard themselves competent to examine cases connected with violations of human rights beyond the borders of the given country, to human rights treaties to be applied outside the territories of the states which are parties thereto. Reservations to treaties dealing with these issues, which are to limit their territorial application, give rise to numerous legal controversies. The special edition is also dealing with competition between the responsibility of the territorial state and the state which exercised effective control in the territory of that state or with joint responsibility.