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ESIL-International Human Rights Law Symposium: Human Rights and Development Regimes – Reflections on Convergence and Influence

Published on February 10, 2016        Author: 

Human rights and development interact in a range of ways. They occupy many of the same spheres and this has increased due to the expanding reach of the development policy and activities alongside the proliferation of IHRL. Moreover the overarching goals of human rights and development regimes may be argued to enjoy a purposive affinity, particularly in areas of social and human development. Despite this interaction and affinity however, the relationship between these regimes evidences an evolution along separate tracks and development regimes’ relative autonomy from human rights law and general law may exemplify the fragmentation of international law.

This comment considers the degree to which human rights law has influenced development regimes, exploring the place of international human rights obligations in development policies and their impact in operational terms. Despite substantive overlaps and certain affinities, when assessed from the perspective of obligations, the uptake has been inconsistent and the direct influence quite limited. Viewed from the perspective of principles however, the uptake and influence are more extensive: the place of human rights principles such as participation, accountability, inclusion, equality and non-discrimination and attention to vulnerable groups is now rarely contested, even within mainstream development regimes.

What are the reasons for this differentiated influence? There are important qualitative differences between the frameworks governing human rights and development regimes. Law and legal accountability are defining hallmarks of human rights, which remain a quintessentially legal concept. As Coomans, et al. have written “[L]aw has remained central to the notion of human rights. […] it is law that authoritatively defines a society’s understanding of what are human rights.” Development, for its part, is underpinned by global goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and by the policy frameworks and strategies of development institutions, which do not generally rely upon international legal norms in direct or explicit terms. The binding legal frame of reference for development cooperation emerges either at the level of the constitutive instruments of development agencies (between member countries) or at the transactional level of individual legal agreements governing particular operations (between the agency and a client country). While each of these instruments is an international treaty under public international law few international development policy frameworks are defined in terms of international legal obligations: the text of both the MDGs and the new SDGs evidence this. Read the rest of this entry…

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Determining Customary International Law: The ICJ’s Methodology and the Idyllic World of the ILC

Published on December 3, 2015        Author: 

Editor’s Note: This is the author’s concluding post in the EJIL:Debate! regarding an article in the current issue of EJIL Vol. 26 (2015) No 2, by Stefan Talmon. The original post is here. See also the posts discussing the article by Omri Sender and Michael Wood, Harlan G. Cohen and Fernando Lusa Bordin.

I am very grateful to Sir Michael Wood and Omri Sender, as well as Harlan G. Cohen and Fernando Lusa Bordin, for their thoughtful comments on my EJIL article. Both Harlan and Fernando seem to agree with my main propositions and, in particular, with the proposition that the ICJ, in order to determine rules of customary international law, uses induction and deduction as well as assertion. They raise interesting questions that I did not address in my article, such as why the ICJ was not more interested in developing a clear methodology and why States might actually prefer ‘methodological mayhem’, or the flexibility of methodological uncertainty, over the strict application of the inductive method or a relaxation of the demands of that method. Their contribution takes the debate further and may be read as a complement to my article.

In the following, I will focus on the comments of Sir Michael Wood and Omri Sender, who are more critical of my propositions. I will only deal with their substantive comments and leave readers to decide for themselves how many eyebrows they would like to raise while considering what the authors identified as ‘some bold statements’ in my article without, however, specifying their concerns. Let me respond to their counter propositions one by one before offering some final remarks on the work of the ILC, and thus Sir Michael’s work as its Rapporteur, on the identification of customary international law. Read the rest of this entry…

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Induction, Assertion and the Limits of the Existing Methodologies to Identify Customary International Law

Published on December 2, 2015        Author: 

Professor Talmon’s article on the methodologies employed by the International Court of Justice to ascertain custom is as important as it is timely now that the International Law Commission is advancing with its study on the identification of customary international law. To contribute to the debate, I propose to elaborate on a crucial question that the piece raises. Why is it that the Court so often resorts to ‘asserting’ customary international law instead of providing more robust reasoning to back up the rules that it identifies? Though the precise reasons why the Court takes the approach it does are a matter for speculation, I suspect that this has to do with limitations that are inherent to the standard methodology to establish custom (the ‘inductive method’, to use Professor Talmon’s terminology), in the shaping of which the Court itself has played a large part.

As Professor Talmon suggests, systemic reasoning – argument by principle and argument by analogy – has been a major catalyst for development in international law, filling gaps that would be left behind if the inductive method were applied. Yet, the inductive method is the best accepted methodology to identify custom insofar as it encapsulates the prevailing view as to what is required by the ‘rule of recognition’ of international law.

The problem with that ‘rule of recognition’ is that it does not allow us to reach any firm conclusions as to the existence of particular rules of custom. That becomes clear when one dissects the inductive method as defined and applied by the International Court. Read the rest of this entry…

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The International Court of Justice and Customary International Law: A Reply to Stefan Talmon

Published on November 30, 2015        Author: 

There is much to agree with in Professor Talmon’s article, which addresses the International Court of Justice’s methodology for the determination of rules of customary international law, and concludes that “the main method employed by the Court is neither induction nor deduction but, rather, assertion.” But there are some questionable aspects, including its conclusion.

The Court’s approach to the identification of rules of customary international law

Professor Talmon regrets the lack of discussion, both by the Court itself and by writers, of the methodology used by the Court to determine the existence, content and scope of rules of customary international law. But the Court has of course stated in its 2012 Jurisdictional Immunities of the State judgment that in order to determine the existence of a rule of customary international law “it must apply the criteria which it has repeatedly laid down for identifying a rule of customary international law” – as indeed it has. The Court recalls its pronouncements in the North Sea Continental Shelf and Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) cases, where it “made clear” that “the existence of a rule of customary international law requires that there be “a settled practice” together with opinio juris” (I.C.J. Reports 2012, p. 99, at p. 122, para. 55). It could well have cited to other decisions as well, among them Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua and Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. A coherent methodology does come into sight in these (individually and even more so in the aggregate), even if not all questions relating to it have been fully addressed. It is one thing to suggest, as some have, that the Court does not consistently adhere to this stated methodology; it is a different thing altogether to argue, as Professor Talmon does, that the Court “has hardly ever stated” such methodology. Read the rest of this entry…

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