As in previous years, EJIL’s Review Editor, Christian J. Tams, has invited EJIL board members and (associate) editors to offer short reflections on their favourite books of the year 2019. No strict rules apply — the posts are meant to introduce books that left an impression, irrespective of their genre. Today we have selections from Diane Desierto. You can read all the posts in this series here.
Do communities and populations have any means of knowing what the real price is of the development decisions made on their behalf by their respective States? Are they always just doomed to reckon with seeking redress after-the-fact for any negative externalities that result from these development decisions (e.g. environmental, health, climate change, labor, alongside a whole host of human rights impacts from these development decisions), resorting to a variably asymmetric (and quite imperfect) spectrum of local, regional, or international dispute settlement processes? These questions were foremost in my mind throughout 2019, especially given the responsibility of working with fellow Experts for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development with respect to the consultation process and drafting of the legally binding instrument on the Right to Development. Likewise, in a year when the Nobel Prize (technically the Bank of Sweden Prize) for Economics was awarded to development economists Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee, and Michael Kremer (who pioneered the export of Randomized Control Trials (RCT) methods in medical research into experiments on human subjects (mostly the poor) to determine the efficacy of development-funded interventions, but generally without such RCTs being conducted using any universal or global code of ethics), what has been argued by Duflo et al. as the relative end of poverty visibly exemplified by the Chinese model of development (an amalgam of ‘authoritarian capitalism’,“market authoritarianism”, or “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”) certainly provokes much rethinking into what development is under international law, and what costs States can legally and legitimately incur to realize that development.
Most importantly, at a time when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued various reports pointing to the rapid escalation of environmental risks for the entire planet (see 2019 reports on increased risks given climate change impacts on the oceans and cryosphere, land, and global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius) alongside magnified (and often more open) violations (if not dismissals) of human rights around the world (see human rights global reports here, here, and here), can States’ decision-makers still afford to craft development plans without putting the question of negative externalities from development projects at the forefront of policymaking?