ESIL Newsletter: December 2018
Editor: Pål Wrange (University of Stockholm)
In this issue
1. President’s Message: Brexit and ESIL
Luis M. Hinojosa-Martínez
The significance and importance of Brexit in historic terms cannot be overstated. The EU has always been a success story in spite of its problems and crises: a guarantor of peace in an otherwise warlike continent, a political magnet that attracted most European countries, a pole of economic growth and stability, and a beacon of intellectual freedom and respect for human rights. Brexit emerges in this context as the most relevant failure of this success story.
Aware of Brexit’s relevance, ESIL has systematically dedicated multi-perspective panels to this subject in all of its conferences, and its Interest Groups have also delved into many of its consequences. ESIL has always treated European law as part of international law and therefore as a legitimate field of analysis for our Society. Further, Brexit turns the UK-EU relationship back to international law in the strictest sense and poses challenges that go beyond the traditional boundaries of the EU common commercial policy and common foreign and security policy.
How did we arrive at this painful divorce that will weaken the position of the European countries with regard to third countries and will inflict economic damage on both the UK and the EU? What will be the long-term consequences for the territorial integrity of the UK (Ireland, Scotland, Gibraltar)? Were the UK citizens fully aware of the consequences that would result from the referendum? ESIL has been asked on several occasions to take sides in international conflicts (Israel and Palestine, Russia and Ukraine, Cyprus and Turkey, etc.) However, fostering cosmopolitan even-handed debates is the best antidote to the return to nationalist populism and is our contribution to the implementation of the international rule of law. The mere existence of ESIL supports international collaboration and encourages awareness of the ideological choices behind political decisions. This Society does not need to be partisan to exercise a beneficial political influence in Europe and beyond and has always wisely resisted this temptation. ESIL will remain the home of both pro-Europeans and Brexiters, a place where debate is welcome as long as respect for others and freedom of expression are guaranteed. My feeling that the majority of our members were in favour of the remain position cannot alter our neutrality.
As a pro-European who lived for some time in the UK, I felt saddened and dismayed at the result of the referendum, as did most of my British colleagues. The remain vote which was overwhelmingly majoritarian among the university community was identified in the tabloids as part of the metropolitan elite despised by former Education Secretary Michael Gove in his famous phrase ‘we’ve had enough of experts’. National laws in recent years have reduced job security in British universities (now not only lower than in continental Europe but even than in the US) and have professionalized their management with non-academic staff. In these times of social turmoil, UK universities are facing existential challenges. However, some of them still top world rankings and are an indispensable part of European scientific output.
The UK makes a much-appreciated contribution to ESIL. It is the third country in terms of nationality (more than 100 members are UK nationals) and the first country of residence of ESIL members (with more than 200 members based in the UK). These data show how dependent on foreign academics UK universities are, not to mention their success in obtaining European funding at a time when the UK government has been cutting research funding. As a civil society organization, ESIL will play a significant role in building bridges between UK academia and the rest of the world (in particular the rest of Europe). Whatever the outcome of Brexit, academics in the UK will always be an essential part of ESIL and our Society should make a relevant contribution to maintaining the long-standing links between academics on both sides of the Channel.
I am looking forward to meeting you at a future ESIL event,
Luis M. Hinojosa-Martínez
2. Guest Editorial – Universality in Solidarity: thinking about human rights in December 2018
by Jarna Petman
When the notion of ‘human rights’ is invoked, we tend to intuitively think of claims to a right to freedom, say, rather than to social security. No wonder, I guess, for rights have proceeded on the assumption of a ‘social contract’ among parties that are ‘free, equal and independent’. The dark implication of this seemingly innocent idea of a social bargain among self-sufficient beings for mutual advantage is that those who are dependent are not full participants: provisions for them can only be an afterthought.
Think of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While its driving force was to affirm the fundamental communality of humanity against the discriminatory abuses of power, it was never clear that all humans would as concrete beings find themselves represented by the universal human rights subject. Indeed, as it was never an empty cipher, but always laden with assumptions that were springing from the long histories of exclusion and marginalisation, the ‘universal human’ would in the application materialize as the male, the property-owning, the European and the white. Which is why the human rights canon now hinges around a plethora of conventions that focus either on specific rights or on specific rights-holders. They are the afterthought. Aiming to guard against the exploitation of marginalized groups, they have a special emphasis on social rights.
Social rights address the basic questions of existence and well-being. They are about resource allocation. Because of this, many continue to maintain that they are not a matter of the judiciary but of economic policy. This is another less charitable consequence of the liberal history of rights. The focus on limiting the power of the state to act forged a notion that well-being is a supposedly unique sphere insofar as it involves matters of policy and distribution. And yet, the implementation of civil and political rights too entails positive government action and resource allocation.
In fact, all human rights are social rights. By this I mean that no right has any meaning outside the societal framework: rights are either ‘social’ or they are not at all. As rights receive meaning only through application, the commitment by states will be needed. In the conditions of economic troubles such commitment easily begins to erode, however. Should this erosion combine (as we have seen) with the emergence of competitors who have either never recognized extensive rights or are now prepared to trade them off to attract investment, then efforts to solidify the foundations of rights will soon be undercut. Thus, also the political commitment of the civil society is needed. Rights regimes need the civil society to use the procedural avenues available to claim rights, for our ability to address inequalities and wrongs through rights will not depend as much on the recognition of a particular right as it will on the content and interpretation that the right is given.
What will ultimately be decisive of the success or the failure of rights is whether they are embedded in a live culture of claiming rights. What will be needed in this is awareness that there is nothing inevitable about the make-up of a particular right and that when embedded in a particular institutional context, it will come to be constrained by the prevailing biases of that institutional context. Thus, rights will need to be accompanied with critique and contestation, for they operate in an acceptable way only once their meaning and limits is inspired by the ideal of solidarity. If there is no sense of solidarity in the community, then no rights will save us.
3. 2019 Research Forum
On Thursday, 4 and Friday, 5 April 2019, the Institute of International and European Law at the University of Göttingen, Germany, will host the European Society of International Law’s annual Research Forum on the topic: “The Rule of Law in International and Domestic Contexts: Synergies and Challenges”
The Programme Committee has selected 24 speakers, who will receive comments on their paper presentations from members of the ESIL Board and invited experts during the Forum. The programme will be available, and the registration will open, in early December. Further information will be provided on the Institute’s website: http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/598089.html
On 3 April 2019, seven ESIL Interest Groups will host side events on the occasion of the Research Forum. For more information, including calls for papers, please visit theESIL website.
4. 2019 Annual Conference
Preparations for the 2019 ESIL Annual Conference are underway. The conference will take place in Athens on the 12–14 September 2019 and its overall theme is ‘Sovereignty: A Concept in Flux?’. The Call for Papers and IG Panel Proposals is already open, and the deadline for submissions is on the 31st January.
Submissions and related questions can be addressed to the conference’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
5. ESIL Events
On 16-17 November 2018, the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, in collaboration with the Athens Public International Law Center, held a workshop entitled ‘Rethinking Reparations in International Law’, organised by Dr Veronika Fikfak, fellow and director of studies at Homerton College, and Professor Photini Pazartzis, director of the Athens Public International Law Center of the Faculty of Law at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens. See http://esil-sedi.eu/?p=12448
The ESIL-funded workshop addressed questions such as the role remedies play in international law, whether this role is different in different areas of international law, how they are chosen by judges and arbitrators, how they are calculated, their efficiency, as well as various other issues. The workshop drew reparation experts from institutions all over the world – various EU countries, but also South Africa, Turkey, the United States, and China.
Panels have been audio-recorded and are available here: on iTunes or at https://sms.cam.ac.uk/collection/2870585
6. ESIL Reflections
ESIL Reflections offer up-to-date reflections on current issues in international law. The Reflections, now in their sixth year, cover a wide range of topics relating to current developments in international law and practice as well as theoretical reflections in a way that is relatively accessible to non-experts. The aim is to foster discussion between ESIL members and international law scholars and practitioners more generally – in Europe, but also beyond. ESIL Reflections are published monthly on this website and distributed freely to ESIL members.
The Society would like to thank Jean d’Aspremont for the excellent work he has done as editor-in-chief of the Reflections since November 2016. In the new year, Ramses Wessel will be joining the editorial board as editor-in-chief. ESIL members who have an interest in contributing to the series are encouraged to do so. Please contact Ramses Wessel if you would like to contribute.
- The International Law Commission Celebrating the 70th Anniversary: Dresser le bilan pour l’avenir ‘à venir’ by Yota Negishi
7. News from Interest Groups
ESIL Interest Groups are a vital part of the Society’s success and activities. A list of the groups is available on the ESIL website. Reports of recent activities and upcoming events are available in the full text of the Newsletter.
Feminism and International Law
The Interest Group on Feminism and International Law were proud to host an event at the ESIL annual conference in September in Manchester in partnership with the Women in International Law Network (WILNET). The events was careers and networking orientated and was very well attended by a variety of scholars and practitioners at varying levels of their careers.
Business and Human Rights
IG Business and Human Rights was glad to be able to participate in the Global Business and Human Rights Research Workshop organised by Prof. Karin Buhmann (University of Copenhagen) and the BHRights Initiative back – to – back to the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. The ESIL Panel addressed some of the latest developments in the Business and Human Rights field, from a European perspective. We would like to thank all our participants for their valuable contribution and insights. A report will be published at https://igbusinessandhumanrights.wordpress.com/
ESIL membership renewal
ESIL membership is for the calendar year, from January to December. If you are not a 5-year member or a lifetime member, or if you have not yet responded to the recent reminder emails, it is now time to pay your fees for the year ahead. You are strongly encouraged to do so as soon as possible in order to maintain access to your online EJIL subscription and to be included in the 2019 ESIL Interest Group membership lists.
Paying the fee is quick and easy: log in to the online membership system, click on ‘Edit Account Information’ to check that your account details are up to date, and then proceed to payment. There are now 16 ESIL Interest Groups; make sure you have indicated all those you wish to join. You can join or leave any group at any time just by ticking the box next to the IG.
Members who wish to make a commitment to 5-year or to lifetime membership are very welcome to do so.
Last but not least, please encourage your colleagues to join the ESIL network: the Join ESIL button is clearly visible on the ESIL website home page.