This lecture has been cancelled in line with Covid-19 precautionary measures. We are looking to reschedule this lecture to autumn 2020. /\/\/\/\ In her guest lecture Anna Chadwick (University of Glasgow) will argue that it is not sufficient to direct the attention of those concerned about poverty into strengthening the enforceability of human rights and their mechanisms of protection. Work must be done on other legal fronts to challenge the legitimacy of other legal rights and regimes that operate on both the international and the domestic levels to produce the systematic immiseration of a large percentage of the global population.
The question of whether poverty ought to be framed and addressed as a human rights issue continues to be the subject of a contentious debate. Advocates argue that a human rights lens can strengthen policy-based approaches to addressing poverty by promoting an understanding that duties to the poor extend beyond charity or aid, by enshrining legally guaranteed entitlements to socio-economic rights, by creating accountability mechanisms, and by empowering individuals and communities by engaging them in decision-making concerning economic policies and development projects. Detractors are concerned that the human rights movement has adopted a minimalist approach to tackling poverty grounded in guaranteeing a ‘minimum core’ of rights protection and ‘minimum floors’ of social provision that fails to tackle wider economic inequality. In the attempt to enshrine a basic level of economic and social provision as a moral and legal minimum, they argue, the human rights movement has given up on tackling the structural causes of economic inequality, many of which are political in nature. Scholars writing in various ‘critical’ traditions—Marxism, Critical Legal Studies, Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL)—have argued human rights movement is, at best, largely ineffective at addressing the structural conditions in which poverty is produced, and, at worst, is a handmaiden to neoliberal capitalism due to its role in creating false perceptions that socio-economic rights can counter-balance legally-empowered economic forces that operate to systematically impoverish, disenfranchise, and demean large sections of the global population.
Recent developments at the United Nations (UN) suggest that the concerns of critical scholars about the depoliticising effect of human rights approaches to poverty may no longer be entirely justified. In September 2018, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, presented a report to the General Assembly on the human rights impacts of privatization. The report finds that ‘privatization often involves the systematic elimination of human rights protections’, and it foregrounds the ‘aggressive’ role that international institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have played in entrenching privatization by means of conditionality agreements attached to financial loans. The report concludes that governments ‘must adopt detailed regulations’ governing privatized providers of welfare services, and must ‘relegitimise taxation’ in order to address the ‘overwhelmingly negative’ effects of privatisation on human rights. In April 2019, Alston delivered another report to the UN on the fact finding mission he had undertaken to the UK in November 2018. His findings on the effects of austerity policies on human rights led him to accuse the British Government of causing the ‘systematic immiseration’ of a significant part of the British population’. Austerity measures have grave human rights implications and were being pursued ‘more as an ideological than an economic agenda’, his report concludes.
Anna Chadwick argues that some progress has been made towards recognising that ‘extreme’ features of capitalist political economy produce human rights violations, and that other legal regimes, notably international economic law, operate to facilitate those violations. The ‘awareness raising’ contributions of Alston are valuable, and should be encouraged. However, I develop a line of argument that I have begun in other work, and I argue that it is not sufficient to direct the attention of those concerned about poverty into strengthening the enforceability of human rights and their mechanisms of protection. Work must be done on other legal fronts to challenge the legitimacy of other legal rights and regimes that operate on both the international and the domestic levels to produce the systematic immiseration of a large percentage of the global population. If we are to take human rights seriously, which I will argue entails an imaginative project of rethinking how existing legal structures and economic paradigms would need to be reformed if human rights were first ordering principles, we also need to take seriously the possibility that those legal structures and economic paradigms cannot be simultaneously rights-respecting and ‘capitalist’. I draw on interdisciplinary literature and economic theory to reflect on the ways in which the dominant mode of political economy in the world today, capitalism, and the legal regimes that underpin it produce the conditions in which human rights are routinely violated.
Anna Chadwick joined the School of Law as Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in 2017, after completing a two-year Max Weber Fellowship at the European University Institute, in Florence. She was awarded her doctorate by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in November 2015. She holds a Masters Degree in Public International Law and International and UK Human Rights Law (LLM) from King’s College London, and an LLB from the University of Leeds. Anna spent one year working for the legal charity, Reprieve, where she undertook investigation and research on death penalty cases.
Anna’s research interests lie at the intersection between law and markets. Her PhD explored the role of commodity derivatives speculation in the context of the 2007-11 global food crisis, and offered a critical assessment of attempts to use financial regulation as a means to curb excessive levels of speculation in derivatives markets. Anna’s subsequent work has investigated the relationships between law and processes of financialisation in the global economy, the significance of contract law in the development of new financial instruments, and the role of public international law and international economic law in contributing to the production of food insecurity.
As an LKAS Fellow at the University of Glasgow, Anna will begin a new research project that examines the relationship between law and the institutionalisation of visions of political economy. She will carry out a comparative study of the significance of law in constituting and shaping the operations of three different types of market, and will explore how changes in the legal constitution of these markets may affect behaviour within them.
Anna is part of a joint research initiative on food and finance. In 2017, she co-designed and taught a new Masters course ‘Food, Law, and Finance’ at International University College of Turin. Anna has also taught courses on International Human Rights Law, and World Hunger and the Global Legal Order.