Skip to main content

Inward looking strategy? Shifting conceptions of development in international law


By Arjun Kumar, Anshula Mehta, Sakshi Sharda, Chhavi Kapoor, Mahima Kapoor*
With the COVID-19 pandemic, counties across the world have adopted an inward-looking and isolated strategy. Given this, how we conceptualize development in the purview of international law and what mechanisms we use for the same become pertinent questions. Keeping in line with this, the Centre for Human Dignity and Development, IMPRI, in collaboration with the Centre for Development, Communication and Studies, Jaipur, organized a web policy talk on Shifting Conceptions of Development in International Law under the State of Development Discourses- #CohesiveDevelopment series.
The chair and moderator, Professor Sunil Ray, Director of A. N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna; Advisor CDECS and IMPRI laid the groundwork to facilitate the discussion of new ideas and concepts regarding the theory of development, which has been a part of the literature for several decades, in the context of international law. The underpinnings of the same are to analyze the role of international law to bring international relations and co-operation for development.
While GDP growth and other related parameters have been written about and incorporated in policymaking extensively, other areas such as social injustice, social discrimination, patriarchy, and human rights and the legal system built around them have to be brought to the center stage. In order to ensure sustainability, solidarity among the people, with institutions, and with ecology will have to be incorporated in the legalization process.
The esteemed speaker, Professor Koen De Feyter, Professor of Public International Law; Spokesperson of the Law and Development Research Group at the Law Faculty of the University of Antwerp, Belgium started with a research project that he was involved in. It concerned slum dwellers utilizing water and sanitation resources to access drinking water. While the right to clean water is recognized in the legal system of India, there exists a gap between what exists on paper and the ground reality. Strategic insight into understanding the context in which the law will work becomes necessary.

The Conception

The inception of the intersection of law and development emerged post-colonialism periods, where researchers in former colonial powers aimed to understand their role with respect to the newly independent countries. In “The Limits of Law and Development”, Sam Adelman and Abdul Paliwala argued the feasibility of discarding the concept of development altogether. The basis of this was that development, especially economic development, has been used to create injustices.
In the post-colonialism era, international law paved the way for international society. The members would have to have a state that resembled that of the West. The focus was more towards establishing sovereignty over the newly independent countries, rather than establishing rights. The Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) argues that even today, the platform has been influenced by the power dynamics among countries, reinforcing inequality. Scholars can come together to hold intellectual debates and publish research as an attempt to reach a global consensus for cooperation.
In the “Encyclopaedia of Law and Development”, Prof De Feyter discussed the strategy of law and development to address inequality. The process is not automatic, but conscious in order to be inclusive in nature.

The Dimensions of Development

The definition of development in international law tends to vary from treaties and resolutions to governmental and international organizations. The sources include development as economic growth, basic needs fulfillment, enabling international environment, freedom, human rights, sustainable development, and planetary boundaries.
Under this, there has been a shift from human development to sustainable development. The environment had been looked at as a resource and source of income until recently. It is time to rethink the impact of human activities on the non-human and take into account the intrinsic value of the planet.
Within the United Nations Agenda, sustainable development has three dimensions- economic, social, and environmental. The challenge is to operationalize these aspects.
Sustainable development has become a general principle of law, as claimed by Christina Voigt. This means that if there is a resolution of a treaty or dispute on one of the abovementioned aspects, the other two also need to be incorporated.

International Law and Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development Goals are global and aspirational. While the motivation may be economic prosperity, legal standards in social and environment need to be formulated by giving them appropriate weights. The resulting solution has to be optimal in as many standards as possible. However, the SDGs are based on the traditional economic growth model, making it difficult to balance multiple parameters together. In the context of capitalism, the enforcement of planetary boundaries has not been fully comprehended in the Agenda.

Definition Revisited

Prof De Feyter opined that formulating a concrete definition of development is not necessary at the global level because the theme of development indicates plurality. Across and within countries, people will hold different ideas and goals for development, which their respective governments will have to organize and operationalize. However, at its core, it should ensure free, active, and meaningful participation within the society, human dignity- at the individual and collective level, and solidarity internationally.
One solution is to move beyond international law and work together through international civil societies and alternative international law.
Thus, there has been a visible shift from development as growth and basic needs fulfillment to include empathy, human dignity, human rights, and environmental sustainability in the scholarly circles. Today, the focus should be to understand that a single definition of development is not necessary and countries are required to formulate and operationalize their respective priorities, with the core international standards in mind.
---
*With IMPRI

Comments

TRENDING

'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.

August 9 to be observed as Corporates Quit India day: Top farmers' group

By Our Representative A recent general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the top farmers' organisation, stated hat "there is no need for any illusion of change in the pro-corporate policies of the BJP-NDA government" following the recent elections in which BJP failed to achieve even simple majority. It insisted,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi "is hell bent" to continue 'business as usual' policies.

Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore: COP's Geneva meet

By Our Representative A comprehensive Belgian report has held MNC Etex , into construction business and one of the richest, responsible for asbestos pollution in Kymore, an industrial town in in Katni district of Madhya Pradesh. The report provides evidence from the ground on how Kymore’s dust even today is “annoying… it creeps into your clothes, you have to cough it”, saying “It can be deadly.”

Maharashtra govt's proposed bill may be used against 'dissenting' journalists, writers, filmmakers, artists

Counterview Desk  The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Maharashtra, strongly objecting to what it calls “repressive and unconstitutional” Maharashtra Special Public Security Bill 2024, has demanded the proposed law be scrapped in its entirety. In its Statement of Objects and Reasons for the Bill, PUCL noted,  the broad and non-descript label of ‘urban naxal’ has been used, which is actually a “common slur used for any citizen who expresses their opposition to state policy or is not aligned with right-wing majoritarian views."