Bendable Rules: The Development Implications of Human Rights Pluralism

LEGAL PLURALISM AND DEVELOPMENT POLICY, C. Sage, B. Tamanaha, M. Woolcock, eds., Forthcoming

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/104

18 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2010 Last revised: 15 Feb 2015

David Kinley

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: October 21, 2010

Abstract

This is a paper about ‘human rights pluralism’, and about how human rights’ inherent flexibility can be embraced by development policy-makers and practitioners in ways that can aid the goals of both development and human rights. The paper argues that, even though human rights are often expressed in legal terms – terms that are usually associated with the rigidity of obligation – human rights are inherently pluralistic. This is for two reasons. First, upon closer inspection, human rights laws, and especially international human rights laws, far from imposing rigidity, reflect substantial elasticity as regards their statement, interpretation and implementation. And second, in any case, it is and always has been a mistake not to consider human rights laws within the unavoidably influential philosophical, cultural and economic contexts in which they operate. The political, in other words, is both a necessary and desirable dimension of the legal expression of human rights. Drawing upon this conceptual basis, the paper identifies six specific ‘grammatical features’ of human rights and describes how and why they might be profitably employed by development specialists.

Keywords: human rights, development, international relations, international law, legal theory

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32

Suggested Citation

Kinley, David, Bendable Rules: The Development Implications of Human Rights Pluralism (October 21, 2010). LEGAL PLURALISM AND DEVELOPMENT POLICY, C. Sage, B. Tamanaha, M. Woolcock, eds., Forthcoming; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/104. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1695304

David Kinley (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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