Third World Approaches to International Law and the Ghosts of Apartheid
D. Keane & Y. McDermott (eds.), The Challenge of Human Rights: Past, Present and Future (Elgar, 2012)
25 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2012 Last revised: 14 Oct 2012
Date Written: September 1, 2012
The concept and practice of apartheid was central to the post-war evolution of international law as a site of contestation between imperial interests and anti-imperial discourse, and as a clarion call for global solidarity action. This essay glances back at the recent history of international law through the looking glass of apartheid, and argues for the continuing relevance of its prohibition. The utopian rhetoric of universal rights and freedoms that we narrate into the story of the formation of the United Nations was not of central concern to many of the organisation’s imperious, war-victorious founders, whose ranks included one of the chief architects of white settler nationalism and segregation in South Africa, Jan Smuts. The eventual proscription of apartheid in the 1960s serves as a reminder of the role played by the decolonising nations in the development of legal doctrine, with the prohibition remaining a potentially valuable normative and analytical framework in situations where segregation and institutionalised racial discrimination persist or re-emerge.
Keywords: international law, apartheid, third world approaches to international law
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation