International Indigenous Economic Law
49 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 2, 2018
Scholarship on the links between business and human rights is widespread. However, the specific ways in which globalization accommodates the economically marginalized and those who are likely most vulnerable to its negative effects has received scant attention. The increasingly obvious manifestations of discontent over the effects of globalization — from Brexit, to the election of President Trump — combined with the evidence that confirms the very uneven distribution of its benefits, indicate that this is an important scholarly gap.
To bridge it, this Article explores the extent to which the main fields of international law that are tasked with promoting economic interdependence — international finance, investment, trade, and intellectual property — address the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, an expressly protected category of marginalized and/or vulnerable people under international law.
Relying on recent legal practice and four case studies, the Article compares these fields and explains the different ways indigenous peoples’ interests are accommodated by international economic law. More broadly, the intersection between international economic law and indigenous rights — what I call international indigenous economic law — provides important lessons to current demands to address the negative effects of globalization. In particular, the Article argues that international economic law must recognize the need to more seriously incorporate the struggle for social and economic justice espoused by human rights law. At the same time, human rights advocates should utilize the growing set of possibilities from instruments that promote economic interdependence to create or renew strategies that advance human rights values and goals. This complex line has been at the core of indigenous rights advocacy, the relative success of which provides some hope for the future of international law at a challenging time.
Keywords: economic interdependence, indigenous peoples, globalization, international economic law, social and economic justice, human rights
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