International Law and the Development Encounter: Violence and Resistance at the Margins
93RD American Society of International Law Proceedings, p. 16, 1999
14 Pages Posted: 16 May 2007
This essay, based on my lecture at the American Society of International Law's annual meeting, is an attempt to unravel the political, ideological and social character of the complex interactions between international law and development, understood as two discourses that came together at the end of World War II, and the particular ways in which that interaction was received by First and Third World international lawyers. In the following, I make two inter-related claims. First, I claim that international law has played a crucial, perhaps even a central part, in the evolution of the ideology and practice of development in the post World War II period. This fact, I claim, has been overlooked by development writers, as well as international lawyers in general. My second claim consists of two parts: in the first part, I assert that contrary to the received ways in which mainstream international lawyers have generally treated development and human rights - as antithetical to each other -, they should be seen as deeply implicated in each other and functioning within common parameters. In particular, I claim that the mainstream human rights discourse remains too deeply mired within the progressivist and teleological imperatives set by the development discourse, and therefore can not be counted upon in an unproblematic way, as an emancipatory narrative of resistance to violence and oppression unleashed by the development encounter. The second part of my second claim is that - paradoxically and contrariwise - international law has had a central role in the resistance to the same ideology and practice of development.
In the following I examine these themes through a discussion of two questions: first, how did international lawyers receive development in the post-World War II period and what were the implications of that in terms of constraining the violence of development? Second, why was/is international law oblivious to the violence of development and what does it tell us about the relationship between law and violence in international life as well as between law and resistance?
Keywords: International Law, Development, Resistance, Third World
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