Panel 1 Dr. Alexandra Xanthaki (Brunel Law School): Multiculturalism and International Law




НазваниеPanel 1 Dr. Alexandra Xanthaki (Brunel Law School): Multiculturalism and International Law
Дата05.10.2012
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Panel 5.1


Dr. Alexandra Xanthaki (Brunel Law School): Multiculturalism and International Law


Abstract:

Several commentators have recently claimed that policies of multiculturalism are to blame for the rise of extremism and even for terrorist attacks. Opponents of multiculturalism argue that multicultural policies contribute to extremism, as they lead to segregation of groups. They suggest that religious and cultural attachments should remain in the private sphere and should not be supported and encouraged by the state. Multiculturalism is also accused of ignoring the national identity; even more so, of inciting disrespect towards it. The argument goes that individuals are encouraged to feel Muslim or Bangladeshi, Greek or Jewish, but not British; and the state does not focus on protecting their Britishness, but focuses on protecting -through unjustified affirmative action- the different racial identities. Therefore, critics of multiculturalism endorse integration, a policy that tolerates racial difference, but aims towards the building of a common identity. The paper will explore the position of international law on multiculturalism and its criticisms. It is interesting that although international law plays an active role in discussions about minority rights, it has largely been absent from discussions about ‘multiculturalism’ as such, mainly because multiculturalism as a term is absent from international law instruments. The paper argues that nevertheless, current standards do reflect a multicultural approach. International law recognises and protects the multiplicity of loyalties citizens have in groups. The language of international law instruments, as interpreted by United Nations bodies, suggests that, rather than perpetuating tensions among sub-national groups within the state, multicultural policies prevent discrimination, alienation, exclusion and consequently, extremism. Such international instruments, including the International Convention against All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention for the Rights of the Child, instruments on minority rights and various UNESCO instruments as well as their interpretations by the United Nations monitoring bodies; recent UN General Comments; and on-going UN discussions will be used to explore international law responses on issues such as the neutral state, the recognition of and positive measures for ethnic groups and conflicts between the values of the majority and group rights.


Corinne Lennox, (LSE): Transnational mobilisation of minority groups: Using international human rights to achieve national multiculturalism


Abstract:

Ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities groups are frequently marginalised in the domestic sphere. States may ratify international human rights treaties that protect minority rights but continue to discriminate against, exclude or forcibly assimilate minorities in practice. This can simply be a policy of neglect, where minorities lack a political voice (be that through political representatives, NGOs, or media) and do not actively raise their concerns with governments. There may also be a policy of assimilation or segregation of minorities on the part of the state, whereby the isolation or elimination of minority identities is a tactic of ‘nation-building’, a response to popular xenophobia or a strategy for securing greater power in the hands of a small elite.

In order to challenge these human rights violations, and seek recognition of multiculturalism, minorities have frequently mobilized against the state, often with violent results. Much of the literature on minorities focuses on this conflict perspective and in doing so arguably perpetuates the ‘securitization’ of minorities and the state’s eye view that minorities (and by extension multiculturalism) are a ‘threat’ to national unity and territorial integrity.

There is an alternative, however. While political opportunities for change may be blocked in the domestic sphere, minorities can find many allies to their cause at the international level. Through transnational mobilization, some minority groups are successfully changing the normative framework for the protection of their rights and putting pressure on their own governments to conform to these norms. They are aided by the political opportunities afforded by international institutions, principally those dealing with international human rights law at the global and regional levels. These institutions offer to minorities formal recognition, strategic support, space for collective action and leverage to influence their governments.

The proposed paper will examine these dynamics by drawing on case studies that emerged from the UN World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. Using this important international institution, Dalits in South Asia and Afro-descendants in Latin America mobilized across borders, redefined their identity in the international sphere and pushed for group-specific concessions in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Their successes were mixed at the World Conference but since they have continued to forge significant reforms at the UN and regional levels that have pushed states to acknowledge their obligations towards these groups and take new action in recognition of diversity and rights. These successes underscore the possibility that transnational mobilization has for securing domestic change without ‘securitising’ minorities.


Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins (Durham): Japan’s retreat from universalism in the late 19th century: background and domestic impact


Abstract:

When Japan ended its two-hundred-year-long period of international isolation and began its efforts to build various modern state institutions and to introduce a capitalist economy by emulating various Western countries in the mid-19th century, its leaders still had a rather sanguine view about international relations. Thus, one of its leading intellectuals Fukuzawa Yukichi said in 1865: “A country which abides by reason cannot be assailed from without. If any other country should attack her without reason, another will always come to her aid.” Such faith in the power of universal moral principles is reflected also in various government texts promulgated by the new provisional government in its early days. These texts include the country’s first constitutional text of 1868 with its emphasis on public debate and international law, and the country’s first Western-style criminal code drafted in 1878, which endorses various key universal principles, most importantly the rule of law (the principle of nulla poena sine lege) and equality before the law.

However, various factors, both real and ideological, contributed to the rapid repudiation of some of these key principles by government leaders and intellectuals, including Fukuzawa. A pivotal factor is the effect of the so-called unequal treaties that Japan had signed with the major powers in the 1850s and under which Japan granted crucial extraterritorial rights to these powers. These treaties became an abiding manifestation of Japan’s incompletely independent status and to terminate them became a major diplomatic goal for its successive governments.

These attempts to adopt Western “universal” principles while Japan’s international status was still fragile and uncertain led to serious social and political tensions within the country, which was still struggling with the transition from a feudal status-based society to one that was more individualistic. The critique of supposedly universal moral principles came in particular from those who were ideologically adamantly conservative and nationalistic. Reflecting these and other changes in the national debate, the country’s new legal structure, including the criminal code, gradually introduced new hierarchies and discriminations. The army and the navy became exempt from obeying the code (they were to obey their own law), the emperor acquired his legally-endorsed transcendental status, and various social groups, including women, were effectively excluded from political activities. This rejection of legal equality eroded the foundations of state and made it difficult for the Japanese as a whole to pursue a common agenda and create a civil society.

Although the rejection of such legal principles had crucial consequences for Japan’s foreign and war policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I would like to focus on the expedient and ideological background of Japan’s flight from universality and to discuss the attendant impact on the Japanese body politic and the people’s exposure to democratic values.

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