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Access_open Human Rights Courts Interpreting Sustainable Development: Balancing Individual Rights and the Collective Interest

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2013
Keywords Operationalizing sustainable development, human rights, individual rights/interests, collective rights/interests, human rights courts
Authors Emelie Folkesson MA
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article uses a generally accepted conceptualisation of sustainable development that can be operationalized in a judicial context. It focuses on the individual and collective dimensions of the environmental, economic and social pillars, as well as the consideration of inter-generational and intra-generational equity. Case law from the European, African and American systems is analysed to reveal if the elements of sustainable development have been incorporated in their jurisprudence. The analysis reveals that the human rights bodies have used different interpretative methods, some more progressive than others, in order to incorporate the elements of sustainable development in the scope of their mandate, even if they do not mention the concept as such. The overall conclusion is that sustainable development has been operationalized through human rights courts to a certain extent. Sometimes, however, a purely individualised approach to human rights creates a hurdle to further advance sustainable development. The conclusion creates the impression that sustainable development is not just a concept on paper, but that it in fact can be operationalized, also in other courts and quasi-courts. Moreover, it shows that the institutional structure of human rights courts has been used in other areas than pure human rights protection, which means that other areas of law might make use of it to fill the gap of a non-existing court structure.


Emelie Folkesson MA
PhD Candidate in public international law, Erasmus University Rotterdam. The author would like to thank Prof. Ellen Hey, Prof. Klaus Heine and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable insights and constructive comments on the drafts of this article. The usual disclaimer applies.

    In this paper, I will firstly illustrate the broader context of the contractualisation of family law by drawing upon the oscillations in family regulation between private and public regulators, in the light of the so-called family law exceptionalism. I consider the contractualisation of family law to be the ordering of the family by families and individuals through the use of legally binding private instruments. I will elaborate upon the substantive and jurisdictional contractualisation of family law in Sections 2 and 3 of this paper respectively. The deliberately 'impressionist' presentation of Section 1-3 leads onto the conclusion which proposes that States benevolently tolerate substantive contractualisation through a lower standard of judicial review, and that, whilst they actively stimulate jurisdictional contractualisation of the content of family relations, the formation and dissolution of family relations still appear to fall within the State's exclusive domain (Section 4).
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    In deze bijdrage situeer ik eerst de 21ste eeuwse contractualisering van het familierecht in de historische pendelbeweging tussen publieke en private regulering van familieleven. Die leidde in de 19de en 20ste eeuw tot de aanneming van een bijzondere, niet-contractuele, aard van het familierecht (sectie 1). Ik beschouw als contractualisering van het familierecht: de regulering van familieleven door de familie en door individuen, door middel van juridisch bindende privaatrechtelijke instrumenten. Ik zal ingaan op de inhoudelijke en jurisdictionele contractualisering van het familierecht in respectievelijk de secties 2 en 3 van deze bijdrage. De bewust 'impressionistische' uiteenzetting in secties 1-3 leidt naar de conclusie dat Staten enerzijds een welwillende houding aannemen ten opzichte van inhoudelijke contractualisering, doordat een lagere norm van rechterlijke toetsing wordt gehanteerd. Anderzijds stimuleren zij actief de jurisdictionele contractualisering van de inhoud van familierelaties. Het aangaan en de beƫindiging van familierelaties blijven daarentegen het exclusieve domein van de Staat (sectie 4).


Prof. dr. Frederik Swennen
Frederik Swennen is a senior lecturer at the University of Antwerp and an attorney at the Brussels Bar.

Mahulena Hofmann
Prof. Dr., SES Chair in Satellite Communications and Media Law, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg, mahulena.hofmann@uni.lu.
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