Developing and improving the law’s effectiveness in meeting emerging global needs

The Law, Governance and Global Change Program takes a broad view of the international law (public, private, transnational) in exploring global change.

One of the defining features of the 21st Century has been the speed of global change and the globalisation of formerly state-based and regulated activities. Improvements in transportation, the ongoing expansion and improvement in digital technologies, the migration of those affected by poverty, war and climate change, the continued intermingling of financial markets and fiscal policies, and a consequential proliferation in the movement of ideas, money, goods, pests and people across borders has created a range of unprecedented problems that require urgent attention and long­-term legal and governance mechanisms.

Researchers in this Program look at the ways in which the law might be reconfigured and integrated with ethical, political and economic imperatives to deal with cross-jurisdictional change, including those driven within national jurisdictions. The Program takes a humanistic approach that incorporates cultural perspectives and jurisprudential methods. Researchers aim to provide a resource for the development of integrity-based governance through research and capacity building. The Program highlights the values of integrity that should inform the emerging global order.

Research under this Program will link to research within other Griffith research centres and institutions, including the Griffith Criminology Institute and the Centre for Governance and Public Policy and will build on activities such as the Global Integrity Summit.

Exploring Law, Governance and Global Change

Law Futures Centre: Susan Harris Rimmer

Trading women's rights in transitions

ARC Futures Fellowship 2015–2019

Is the status of women a tradable commodity (a silent bargaining chip) during political transitions? If so, who trades what, when and why?

Transition means moving from war to peace, economic disruption or changing one system of government/leadership to another. One of the key means by which this occurs is the diplomatic process, of bargaining, compromising, settlement or trading. There is, however, a danger that in order to secure political objectives or preferences, negotiators may ‘trade away’ the interests of vulnerable or emerging social forces, sometimes knowingly, more often without due appreciation of the interests under threat.

This book examines the gender politics of transitions.  I examine the link between negotiation processes around the globe; and outcomes for social groups who struggle to gain access to power, focussing on the rights of women and girls. This book is about how women’s rights are traded away by negotiators directly in exchange for immediate political or other settlements, and indirectly in terms of being left off the international agenda with long-term consequences. The struggle between actors in reformist groups can also trade away women’s rights before the agenda with international actors is agreed. But this research looks beyond the formal negotiating table and agreed international law to other spaces where 'trades' can take place, such as personal status laws, 'ordinary' crimes, economic governance and institutional design.

The aim is to assess ideas and discourse about the ‘tradeability’ of a group’s rights in states experiencing a seismic transition, such as in Afghanistan or Myanmar.  What does diplomacy look like ‘from below’ in these situations?  This book compiles evidence from around the globe, including Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Timor Leste, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines.

This book has the potential to expand the horizons of international and domestic actors by alerting them to key groups whose concerns in peacemaking diplomacy might otherwise be overlooked. In doing so, it not only enhances the prospects that settlements in which the international community has been involved will prove sustainable, but also shows way in which the practice of modern diplomacy can be transformed.

The book might also prove valuable to activists as well, as it can alert them as to what kinds of ‘traps’ to avoid so that women’s rights are not traded away in their context.

The study’s normative recommendation is that international actors ought to develop a habit of sociocultural analysis and commit to a new principle of ‘institutional design’ so as to ‘do no harm’ to particular vulnerable or emerging sociocultural groups that may not have loud voices.

Project highlights

Strengthening Human Rights Protection in Queensland

On 31 October the Queensland Human Rights Bill was introduced in Parliament. Members of the LFC, led by Professor Sue Harris Rimmer, have been monitoring this development closely and are poised to work closely to help ensure its successful implementation. Griffith Law School (GLS) has been a proud member of the Human Rights Act for Queensland campaign and hosted the April 2018 strategy meeting.

GLS and the LFC support client-led research that partners with front-line services and foregrounds the direct voice and lived experience of Queenslanders dealing with human rights issues. We are interested in what rights-based approaches will mean to the future of the legal profession and other professions in Queensland.

Listen to Professor Pene Mathew talk to the ABC on human rights in Queensland here.

Listen to a podcast of Professor Sue Harris Rimmer talking to Nance Haxton about the need for a Human Rights Act in Queensland here.

Mental Health and Human Rights in Queensland

The Mental Health Act 2016 (Qld) was updated in 2016 to deal with pressing human rights issues, including forced treatment and involuntary confinement. The new treatment test adopted is the 'least restrictive' of the rights and liberties of a person who has a mental illness, and uses a model of 'supported decision-making'. The Queensland Government introduced a Human Rights Act in 2018, which contains the right to access health services.

We aim to fuse expertise from the practice of psychiatry and human rights to describe the full implementation of the social model of disability, enshrined in the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities, to mental health in Queensland.

The significance of this project will provide recommendations on access to mental health, new tests for capacity, and related reforms to criminal law and social policy.

Hear the lecture by Professor Bernadette McSherry here.

The Music of Rights

The Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre and Law Futures Centre at Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Law are currently undertaking a research initiative exploring the relationship between music and human rights.

The aim of the initiative is to catalogue and analyse the various ways in which music and musical performance can be used to raise awareness of human rights issues, to bring communities together after atrocity or persecution, to celebrate diversity and to proclaim identity. It also aims to explore the concept of the human right to music and how it can be better protected.

Power Hubs of Asia
The city as an actor under international law: An Asia-Pacific perspective

Demographic trends of urbanisation are leading to the rise of global megacities, sparking debate about whether the state-centric nature of international law is facing a new challenge from micro-territories. We map the international roles of Asian cities and their ambition to shape norms, including how to address inequality within their borders.

We are interested in how Asian cities will respond to citizens demands for the 'right to the city' and deal with discrimination and intersectional inequality inside their borders as they become more globalised actors with material and ideational power. We will explore who are the winners and losers as some regional cities rise to prominence as international regulators.

Read ‘The Rise and rise of Asian cities’ for the Griffith Asia report State of the Neighbourhood 2018 here.

Listen to Sue Harris Rimmer’s interview with Rachel Mealey on ABC Radio National The World Today program on 9 November here.


Non-state Governance of Essential Services

Global governance is allowing a new range of hybrid regulatory arrangements. We are investigating areas of regulation (including influencing behaviour and conduct) that apply where private non-state actors exercise control over (manage) what are seen traditionally as global public goods or essential services – for example, communications technologies, financial services, the production, supply or distribution of water or energy, health services and pharmaceuticals, transportation and other public infrastructure (‘essential services’). We are particularly interested in essential services that have international aspects, such as involving foreign investors and operators or having cross-border operations or effects.

Griffith Law School and the Law Futures Centre held an invitation-only roundtable event exploring the theme of regulating the non-governmental (private) management of essential goods, services and infrastructure in a globalised environment in November 2018. The Law Futures Centre invited Professor Fleur Johns ( UNSW ) to present insights from her research concerning the private governance of public goods in Canada and the Mekong region.

The roundtable aims to develop a "Network on the Private Governance of Public Goods". We are seeking participation from all those interested in the role of non-governmental actors in regulating and managing essential goods and services.


The role of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Cambodia: Legacies, Law and Peoples

A number of claims have been made in relation to transitional justice mechanisms, such as the ECCC. One of these is that their operation will have consequences and implications beyond the boundaries of the institution. The idea of legacy in transitional justice has powerful resonance but carries various contested meanings and applications.

A December 2019 workshop will encourage critical discussion of the idea and realities of legacy/ies after mass conflict and transitional justice, with the participation of Mr. Ok Serei Sopheak, the Chair of Transparency International Cambodia; Professor Renée Jeffery, School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University; Professor Susanne Karstedt, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; and Ms. Clair Duffy, Bond University.


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