Preliminary Program: Redistributive Human Rights?

Miniature people standing on piles of different heights of coins. Image: Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock

On Thursday 31 January and Friday 1 February 2019, UNSW Sydney will host a workshop that considers the different ways in which the language and frameworks of human rights have been mobilised - both to make redistribute justice claims or to contest economic inequalities, but also to close down political discussions around distributional questions and crush Third World demands for global wealth redistribution.

We hope to interrogate, why and how, at specific moments and in specific places, human rights movements and NGOs operated as either “powerless companions” or as “fellow travellers” to elitist economic agendas as well as to excavate moments when rights movements committed to companionships of solidarity based on building the power of the marginalised.

This workshop aims to build on and extend current debates about the relationship between human rights and economic inequality.

We hope to enrich these discussions by paying attention to the complex and varied nature of human rights movements, the historical contingency of human rights frameworks and the differing visions and forms of rights. In doing so, we aim to deepen understandings of the “distributional imagination and political economy” of human rights. 


Register here for the workshop

Workshop participants who wish to attend the keynote speech must register here




Preliminary Program: Redistributive Human Rights?


UNSW Sydney

Faculty of Law Building [Building F8 on this map]


Day 1: Thursday 31 January 


11.00 – 11.30:     Registration and Morning Tea [Student Lounge, Level 1, at the top of the escalators]


11:30 – 12:00:    Welcome and Introductions [Room 303]


12:00 – 1.30:    Constitutional Rights and National Contexts [Room 303]

Rosalind Dixon (UNSW) & David Landau (Florida State University), “Redistributive Social Rights? Rereading the Colombian Constitutional Experience”


Jackie Dugard (University of the Witwatersrand) & Angela María Sánchez (Universidad de los Andes), “Bringing Class Back In: An Intersectional Analysis of the Use of Law for Social Change in the Global South - the South African Case”


Jon Piccini (University of Queensland), “Australia and the Peculiar Career of Economic Rights”


Dylan Lino (University of Western Australia), “Redistributive Bills of Rights? An Australian Story”


1.30 – 2:30:      Lunch [Student Lounge, Level 1]


2:30 – 4:00:      Rights and Redistribution in Post-Colonial Africa [Room 303]

Souheir Edelbi (UNSW), “Land Inequality and Colonial Violence: Tracing the Missing Link in the International Criminal Court's Investigation in Kenya”


Coel Kirkby (University of Sydney), “Common Dreams: The Uses of Human Rights in Reconstituting the African Postcolony”


Randi L. Irwin (The New School for Social Research), “Self-Determination and Human Rights: Blocking Resource Extraction and Appeals to Corporate Social Responsibility in a Non-self-governing Territory”


Shirley Genga (University of the Witwatersrand), “The Institutionalisation of Inequality by the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA): A Case Study of Kenya”


4:00 – 4:30:      Afternoon Tea [Student Lounge, Level 1]


4:30 – 6:00:      Rights, Social Solidarity and Austerity: The European Experience [Room 303]

Anna Delius (Freie Universität Berlin), “Universal Rights or Basic Necessities: Discourses on Repression and Protest among Polish Intellectuals, Workers, and the Western European Left in the 1970s”


Anna Saunders (University of Melbourne), “‘Animated by the European Spirit’: European Human Rights as Counterrevolutionary Legality”


Holly Cullen (University of Western Australia), “Social Rights in a Time of Austerity: Testing Solidarity in the Second Decade of the European Social Charter’s Collective Complaints Mechanism”


7pm:                Dinner (self-funded)



Day 2: Friday 1 February 


9:00 – 10:30:    Different Perspectives on Human Rights and Inequality [Room 303]

James C. Fisher (University of Tokyo), “Rights: The Idiom of Inequality”


Simeon Igbenedigon (University of Lagos), “Evaluating the Use of Human Rights Discourses to Contest Economic Inequality”


Ryan Mitchell (Chinese University of Hong Kong), “Hegemony and Fate: The Origins and Influence of China's Developmentalist Vision of Human Rights”


10:30 – 11:00: Morning Tea [Student Lounge, Level 1]


11:00 – 12:30: Neoliberalism and Human Rights [Room 303]

Zachary Manfredi (UC Berkley / Yale law School), “Social and Economic Rights, Before and After Neoliberalism”


Michelle Carmody (University of Melbourne), “The Lost Utopia? The Development of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Politics, Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s”


Roland Burke (La Trobe University), “Human Rights, Universal, Liberal, and Democratic: The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights and the Recession of Redistribution”


Kári Hólmar Ragnarsson (Harvard Law School), “Roads Not Taken: The Neglect of Economic Inequality in the Work of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Decade Post-2008”


12:30 – 1:30:    Lunch [Student Lounge, Level 1]


1:30 – 3:00:      Status Inequality and Distributional Concerns [Room 303]

Paul van Trigt (Leiden University), “Redistributive Human Rights and Disability Policies in the 1980s and 1990s”


Anthony J. Langlois (Flinders University), “Rights, Inequality and Redistribution: Critical Engagements


Cheah Wui Ling (National University of Singapore), Taking a “Redistributive Justice Approach to the 'Comfort Women’ Movement”


3:00 – 3:30:      Afternoon Tea [Student Lounge, Level 1]


3:30 – 5:00:      Distributive Struggles over Food, Climate and Environment [Room 303]

Konstantine Eristavi (University of Oxford), “Social Rights, Radical Democracy and the Politics of Food”


James Okolie Osemene (Wellspring University / University of Ibadan), “A Study of Corporate Social Responsibility and Socioeconomic Rights Protection in Post-Saro Wiwa Niger Delta of Nigeria”


Caroline Compton (UNSW), “Climate Change, the Emergency, and the Trumping of Rights: Relocation after Disaster”


5:00 – 5:30:      Break


5:30 – 7:00:      Keynote Address [Law Theatre, Room G02]


‘Human Rights, Distributive Ethics, and Political Economy’             Samuel Moyn (Yale University)


Convenors: Jessica Whyte (University of Western Sydney), Ben Golder (UNSW Sydney) and Julia Dehm (La Trobe University).

Supported by: Australian Human Rights Institute, UNSW Sydney, University of Western Sydney, La Trobe University and the Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School.