New Challenges Threaten Zimbabwean Democracy

Par: Farai Chipato

Zimbabwe has been gripped by political controversy over the past six weeks, as opposition parties and activists objected to the passing of two bills amending the country’s constitution, threatening to erode Zimbabwe’s ailing democracy further. The bills pushed through several changes, including removing age limits for judges and an extension of presidential powers to appoint members of the judiciary and vice presidents.

The Right Family: The Personal is Geopolitical

Par: Rita Abrahamsen

In the wake of Mr. Biden’s election victory, the foreign policy commentariat is brimming with optimism.  With a committed internationalist in the White House and a woman as Vice-President, the world stage seems set for a return to happier times.


Selling Human Rights Due Diligence in Canada

Par: David Hughes

On 29 November, Swiss voters gathered for a referendum. They affirmed that the country’s constitution should be amended to impose human rights due diligence (HRDD) requirements on multinational firms headquartered in Switzerland. The proposed amendment, which would require companies to proactively manage the adverse human rights impacts of their business activity, ultimately failed.

The Rise of African Philanthropy and International Development

Par: Farai Chipato

There is a significant change taking place across the global south, as international development agencies are taking a less prominent role in promoting development and democracy.


The Ties that Bind? The Increasing Complexity and Indeterminacy of Inter-Governmental Organizations

Par: John Packer

The State-based system of international governance that evolved from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is struggling in the face of contemporary realities.  Today, developments in technology permit instantaneous movement of capital and information, quick movement of goods, and the simultaneous presence of persons – whether as State agents, commercial actors, or private individuals – in different territories and time-zones. 



Performative citizenship and the politics of scale: Local, national and global citizenships in Zimbabwe

Political Geography

Par: Farai Chipato

This paper explores the interaction between different scales of governance and performative citizenship, understood as acts by citizens that claim new political rights and reshape the political arena. Performance allows citizens to creatively transform the meanings and functions of citizenship during struggles over rights. The paper focuses on a series of examples in Zimbabwe, which highlight the entanglement of different scales of citizenship and the ways that the acts of citizenship both challenge and sustain these relationships. This is examined through a framework that combines theories of performative citizenship with concepts from human geography that examine scales of governance. The argument draws out the implications of these dynamics in relation to conflicts over customary citizenship in rural Zimbabwe, the issue of dual citizenship among white Zimbabweans and the exercise of citizenship rights by non-Zimbabweans. It highlights both the ways citizens have harnessed the creative potential of acts of citizenship which address multiple scales, and the constraints that scalar hierarchies put on citizen action. The examples demonstrate that new forms of political rights can be produced across scales, but that opportunities for creative acts of citizenship are unevenly distributed due to these scalar hierarchies, which are produced by postcolonial legacies.


Of Tactics, Illegal Occupation and the Boundaries of Legal Capability: A Reply to Ardi Imseis

European Journal of International Law

Par: David Hughes

This contribution engages with Ardi Imseis’s article ‘Negotiating the Illegal: On the United Nations and the Illegal Occupation of Palestine, 1967–2020’. In reply, I contemplate whether an occupation’s legal status can or should affect the requirement that an occupying power must withdraw from the territory that it controls. I consider Imseis’s claim that it is necessary to declare that an occupation has become illegal to move beyond the tension that exists between the requirements of state responsibility and a political preference for negotiations. I question the effectiveness of Imseis’s proposed approach, argue that the duty to terminate an occupation is a positive legal duty that exists regardless of an occupation’s legal status and suggest that the negotiation process cannot be completely uncoupled from the withdrawal requirement. In conclusion, I suggest that grounding calls to terminate occupation in the principle of temporality and the international consensus prohibiting the acquisition of territory by force better reflects international law’s capacity to contribute to an occupation’s termination.


Something is Not Always Better than Nothing: Problematizing Emerging Forms of Jus Ad Bellum Argument

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Par: David Hughes and Yahli Shereshevsky

Since the adoption of the UN Charter, an unending debate concerning the permissible exceptions to the use of force prohibition has filled the pages of countless law reviews. The resulting legal regime, the jus ad bellum, has become increasingly strained as the international community faces new threats and encounters unforeseen scenarios. The post-war legal architecture is, so the debate goes, either insufficiently enabled to address contemporary challenges or consistently undermined by actors who seek exceptions to the strict limits placed upon state conduct. Debates regarding different instances when force is used exhibit a predictable pattern. Those that wish to limit the scope of the permissible use of force by states (minimalists) offer legal arguments that emphasize the importance of adhering to a strict reading of the UN Charter. Responding, those that support broadening the instances in which force is permissible (expansionists) provide moral arguments that stress the need to bridge the gap between what the law says and what is required to ensure a just international society. This Article identifies a significant shift in the structure of this debate. Following the controversial airstrikes by US, French, and UK forces in Syria, proponents of an expansionist approach have moved from pursuing moral arguments about the necessity of armed intervention to embracing argumentative techniques that attempt to nullify minimalist apprehensions. The Article describes three forms of emergent expansionist arguments that have altered the traditional form of expansionist claims. Each instance suggests that good-faith expansionist efforts to ensure the legitimacy of thead bellum regime are undermined by this emerging argumentative prioritization. The Article concludes by proposing reversion to a form of legal argument that accentuates moral implications and positions international law to maintain its relevancy by effectively contributing to the redress of many of the most consuming challenges that face a nonideal world.