Research Excellence Initiatives

About INFAR

International and supranational organizations today are dedicated to the promotion of the rule of law and human rights, but they increasingly face problems in how to progress towards these purposes. The European Union, for instance, finds that its new member states are unable to deliver on the rule of law commitments made when they joined the EU. The United Nations struggle with rule of law and human rights in post-conflict states, for instance, when the UN takes on the role of government, as in Kosovo, and in transnational trade contexts, where the UN tries to provide guidelines for how business actors should take responsibility for human rights protection. Part of the difficulty in realizing and assessing rule of law and human rights emanates from the divergence of views among actors regarding the overall purposes of the rule of law and human rights.

While policymakers, regulatory agencies and private actors tend to a functional approach in which the rule of law and human rights are viewed as an instrument for stimulating economic growth, peace and development, courts and other distinctively legal actors view the rule of law and human rights as intrinsically valuable norms. The hypothesis of this research project is that the functional and the normative approaches to rule of law and human rights can and should be integrated.

Methodologically, this requires a contextual approach, which builds on the historical, philosophical and social justifications of these ideas. The starting point for this research project is that an adequate understanding and viable development of the ideas of rule of law and human rights is only possible if they are regarded in their social context and in relation to their roots in historical political processes.

Against this background the project has four interrelation aims:

1. To trace the shifts between functional and normative approaches in different contexts in order to uncover the basic assumptions of the approaches;

2. To provide a theoretical framework for integrating the two perspectives in a transnational context;

3. To link studies of law and policy to show how both approaches can be connected in regulatory and court practice and how various actors deal with the combination of normative and functional demands;

4. To ensure knowledge transfer and synergies by organizing events that bring together organizations and individuals who work as policy makers and legal practitioners as well as academics from different disciplines.

These aims are given more concrete shape in various research [themes] [hyperlink]. These research themes are interconnected through four cross-cutting threads. The first, central thread is the methodological approach of law in context, regarding the law in relation to society, politics and philosophical ideas. The second, the closely related thread is ongoing attention for the relationship between law and policy and the way policy shapes law. The third thread is particular attention for the plurality of actors involved in rule of law and human rights, and the way various actors can mobilize law. The fourth thread is the attention for clashes between values and goals of various groups and institutions and the need to mediate

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