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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Established in 1996, JILFA was among the first student-produced publications that bridged the historical divide between international law and foreign relations. Its subject matter, therefore, is intentionally broad, linking such disciplines as international law, politics, policy, and economics.


Space Law, Human Rights and Corporate Accountability

The international legal regulation of outer space was founde don an assumption that space was (at that time) a new frontier tha twould enable a far broader range of activities on Earth and in space itself. This has raised important issues both as to the significance of fundamental human rights for space activities, as well as corporate accountability for conduct in outer space that may impact upon human rights. This is particularly so given the increasing involvement of the private sector in space activities. However, there has been relatively little detailed analysis to date of the interaction and intersection between the specific international legal regime of outer space and the international legal regulation of human rights. In that context, this Article undertakes two tasks. First, it establishes why the exploration and use of outer space should be increasingly considered from a human rights perspective. Second, it considers what issues arise in the context of corporate accountability for conduct in outer space affecting human rights. Ultimately, we support calls for a specific and specialised body with jurisdiction to adjudicate conduct by private actors in outer space.

Should We Trust a Black Box to Safeguard Human Rights? A Comparative Analysis of AI Governance

The race to take advantage of the numerous economic, security, and social opportunities made possible by artificial intelligence (AI) is on—with states, intergovernmental organizations, cities, and firms publishing an array of AI strategies. Simultaneously, there are various efforts to identify and distill an array of AI norms. Thus far, there has been limited effort to mine existing AI strategies to see whether common AI norms such as transparency, human-centered design, accountability, awareness, and public benefit are entering into these strategies. Such data is vital to identify areas of convergence and divergence that could highlight opportunities for further norm development in this space by crystallizing State practice.

This Article analyzes more than forty existing national AI strategies paying particular attention to the US context, comparing those strategies with private-sector efforts, and addressing common criticisms of this process within a polycentric framework. Our findings support the contention that State practices are converging around certain AI principles, focusing primarily upon public benefit. AI is a critical component of international peace, security, and sustainable development in the twenty-first century, and as such, reaching consensus on AI governance will become vital to help build bridges and trust.

Leasing the Rain: Water, Privatization, and Human Rights

The 1990s saw the unprecedented emergence of corporate engagement in national water systems. Before 1990, international funding went exclusively to public entities. By 2001, ninety-three countries had “private sector involvement” in their water systems. This shift, supported by international business and trade law, created a regulatory framework that legally protected the rights of corporations involved in the water sector. The regulatory framework that protected the populations that needed access to clean water was relatively ineffectual, and would be until the human right to water was officially recognized in 2003 by the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Thelogic of market efficiency, brought into international law and finance through the Washington consensus, came to dominate thinking about international water law. This project of privatization was enforced by intergovernmental organizations. The World Bank, from 1998 to 2003 and 2004 to 2008, required the conversion of public systems to private as a condition for the majority of loans it disbursed related to water projects.

Yet, privatization failed to deliver on several key metrics. First, the main funding for services was from individual service fees and public subsidies, and therefore failed to generate new sources of capital. Companies increased service fees substantially, leaving the poorest without access. The services were no more efficient that public services, and often resulted in deterioration of quality. Finally, privatization reduced accountability to the public, often to the detriment of the contracting state. Corporations did not feel that they were obligated to meet human rights standards in water delivery, and are rarely held accountable.

However, in 2017, an investment arbitration panel at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes recognized, for the first time, a human rights related counterclaim from a state against an investor. In Urbaser v. Argentina, Argentina argued that the water company failed to invest in ways that were sufficient to meet minimum human rights standards. While the claim ultimately failed, it was the first time ICSID found jurisdiction over a human rights based claim against an investor.

This paper will explore the available legal avenues for holding corporations accountable when they violate minimum standards in a human right to water framework. It will especially focus on the emergence and potential of arbitration as a vehicle for accountability, and the drawbacks of this approach.

South Korea Shatters the Paradigm: Corporate Liability, Historical Accountability, and the Second World War

South Korea is currently revising its interpretation of Japanese colonialism, and the fallout from World War II more generally. In 2018, the Supreme Court of South Korea issued two opinions that staked new ground in this process of legal revision. First, by holding Japanese multinational enterprises legally liable for events that took place in the early 20th century, the verdicts fissure a wall of corporate impunity that courts in Japan, the United States and many Western jurisdictions have erected over the past three decades. Second, by situating the decisions within Korea’s own colonial past, the judgments advance a post-colonial jurisprudence that many scholars have long discussed, but few judgments have actually explored. In particular, the narrative of colonial illegality—accepted by some scholars, but relatively few judges—may finally make inroads into the jurisprudence of economically developed countries. Third, just as repairing colonialism has come to the fore in contemporary debates of law, politics and society, issues of World War II liability—legal, financial, historical, and otherwise—will likely face revisions in the years to come.


Through The ATS Door, Now What? The Prevalence of MNC Misconduct, Disguise & Manipulation

On November 10, 1995, nine leaders of the Ogoni region of Nigeria were executed by an extrajudicial tribunal. What followed was a series of international denunciations, sanctions on the Nigerian regime, boycotts of Royal Dutch Petroleum (“Shell”), and a string of lawsuits against the multinational. Two key lawsuits, Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, consolidated into one proceeding that nearly reached the trial phase, eventually settling for $15.5 million. Given Shell’s unusual move to settle, this Comment examines the main procedural and substantive developments of pre-trial discovery in Wiwa as a means of understanding how Shell and other extractive multinational corporations (MNCs) operate abroad and stand in the way of accountability and reparation for victims of human rights abuses. Ultimately, this Comment is important for understanding how extractive MNCs use procedural warfare to distract, delay, and deny justice to victims. In the process, it identifies key areas for reform and makes recommendations for better redress to victims and their communities.