Skip to Content

Centre for Legal Governance

International and comparative law, including law of the sea, maritime law and international trade law

The role of NGOs in international law

This research examines the role of NGOs in influencing and shaping international law and relations for global governance. It highlights and comments on

  • the identities and legal status of NGOs
  • their increasing participation in international activities and achievements
  • their existing problems of operation, transparency and accountability
  • potential challenges for their legal governance.

Globalising interdependence has triggered a tension between the reformist pursuit of international law and relations, and the perceived values of its dominant actors - the state. There is a growing disjunction between the interests of state and the aspirations of its people. Many public-interest matters are not normally or properly addressed by states, exposing a deficit of representation in international law and relations.

In response, international law and relations are undergoing transformation to remain relevant in preference to the preservation of status quo and traditional systemic values that maximise state-interests. In this transition, NGOs offer a vibrant public-interest advocacy capable of rendering international law and relations participatory through greater popular empowerment. NGOs have become a powerful agent in bringing an important voice to complement and widen the global policy-making discourse, and process towards people-oriented and humane global governance. And NGOs through their sheer activism have exposed themselves to be governed by the expanding horizons of international law.

Return To Top

The World Trade Organisation's Dispute Settlement System: revisiting its proclaimed objectives and realities after 15 years

Researcher: Rafiqul Islam

This project examines some of the proclaimed policy aspects of the Dispute Settlement System (DSS) of the WTO as reflected in its resolution of multilateral trade disputes. The expectations and euphoria of WTO members have led to their fundamental faith in the system and its ongoing use.

The DSS has resolved many disputes, benefitting many members. But its objectives remain elusive and beyond the reach of many members after 15 years of operation. The legitimate trading rights and opportunities of many members are still eclipsed by the shadow of power, causing insurmountable barriers to accessing justice. The lacklustre balance of trading rights and opportunities between the most and the least advantaged has rendered it an institution of the survival of the fittest.

Return To Top

Choosing litigation to resolve international law disputes in the protection of Australia's offshore assessts, its citizens and foreign trade

Researcher: Natalie Klein

Litigation has recently captured public attention as a desirable means for Australia to resolve international law disputes. This project will provide a comprehensive and integrated framework of legal and political factors for determining when international litigation should be pursued or rejected as a dispute settlement option.

The research will advance scholarly knowledge of the role of litigation in international dispute settlement. It will also inform advocacy groups, political parties, media and the broader community about viable dispute settlement options for Australia when involved in international law disputes about matters of vital and contemporary national interest.

Return To Top

The proposed Australia-China Free Trade Agreement

This project deals with the proposed high-profile Australia-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA). It recognises their economic complementarities for an FTA. However, the negotiations reveal many competing interests, militating against an FTA.

If political enthusiasm succeeds in concluding this agreement, it is likely to fall short of delivering the projected economic benefits. It could be inward-looking and discriminatory, with exclusive mutual preference in selective sectors and protection against non-members, inconsistent with GATT Article XXIV.

Such protectionist obsessions have become an obstructive alternative to multilateral non-discriminatory trade, rendering it more onerous and less viable. Concluding such an FTA, at a time when WTO panels and AB? are increasingly dealing with FTA disputes, may result in legal challenge. The booming Australian and Chinese export sectors need open global markets to maximise their full trade potentials, which can be achieved through the completion of the Doha Round. 

Return To Top

The influence of the mass media on contemporary international law and relations

Researcher: Rafiqul Islam

This project examines how media coverage of global events, and compliance with or defiance of international obligations, impact on international law and relations. Media neutrality, excesses, silences and biased propaganda can reshape international public opinion and diplomacy, and influence international law and relations. In this state-centric world order, non-state actors have organised themselves with a campaign against the hegemonic and apartheid international law and relations. The media are potently engaged in bringing to the fore dimensions of international law and relations, and themselves become a player in the global civil society. Media-induced public opinion remains one of the principal sanctions in enforcing international law obligations for just international relations, in an international legal system that lacks mandatory enforcement mechanisms and is dominated by power.

Return To Top

Integrating trade in education services between Australia and India: complementarities and challenges

Researchers: Shawkat Alam, Rafiqul Islam, Pundarik Mukhopadhaya

Education enriches human capital, which is central to sustainable development. Yet the multilateral liberalisation of trade in education services under GATS has achieved little progress. This project explores bilateralism as an alternative to multilateralism.It promotes the integration of trade in education services between Australia and India because of their ongoing partnership, complementarities, and synergies in the sector. The project identifies new means of consolidating their existing trade, niche areas of further opportunities, and potential challenges to be confronted for greater economic integration through trade in education services.


 

Researcher: Rafiqul Islam

This project explores bilateralism as an alternative to multilateralism. It will promote the integration of trade in education services between Australia and India because of their ongoing partnership and synergies. Of the major exporters of education services, Australia enjoys the most competitive edge in the Asia-Pacific. India faces strong demands for quality education services due to its economic reforms, and has become a major importer.

The project will identify ways to consolidate their existing trade, niche opportunities and potential challenges for greater integration through trade in education services. Further liberalisation will facilitate productivity gains, export opportunities, market competition, and FDI in the sector; the combined effect would help boost economic growth in both countries. This growth-oriented bilateralism is likely to generate domino effects on other WTO members, contributing to the multilateral liberalisation of trade in services under the WTO.

Return To Top

Promoting Australia access to Indian markets and sustainable development under international trade law

Researchers: Shawkat Alam, Rafiqul Islam, Pundarik Mukhopadhaya

Emerging trade opportunities in India have assumed paramount significance for Australia. Drawing on principles of international trade law and environmental sustainability, this project will develop a bilateral preferential trading framework that enhances Australian market access and engagement in India, while promoting environmental and economic sustainability.

Return To Top

Australia's agricultural exports to India: market access barriers, opportunities and challenges

Researchers: Shawkat Alam, Pundarik Mukhopadhaya

In 2007 Australia and India began a joint feasibility study of an Australia-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Agriculture will be a crucial negotiation point in any such agreement. Agriculture is a key sector of the Australian economy, and an important and lucrative export, with more than half of the sector's output exported. The scope of increased domestic demand in agriculture is limited for a significant segment of the sector. Therefore, sustained growth requires new export markets.

This project will analyse the prospects of boosting agricultural exports from Australia via the proposed FTA. It will look at the tariff and non-tariff barriers in agriculture in India, and assess how an FTA could reduce them. Increased liberalisation of agricultural trade in India will also be discussed, to demonstrate the mutually beneficial opportunities from reduced trade barriers.

Return To Top

Australia-India trade and investment relationship: challenges and opportunities for environmentally sustainable economic development

Researchers: Shawkat Alam, Pundarik Mukhopadhaya

This project will identify potential avenues for expanding Australia's exports to India in areas that promote sustainable economic growth and development. It will examine issues of interest to enhance trade between the two countries, address environmental protection requirements and explain trade barriers not previously addressed in research on economics and international relations.

Expected outcomes include an improved understanding of existing conditions, in particular the impact of bilateral trade on the relationship between development and the environment. The results will inform policy formulation in the enhancement of Australia's bilateral relations in South East Asia.

Return To Top

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), water, and human rights from the perspective of developing countries

Researchers: Shawkat Alam, Pundarik Mukhopadhaya, David Randle

Water is essential to human life. It must be carefully managed and subject to holistic, context-specific regulation. It is widely accepted that access to safe drinking water and sanitation for the world's poor is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. In contrast to the need for special treatment driven by the universal right to water, the World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) adopts a broad-brush approach and, but for a few narrowly drawn provisions, does not differentiate between services in its stated aim of maximising liberalisation.

This project considers the nexus between the GATS and the trend towards privatisation. The aim is to contribute to a greater understanding of the role international trade law in general, and the GATS in particular, can play as part of a holistic response to the immense problems (present and future) relating to water resources in least developed countries.

Return To Top