Protecting economic and social rights in post-conflict Timor-Leste: a regulatory theory approach

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Post-conflict countries often devote little attention to economic and social rights. This is partly because of other urgent priorities such as the security sector and electoral-political agendas associated with civil and political rights. The often-tenuous implementation of the separation of powers in post-conflict countries can also lead to widespread corruption, which in turn can hamper the protection of economic and social rights. In addition, a legalistic approach to rights can lead to human rights ritualism and this becomes another impediment to protecting economic and social rights. Thus, although many post-conflict states adopt economic and social rights, they lack the influence needed to steer the course of events and adequately protect these rights.

This thesis examines the protection of some aspects of economic and social rights, such as the right to adequate food and the right to adequate housing; the right to education; social security programs; and the link between human rights and corruption in Timor-Leste. This thesis argues that the adoption of economic and social rights has influenced the flow of events in both the state and public spheres to a small degree only. Economic and social rights have influenced policy makers and civil society to take some specific measures in protecting these rights. However, this influence is still marginal, as both groups face some challenges in relation to regulatory capacity in post-conflict Timor-Leste. The adoption of economic and social rights has encouraged the government to establish certain institutions and mechanisms. However, many of these still falter when it comes to protecting human rights.

The thesis applies regulatory theory in order to examine the protection of these rights and proposes better ways to protect them. It weaves together some aspects of regulatory theory such as responsive regulation and networked governance with the principle of human rights, namely progressive realisation. This challenges the legalistic approach to viewing rights and to transcends rights ritualism to secure more effective safeguards.

This PhD Completion seminar concludes that in spite of the proliferation of human rights norms and its regimes in post-conflict Timor-Leste, the outcome is mixed. It does steer events to protect rights, but the results are still far from the ideal.

About the Speaker

Adérito Soares was a member of Timor-Leste's Constituent Assembly (2001-2002) and was the Inaugural Commissioner of Timor-Leste's Anti-Corruption Commission (2010-2014). He holds an LLB from Indonesia and an LLM from NYU Law School (2003).

He has published on Timor-Leste internationally, including 'A Social Movement as Antidote to Corruption', in A New Era? Timor-Leste after the UN (ANU E-Press, 2015); 'Combating Corruption: Avoiding Institutional Ritualism', in The Politics of Timor-Leste (NY, Cornell Uni. Press, 2013); 'The Parallel and Paradox of Timor-Leste and Western Sahara', in Autonomy and Armed Separatism in South and Southeast Asia (Singapore, ISEAS, 2012).

He is currently finishing his PhD at the ANU, Canberra. He has worked for various NGOs in Timor-Leste and Indonesia and as a consultant for international agencies. For more information, visit his RegNet profile.