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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Democratic Governance and International Law
Gregory H. Fox and Brad R. Roth (eds.)

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000
585 pp. Index. Hb.: 65.00. Pb.: 22.95; ISBN 0-521-66796-8



It has taken international lawyers some time but at last they have turned their attention to democratic governance. The traditional position was that international law had nothing to say about the internal structures of the state. This was a matter purely within the domestic jurisdiction of the sovereign state. Given the multiple forms of modern day interventions it is no longer possible to hold strictly to the traditional view. This impressive collection of essays, by some of the leading scholars in the field, is an important contribution to the debate. It is essential reading for those interested in the law and politics of democratization.

As the editors and other contributors note, democratization is increasingly viewed as a way of preventing internal armed conflict. At the heart of much internal conflict today is a legacy of exclusionary politics. The collection is structured reasonably coherently around five themes: the normative foundations of a right to political participation; democracy and inter-state relations; democracy and the use of force; democratization and conflicting imperatives; and critical approaches. The contributions include those supportive of what is termed the "democratic entitlement thesis" and those against. I found it difficult to single out one contribution in particular and, unusually, the edited collection is of a consistently high standard.

This book recognises the intrinsic link between law and politics. However, what is of interest in terms of ethnic conflict is the defence mounted in this work of the contribution that legal analysis can make to this area. It is always fashionable to criticise lawyers, but the normative underpinning of the right to democratic governance has real meaning for those struggling for inclusive democracy and human rights all over the world.


Dr Colin Harvey. Human Rights Centre, School of Law



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