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Constitutive Theory in International Relations  

Mervyn Frost

Constitutive theory is a philosophical analysis of the logical interconnections between actors, their actions, and the social practices within which they perform these. It draws on insights from the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, as developed and extended by Peter Winch and John Searle. It highlights that actors and their actions can only be understood from within the practices in which they are constituted as actors of a certain kind, who have available to them a specific repertoire of meaningful action. It stresses that the interpretation of their actions involves: understanding the language internal to the practices in which they take place; understanding the rule-boundness of that language; the meaning of its terms; a holist perspective on the practice; and, crucially, an understanding of the ethics embedded in it. It briefly explores the implications of such a philosophical analysis for those seeking to understand the actors and their interactions in global practices. It highlights how international actors (both states and individuals) are constituted as international actors in two major international practices, the practice of sovereign states and the global rights practice. It indicates the guidance constitutive theory might provide for all who would better understand international affairs.

Article

The Ethics of Refugee Repatriation  

Mollie Gerver

“Refugee repatriation” refers to the voluntary or forcible return of refugees back to the countries or regions from which they fled. It is broadly accepted that a state acts wrongly in forcibly repatriating refugees back to countries that remain unsafe. This is true for refugees fleeing war, persecution, environmental disasters, extreme poverty, and a range of other life-threatening conditions. What is less clear is whether a state acts wrongly in deporting refugees whose lives would no longer be at risk in their home countries, and who can obtain their basic rights. For example, it is not clear if Turkey and Germany would be justified in deporting back Syrian refugees if conditions sufficiently improved in Syria. It is additionally not clear whether humanitarian organizations ought to help refugees repatriate before retuning is safe, as when the United Nations helped Somali refugees repatriate from Kenya. Finally, it is not clear whether refugees have a right to repatriate to their home countries, and whether they have a right to return to the specific homes they left behind. For example, there is widespread debate over whether Palestinian refugees have a right to return to the homes they left in 1948 and 1967. Addressing these and other debates is essential for establishing ethical immigration policies and establishing the rights of refugees, organizations, and states.

Article

The Politics of Digital (Human) Rights  

Ben Wagner, Andy Sanchez, Marie-Therese Sekwenz, Sofie Dideriksen, and Dave Murray-Rust

Basic human rights, like freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and privacy, are being radically transformed by new technologies. The manifestation of these rights in online spaces is known as “digital rights,” which can be impeded or empowered through the design, governance, and litigation of emerging technologies. Design defines how people encounter the digital world. Some design choices can exploit the right to privacy by commodifying attention through tactics that keep users addicted to maximize profitability; similar design mechanisms and vulnerabilities have facilitated the abuse of journalists and human rights advocates across the globe. But design can also empower human rights, providing novel tools of resistance, accountability, and accessibility, as well as the inclusion of previously underserved voices in the development process. The new capabilities offered by these technologies often transcend political boundaries, presenting complex challenges for meaningful governance and regulation. To address these challenges, collaborations like the Internet Governance Forum and NETmundial have brought together stakeholders from governments, nonprofits, industry, and academia, with efforts to address digital rights like universal internet access. Concurrently, economic forces and international trade negotiations can have substantial impacts on digital rights, with attempts to enforce steeper restrictions on intellectual property. Private actors have also fought to ensure their digital rights through litigation. In Europe, landmark cases have reshaped the international management of data and privacy. In India, indefinite shutdowns of the internet by the government were found to be unconstitutional, establishing online accessibility as a fundamental human right, intimately tied with the right to assembly. And in Africa, litigation has helped ensure freedom of speech and of the press, rights that may affect more individualsas digital technologies continue to shape media. These three spheres—design, diplomacy, and law—illustrate the complexity and ongoing debate to define, protect, and communicate digital rights.