Volume 16, Issue 1 (Spring 2011)

This issue presents four pieces by scholars on a range of current international and comparative law issues.

The Quest for Legitimacy in the United Nations: A Role for NGOs? by Rahim Moloo. 16 UCLA J. Int’l L. Foreign Aff. 1 (2011).

Rahim Moloo argues that increasing the participation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the decision-making processes of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and Security Council will enhance UN’s legitimacy. The author argues that because the UN seeks not only to influence state actors, but also to enforce compliance with its directives, it must protect and enhance international perception of its legitimacy. Such legitimacy need not only be legal legitimacy, but also a “normative legitimacy” that gives those subjected to an organization’s rules a “moral” reason to follow them.

Refining Black Gold: The Dodd- Frank Act and Corruption in the Oil Industry by Sinead Hunt. 16 UCLA J. Int’l L. Foreign Aff. 41 (2011).

Corruption plagues the extractive industries. A novel and ambitious attempt to tackle this problem is Section 1504, one of the Miscellaneous Provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which requires unprecedented financial disclosures by extractive industry companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). However, Section 1504 generated debate as to whether unique and broad disclosure requirements would place US oil companies at a competitive disadvantage vis-A-vis foreign counterparts, which are not necessarily subject to these requirements. This Comment evaluates these claims and whether the SEC should construe Section 1504 narrowly by examining the impact of this legislation in Angola, an important oil market for US companies. This analysis suggests that broader financial disclosure requirements are unlikely to adversely affect the ability of US oil companies to secure new oil contracts. Instead, technological expertise remains the critical factor in successful contract bidding. In addition, previous anticorruption initiatives led by the United States have had beneficial global ramifications, and this is likely to be the case with Section 1504 also. For example, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, which was unique in its time, subsequently influenced the enactment of similar legislation in every major trading partner of the United States. This Comment argues that the SEC should issue final rules that construe Section 1504 broadly, because these rules are unlikely to place US companies at a significant competitive disadvantage, and they will promote a higher standard of transparency in the extractive industries.

What is “Terrorism”?: Assessing Domestic Legal Definitions by Keiran Hardy & George Williams. 16 UCLA J. Int’l L. Foreign Aff. 77 (2011).

Anti-terrorism powers were largely enacted as an emergency response to September 11 and later terrorist attacks, and yet they now appear to be a permanent feature of domestic law. How governments apply these antiterrorism powers depends upon the scope of statutory definitions of terrorism. This article develops three key criteria for assessing the appropriateness of definitions of terrorism in domestic legislation. The first two criteria relate to the principle of legality. They require definitions of terrorism to be drafted in language which (1) gives reasonable notice of the prohibited conduct, (2) confines the operation of legislation to its intended purposes, and (3) is drafted consistently in comparable jurisdictions. The article then tests seven definitions of terrorism against these three criteria. It focuses on legal definitions of terrorism in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India, and the United States. The article not only examines the statutory language used to define terrorism in each jurisdiction, but also examines how these definitions have been applied and interpreted since their enactment. This testing process suggests that much remains to be done to improve the clarity, scope and consistency of definitions of terrorism in domestic legislation.

A New Model for Restraining Authoritarianism?: Popular Protest and Ecuador’s Presidential Vote of No Confidence by R. Zachary Torres-Fowler. 16 UCLA J. Int’l L. Foreign Aff. 163 (2011).

As events in the Middle East and North Africa continue to unfold and democracy slowly reemerges in the region, the question of how these nations can avoid repeating the past is of critical importance. Despite the explosion of constitutionalism around the world following the end of the Cold War, many developing democracies have watched as their elected leaders reject constitutional checks and balances in favor of more authoritarian practices. Unfortunately, the rise of democratically elected leaders across the world who share characteristics associated with their nation’s authoritarian past is far more common than most would like to admit. Although the Arab Spring has provided an excellent example of how civil society can serve as a backstop against authoritarian practices, what other lessons should comparative constitutional law scholars draw from these developments? Is there a constitutional mechanism that can utilize popular protest as a check on authoritarianism? This Comment presents a case study on Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution and the development of an implicit presidential vote of no confidence as an interesting response. Given the role popular mobilization has played in removing presidents throughout Ecuador’s history, the 2008 Constitution has effectively codified a well-accepted cultural practice. In doing so, what was once an informal custom of presidential removal has become a legitimate and potentially powerful check on presidential authority. Such a mechanism will in turn likely deter presidents from engaging in semi-authoritarian conduct and may result in far more responsive governance overall. While this Comment does not claim that this mechanism is a flawless solution to all that ails the developing world, given the role that popular protest has played not only in Ecuador but in the Middle East and North Africa as well, Ecuador’s development of a presidential vote of no confidence may serve as a model for other nations to build upon and refine.

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