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African Human Rights Law Journal. Volume 11, Number 2 (2011), p. 396-421.


Drawing upon the important insight of critical human rights scholars that 'pro-human rights' are not necessarily 'pro-poor', this article mainly utilises Baxi's germinal thesis on the emergence of a trade-related market-friendly human rights (TREMF) paradigm (that is slowly but surely displacing what he refers to as the UDHR paradigm, much to the advantage of global capital and the rich/powerful/elite, and greatly to the disadvantage of the poor) in assessing the extent to which the norms and jurisprudence of the African human rights system have been pro-poor. After demarcating its scope, outlining its limitations and offering an explanation of the conception of poverty that animates its use of the terms 'the poor' and 'pro-poor', the article analyses the relevant norms and jurisprudence of the African system in the context of the conceptual framework of the study, and concludes that these norms and jurisprudence have tended to be animated by an anti-TREMF (and pro-UDHR paradigm) sensibility, ethic and politics, and have for this and other reasons been more or less pro-poor in orientation. While these findings show that the TREMF paradigm has not completely eaten away at the pro-poorness of the textual affirmations of human rights that guide and have been produced by such international human rights systems, and such texts are important enough in 'loosely' framing and shaping human rights that their character must be carefully studied, it must still be cautioned that such textual affirmations are not self-executing. They must be implemented in the concrete sense by governments, peoples, corporations, institutions and other agents for them to really matter. It should therefore be kept in mind that it is at this level, the level of the 'living' human rights law (that is, the law as it is actually experienced by ordinary people) that the TREMF paradigm's ultimate impact is to be observed. This suggests that the TREMF paradigm may have exerted more influence in the living world than this study (focused as it largely is on 'the text') might suggest.

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