Law professor receives prestigious award for giving developing countries a hand up

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EXCELLENCE

University of Copenhagen Law Professor Morten Broberg has been awarded the EliteForsk research award for his work to establish 'international development law' as a field of study. Broberg's research deals with the legal challenges and dilemmas related to matters such as relief, trade and legal reforms in developing economies. In addition to Broberg being awarded the EliteForsk award, four University of Copenhagen PhD students have been awarded EliteForsk travel scholarships.

Professor Morten Broberg. Photo: Christoffer RegildIt was during a research project on the European Union’s food regulation at Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) in 2007 that Morten Broberg, almost by coincidence, came across the field of ‘international development law’. As an example of the legal challenges he is working on, he mentions the rules on organic production.

“The EU’s regulation on organic production has been drafted so that in practice it will often preclude farmers in developing countries from selling their crops as organic, even though they are. As a consequence the farmers must sell the crops as conventional at a lower price. The lower income necessarily means that these farmers remain at a lower standard of living,” Broberg says.

This is an unintended consequence of the European Union’s organic production regulation. Indeed, according to Broberg, “the West’s relationship with the developing countries is replete with challenges and dilemmas. While I was at DIIS I saw that international development law was an important, yet surprisingly undiscovered, research area.”

Speedy developments call for new knowledge

Broberg’s current research focuses on the regulation of trade between the European Union and developing countries, the regulation of development aid and of legal reform in these countries. Some of today’s fastest growing economies are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, several of these countries were dependent on the West through development assistance etc. This picture is changing, however, and brings with it a number of new challenges.

Traffic in Cambodia. Photo: Morten Broberg“As Sub-Saharan Africa grows still less dependent on the West, it has become increasingly difficult for amongst others the European Union to further improvements in gender equality, ethnic and sexual minority rights or the rights of children in exchange for the provision of aid. Already today we are witnessing some of the consequences of this; for example where China carries out development projects that formerly would have been run by the West. Unlike the West, though, China does not insist that human rights must be complied with. In other areas we are only starting to get an idea of how things will evolve,” Broberg says.

Research for a change

Woman carrying water. Photo: Morten BrobergBroberg emphasises that his research is not exclusively focussing upon the legal rules and the legal aspects. Rather, he points out that he takes a broad interest in the wider impact the legal regulation may have. For this reason he collaborates with academics from a range of other fields. For example, Broberg is the principal investigator of the inter-disciplinary research project ‘Changing Disasters’, which involves leading researchers from all six University of Copenhagen faculties. The project examines how disasters are a product of society, and – equally important – how disasters impact on society. The research project is a part of the University of Copenhagen’s Excellence Programme for Interdisciplinary Research.

The EliteForsk award carries with it a DKK 1.2 million prize. Broberg hopes to be able to use the money for further research into practical solutions which developing countries will be able to use in dealing with the challenges they face.

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