Upendra Baxi - Sovereign Debt, Human Rights, and Global Impoverishment


Much of the mainstream globalization discourse bypasses financial globalization and its relation with, and impact upon global impoverishment (conditions of extreme poverty) and human rights.

State borrowing from various sources (including most poignantly private creditors) is often presented as an incident of sovereignty and even as a collective right of states enabling them seek conditions for better fulfilment of human rights. Set against this are arguments that such debt contracts and ways of their enforcement result in massive, flagrant, and ongoing human rights violations further aggravate the conditions of extreme poverty in ways that almost repudiate an emerging global consensus concerning human right(s) against impoverishment.

In this context, I briefly revisit

• The conceptions of ‘odious debts’ in public international law – debts incurred by governance regimes, and in the full knowledge of creditors of the fact that such debts are ’contrary to the interests of the nation’ and its peoples, and further violative of the principles and purposes of the UN Charter and contemporary international human rights law norms and standards

• The regimes of ‘disciplinary’ and ‘regulatory’ economic globalization manifested by the International Financial Institutions programs of structural adjustment against which Global South continually protested, and which now reach the shores of Euro-politics via insurgent mass protest at ‘constitutionalizing austerity’ amidst the Eurozone crises

• Ways in which ‘collective memory’ narratives of the ‘Great Inflation of Weimar Germany’ even today seem to uncannily influence the German policy stances concerning new forms of EUStrukturwandel

• The place and role of the movement for cancellation of high global indebtedness of Global South countries and peoples

• Some future narrative emplotments, thus conditioned, of the nascent discourse concerning global justice.

Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Upendra Baxi, University of Warwick, em.

Fellow am Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Recht als Kultur”

Curriculum Vitae

Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Upendra Baxi is one of the most renowned contemporary Indian legal scholars. Following his studies in Rajkot and Mumbai, he obtained his master and doctorate degree at Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall), where he also met the author of the Austrian constitution, Hans Kelsen, who taught in Berkeley up to his passing, and the numerous conversation left a lasting impression. When he became professor at the University of Delhi in 1971, Upendra Baxi was the youngest professor in India. His further academic career led him to the universities of Durham (Duke University), Sydney, Surat, New York, Toronto and Warwick.

Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Upendra Baxi was Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities "Law as Culture" from April to November 2011 and continued his fellowship in July 2012.

Publications (selected)

  • Inhuman Wrongs and Human Rights: Unconventional Essays (1994).

  • Human Rights in a Posthuman World: Critical Essays. Oxford University Press (India), 2007.

  • The Future of Human Rights (2002, 3rd Ed. 2008).

  • Human Rights in a Posthuman World: Critical Essays (2009).