24 Feb

Between International Human Rights Law and Right-wing Populism: what Place for Social Rights? (online seminar)

The Law Faculty of Maastricht University and the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights have the pleasure to organize an online seminar (in two parts) to celebrate the Theo van Boven Human Rights Prize awarded to dr. Arenas Catalán.

This seminar will address questions of populism and human rights. Populism has been mostly theorized in juxtaposition to constitutional democracy and international human rights law. Motivated by the need to provide answers to the challenge of far-right and authoritarian forms of populism, this seminar seeks to expand the analysis beyond the better-documented authoritarian forms of populism. Following Bugaric (2019), this seminar is dedicated to explore progressive and socio-economic forms of populism. In particular, the seminar will discuss whether these forms of populism could be helpful or even necessary to articulate constitutional and democratic alternatives to the far-right. In doing so, the seminar will also explore the potential contributions of the current European project of social citizenship and social rights under international law.


The first part of the seminar (24 February 2022) will look at the difficult relationship between welfarism, the social pillar of the EU Charter and the Four Freedoms of the EU in the context of the gradual rise or normalization of right-wing populism. The goal of this session will be to discuss the dynamics of human rights within the European Union, including the development of social rights and their role in the construction of European citizenship. 

The second part of this seminar (12 April 2022) will look at non-authoritarian forms of populism, and discuss to what extent these can be instrumental to serving the goals and methodologies of liberal constitutional democracy and international human rights law. The session will be oriented to ask what shifts must take place within international human rights law (social rights in particular) to improve international law’s, decayed legitimacy. 

Programme on 24 February

  Moderator: Prof. Fons Coomans (Maastricht University)

Prof. Anne Pieter van der Mei (Maastricht University): A more social or less market-oriented focus in the interaction between the Four Freedoms and human rights law? 

16.20h Prof. Ingrid Leijten (Tilburg University): Commercialization and Financialization Dynamics Affecting Social Rights: The Example of Housing and the Response of Human Rights
16.35h PhD Researcher Maria Kotsoni (European Universtiy Institute): Recent dynamics of social rights in the EU and the Council of Europe, and strategies to move the protection of social rights forward in the light of current challenges
16.50h Remarks by Dr. Eduardo Arenas Catalán
17.00h Q & A


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