Event information

4 March 2022, 14:00-15:30


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Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and Human Rights

Human Rights Conversations

High Level Segment of the 43rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. 25 February 2020. High Level Segment of the 43rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. 25 February 2020.

Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) is a movement encompassing scholars and practitioners of international law and policy who are concerned with issues related to the Global South in its broad conception.

While the scholarly agendas associated with TWAIL are diverse, the common themes of TWAIL’s interventions are to unpack and deconstruct the colonial legacies of international law. TWAIL is, as Makau Mutua writes: ‘a response to decolonization and the end of direct European colonial rule over non-Europeans. It basically describes a response to a condition, and is both reactive and proactive.’ Over the last twenty years, the TWAIL network has grown and flourished, encompassing thousands of people on all five continents.

This Human Rights Conversation aims at sensitising Western-centric stakeholders – both academics and practitioners active in multilateral fora – to legitimate criticism coming from the Global South through the so-called TWAIL movement. Panelists will notably discuss how to respond to theoretical arguments such as cultural relativism, which now permeate political dynamics and multilateral negotiations – making it increasingly harder to achieve (or sometimes even maintain) consensus.

To this end, this discussion will constitute an integral part of an ongoing research project at the Geneva Academy aimed at taking stock of and contributing to a better understanding of the various criticisms and tensions around the principle of universality of human rights, contrasting or reconciling different narratives.


  • Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director, Geneva Human Rights Platform


  • Obiora C. Okafor, UN Independent Expert on International Solidarity and Edward B. Burling Chair in International Law and Institutions, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
  • Fabia Fernandes Carvalho Vecoso, Postdoctoral Fellow with the Laureate Program in International Law, University of Melbourne and Member of the Editorial Collective of the TWAIL Review
  • Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan, Teaching Associate in International Human Rights Law, School of Law, University of Nottingham
  • Shyami Puvimanasinghe, Human Rights Officer, Right to Development Section, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Get Ready: Relevant Links

  • TWAIL Review Issue 02 (17 November 2021) which opens with articles from E. Tendayi Achiume, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and Tamara Last on decolonial approaches to migration in southern Africa.

About Human Rights Conversations

Human Rights Conversations are a series of events, hosted by the Geneva Human Rights Platform, aimed at discussing contemporary issues and challenges related to the promotion and protection of human rights in Geneva and beyond.


Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and Human Rights

Watch this Human Rights Conversation aims at sensitising Western-centric stakeholders – both academics and practitioners active in multilateral fora – to legitimate criticism coming from the Global South through the so-called TWAIL movement.



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