Now showing 1 - 10 of 13
  • Publication
    Contested Space and Self-Determination: The Dynamics of Ethiopia's Digital Space
    (Michigan State University Press, 2022-10-11)
    Government-to-people and people-to-people relationships are increasingly mediated and configured by emerging technologies, necessitating new ways of framing and understanding the role of government and digital technologies in the social order. Recent sociopolitical developments in Ethiopia demonstrate how digital platforms have become a space for contested narratives and a division of interests between socioeconomic policies and political views. By addressing the major technologically assisted counterpower movements in Ethiopia between 2015 and 2021, this article examines digitally mediated encounters and configurations that are struggling to produce a specific form of subjectivity. The article examines digitally mediated encounters and the patterns of the relationships among main actors in the digital space—users, the government, and platform technologies—through the lens of the network theory of power. The article problematizes the deployment of state surveillance, rulemaking and regulatory leverages, and the gatekeeping role of platform technologies in modulating and suppressing the emergence of a self-determined critical mass. As a remedial approach to addressing the risks inherent in intersecting state–corporate configuration and surveillance, the article proposes a broadly defined yet context-specific right to privacy that enables self-development, protects a socially and culturally constructed emergent self, and encourages the capacity for self-determination. To analyze the right to privacy as a remedy, the study uses a critical legal analysis of privacy rights with a focus on the 1995 Ethiopian Constitution. Throughout the analysis, it seeks to highlight three overarching arguments that have relevance beyond the specific case of Ethiopia. First, it challenges the assumption that the digital space is a neutral and free space. It argues that digital platforms provide venues for contested and rival narratives and interests, and that not every actor in the digital space has equal leverage over the digital infrastructure. The digital space, therefore, manifests an asymmetric power relationship. Second, it argues that the capacity of citizens for self-development and self-determination is increasingly modulated by expansive surveillance and the regulatory leverage of state and corporate power, which is used to suppress the emergence of critical mass. It, therefore, argues that third, there is a pressing need for the reinterpretation of legal protection for privacy rights as a protection for a socially and culturally constructed emergent self. By addressing this need, protection will be offered to the capacity for self-determination, critical subjectivity and democracy.
  • Publication
    Mapping (in)visibility and structural injustice in the digital space
    (Elsevier, 2022-04)
    This study aims to map digitally mediated injustice and to understand how judicial versus non-judicial bodies contextualize and translate such harm into human rights violations. This study surveys judicial and quasi-judicial cases and case reports by non-judicial bodies, mainly civil society organizations, international organizations, and media. It divides digitally mediated harms identified through the survey into three categories: direct, structural, and hybrid harm. It then examines how these three forms of harm are represented and articulated in judicial judgments and case reports. To differentiate between the three forms of digitally mediated harm, the study uses Iris Young's political philosophy of structural injustice and Johan Galtung's account of structural violence in peace studies. The focus of this study is understanding the forms of injustices that are present but rendered invisible because of how they are contextualized. Therefore, the epistemology of absence is applied as the theoretical approach, that is, interpretation of absence and invisibility. The epistemology of absence facilitates the identification of structural and intersectional injustices that are not articulated in the same way they are experienced in society. The assessment reveals four observations. (1) Structural injustice is rarely examined through a conventional adjudicatory process. (2) Harms of structural quality examined by courts are narrowly interpreted when translated into rights violations. (3) The right to privacy, often presented as a gateway right, addresses structural injustice only partially, as this right has a subject-centric narrow interpretation currently. (4) There are limitations to the mainstream way of seeing and representing risks and injustices in the digital space, and such a view yields metonymic reasoning when framing digitally produced harms. As a result, the conventional way of contextualization is blind to unconventional experiences of vulnerability, which renders structural and intersectional injustices experienced by marginalized communities invisible.
  • Publication
    Reimagining Corporate Responsibility for Structural (In)justice in the Digital Ecosystem: A Perspective from African Ethics of Duty
    (AfroconomicsLaw, 2021-10-15) ;
    Structured large-scale problems such as digitally replicated injustices challenge contemporary regulatory regimes necessitating a critical inquiry into existing systems of governance. While these injustices and risks disproportionately impact those in the Global South, both the problem and remedy are rarely placed in the necessary contextual perspective of Southern hemispheres. From victims’ access to remedy vantage point, delocalization of justice for harms originated in Africa and most Global South nations is often justified on the basis of a search for favorable legal systems. Some of the justificatory claims include the financial and procedural advantage courts in the West offer victims, high prospect for out-of-court settlement and financial compensation, and high publicity. While the transnational quest for justice is understandable, it appears to be a weak answer to a complex question. It starts off from an assumption that the current paradigm of the liability regime provides an answer, and that venues in the West would provide better access to justice. An interrogation of the deeper epistemological paradigm that shapes the horizon of possibilities to access justice is lacking. In todays’ structured large-scale governance gaps, a response to the perceived absence of favorable judicial environment in Africa and the quest for justice by switching fora is at best an incomplete solution. At worst, shifting fora could come with an implied risk of neo-colonial implications. It is against this backdrop that we argue that a critical appraisal of the conventional liability regimes on which legal systems rely to determine responsibility for injustice is necessary. Using the question of justice in the digital space to assess current liability regimes, we interrogate the conventional liability regime based on liberal political theory, identify its shortcomings for dealing with the questions of justice raised by the digital space, and propose an alternative to address the identified shortcomings through an alternate perspective of responsibility inspired by the African ethics of duty. This perspective can contribute to the improvement of access to justice and re-center the African ethics of duty in the conversation around quest for justice.
  • Publication
    They Snatched from Me My Own Cry: The interplay of social norms and stigma in relation to human trafficking in Ethiopia. Case Study: Jimma and Arsi Zones
    (International Organization for Migration, 2021-03-18)
    Kowal, Verity (Author)
    Kapoor, Aarti
    This report explores how social norms and stigma can be drivers of vulnerability to trafficking and barriers to the effective reintegration of survivors in Ethiopia. Focusing on Jimma and Arsi Zones in Ethiopia, it explores the ways in which social norms and expectations can heighten the risk of trafficking and exploitation of individuals in specific target communities. It also seeks to build understanding of how post-trafficking, stigma and related social norms can contribute to the maltreatment and isolation of victims in their home communities, as well as impact their access to and the quality of care they get from service providers in Ethiopia.
  • Publication
    Symposium Introduction: The Digitalizing Continent: Challenges and Opportunities of Digital Transformation for Africa
    (AfroconomicsLaw, 2022-11-28) ;
    Asiedu, Michael
    Somtochukwu, Mbelu
    The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is marked by an intensive digitalisation process. Within this process, digital data (physical information converted into digital) and digital technologies restructure how things are done and values created. Various initiatives and strategies from the very recent AU Data Policy Framework to the Africa Digital Transformation Strategy (ADTS), the Smart Africa Manifesto and the E-Commerce Protocol of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is still under discussion, are intended to galvanise such processes. Digital economy and e-commerce survive and thrive through a web of complex contractual and noncontractual relationships between actors, including consumers, businesses and governments. These relationships are regulated to varying degrees – some remaining even entirely unregulated. The regulatory disparity coupled with path dependent asymmetric relationship between actors shape the degree of leverage they might have over the operation and outcome of such connectivity. Weak and fragmented regulation in areas such as consumer, data and privacy protection on the one hand risks enabling those in control of capital and political power, the corporations and governments, to configure the digitalization process to their interest (i.e., profit and power maximization). On the other hand, weak regulation in such areas means leaving users with weak or no protection and hence, erode consumers’ trust to make use of and benefit from the digital transformation. In addition, leverage over the operation and outcome of such connectivity is impacted by existing and emergent constraints such as: digital divide, infrastructural challenges, misfit between Intellectual Property (IP) system and emerging data driven technologies, and taxes, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Most importantly, transformation and connectivity outcomes are shaped also by historical and existing institutional, regulatory and societal cultures and embedded power relationships.
  • Publication
    Social Audit Reform Options: Towards Auditor Liability and Multistakeholder Oversight
    (Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, 2019-03-12)
    The social auditing regime has increasingly become a tool used by companies to enforce and verify standards in global supply chains and fulfill their human rights due diligence (HRDD) obligations. However, experiences and studies suggest that audits often fail to detect, report, and resolve serious labor and environmental problems. Flaws include problematic incentive structures (or conflict of interest), a checklist approach to labor issues, a tendency for corporations to commission lenient audits, and confidentiality of audit reports. Is it possible that the existing regime can be improved so that it delivers real protections against the exploitation of workers?
  • Publication
    Making Extraordinary Power Part of the Ordinary Discourse? The Case of Ethiopia’s State of Emergency Declared on February 16
    (Abyssinia Law, 2018-02)
    In this piece, I will examine the legality of and intent induced the State of Emergency (SoE) declared on Feb. 16, 2018, in Ethiopia. Throughout, I will utilise legal and public choice analytical models. To do so, I will start by giving an overview of SoE as a general practice and under the 1995 FDRE constitution. I will then employ a functional analysis to highlight the functions of SoE–mainly reassurance and existential rationales. Tied to the functional review, I will discuss the possibility of abuse of function and alternatives to control an abuse through ex-ante and ex-post monitoring mechanisms. In the fourth section, I will turn to the examination of a motive element that may induce declaration of SoE with a focus on benevolent intent and as a power-maximizing tool. Against these theoretical backdrops, under the fifth section, I will diagnose the legality of and the rationale that induced the declaration of the current SoE. I would argue that SoE is an extraordinary power to be used in any but dire circumstances. The vaguer the condition for declaring an emergency and the weaker the check and balance of emergency process, the higher will be the risk of emergency power abuse. Further, its repeated reoccurrence sets a threat of normalization of SoE which is as much dangerous as the threat it is meant to mitigate.