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AAC and TWAIL Movement

By: Eka An Aqimuddin*

In the midst of 60 Asian African Conference (AAC) commemoration preparation, no
one notice it as landmark event of international law critical studies movement. It was
fundamental because AAC has deemed succeed to reinterpret sovereignty and nonintervention principles from third world states perspective.
As for international lawyers, international law usually associated with Eurocentrism.
In other words, international law has played role as a hegemonic tool to overcome non
Europe states interest. Therefore, several international law scholars and activists seek to
formulate a different approach on international law. Nowadays, this movement known as
third world approach to international law (TWAIL)
What is TWAIL?
TWAIL is an intellectual discourse and thus political movement (Mutua: 2000). As an
intellectual discourse, the TWAIL-ers attempt to encounter established international law
concept, principle and proposition. They believe that various interpretation of international
law is possible. For example, Bandung Declaration in first AAC 1955 was an evidence of reinterpretation of state sovereignty and non-intervention principle. Although the declaration
just reiterate what already stipulates in UN Charter but it creates a different nuance. Once
states have their independence another states cannot intervene domestic affairs of previous
states for any reason.
TWAIL intellectual discourse exercised in various ways. Not only through the study
and massive conference, TWAIL movement also built a network, albeit in an informal form.
TWAIL networking built across professional fields such as scholars, international law judges,
government official and non-governmental organization. When TWAIL concepts succeed to
affect government view on international law, then it turns to political movement. Therefore
intellectual discourse and political movement of TWAIL are like two sides of the same coin.
Indonesia and TWAIL Network
As an intellectual discourse, TWAIL movement is never monolithic. There are, at
least, two different era of TWAIL-ers generation (Anghie & Chimni: 2003). First TWAIL
generation (TWAIL I), as firstly emerged from AAC, emphasized state sovereignty and nonintervention as fundamental principles of international law. Reasoning behind why third
world states upheld those principles was simply because they have bad experiences from
colonialism by western power. In some extent, instead of prohibiting colonialism
international law has justified it. Therefore, TWAIL I accused international law has
colonialism character by legitimizing subjugation of third world states. Nonetheless, TWAIL
I was not rejected international law at all but only critics interpretation of western states.

TWAIL I strict interpretation on state sovereignty and non-intervention principles

leads to another problem which is rising statism. By giving states a great power, it induce
authoritarian regime. Since 1955 and afterwards, across Asia and Africa continent emerged a
lot of despotic regimes. Foreign states intervention to protect people within authoritarian
regime cannot carried out because it deemed infringe primary principles of international law.
Those fact then arising critics to TWAIL I movement and thus establishing TWAIL second
generation (TWAIL II).
TWAIL II movement is still aware of sovereignty and non-intervention principles. But
the proponents giving advance argumentation that most important protection shall give to the
people not to state. They try to equalize interest of state with people. Critics given by TWAIL
II carefully exercised because they dont want to fall into the same hole. In previous practice,
Western power usually used humanitarian background to intervene another state domestic
affair. Therefore balancing between those interest, state and people, is major challenge of
TWAIL II movement to overcome
The 60th commemoration AAC shall accommodate TWAIL II movement discourse
like the predecessor did in 1955 to embrace sovereignty and non-intervention principle.
Broaden interpretation on sovereignty and non-intervention principle shall implemented but
still have to correspond with third world state perspective. As contemporary international law
have shift the paradigm from state to people, Asian and African states shall follow the line.
Consequently, AAC commemoration theme to advancing south-south cooperation must assert
and elaborate protection as well as prosperity of Asian and African people despite of state
interest. Like what Hans Kelsen, a prominent law scholar, said that the only natural person
(people) is final addressee behind the personified legal system, including international law.
As like historian said, l histoire se rpte or history repeats itself. If 60 years ago AAC
became a landmark event for TWAIL I movement, then the 60 th AAC commemoration that
will be held on 19-24 April shall become cornerstone for TWAIL II.
* International Law Lecturer, Bandung Islamic University.