Standardisation instead of litigation what can human rights advocates learn from consumer prote...


Since the late twentieth century, at both the national and international levels, human rights discourse has been a protagonist in condemnations of injustice or in the articulation of alternative visions of a just world. Critical legal scholarship, however, has argued that human rights might offer too little, too late, especially when it comes to issues of economic (re)distribution. In this vein, I explore the possibilities that consumer rights activism offers to both defenders and critics of the international human rights movement. While consumer rights organisations have always felt part and parcel of the human rights movement, perhaps the opposite has not always been the case. Thus, by highlighting the work of Consumers International (CI) at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), I invite human rights advocates to think of technical standardisation as an alternative strategy to push for social justice, which might be more productive than other current approaches—such as socio-economic rights litigation. Albeit depoliticising, the tools offered by consumer rights are not much more apolitical than those offered by contemporary human rights advocates, and perhaps offer new ways to challenge the distribution of resources from within the belly of the beast.