New Developments in International Advocacy: Amcius Curiae and the World Trade Organisation

Indigenous Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Indigenous Law Bulletin, 2003, 5 (April/May), pp. 14 - 17
Issue Date:
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In 2002 the Interior Alliance of British Columbia successfully submitted an amicus curiae brief to the World Trade Organisation (`WTO) panel established to resolve the US-Canada Softwood Lumber dispute. The decision of the panel to accept the brief is not a novel juridical development within the WTO dispute settlement system. However, for Indigenous peoples the decision is significant. Indigenous people are increasingly frustrated by the non-binding determinations of international human rights forums and the conduct of states like Australia, who more often than not castigate UN human rights treaty committees for any adverse comments rather than deal substantively with the criticisms.[1] Indigenous peoples are now looking to more powerful forums with innovative ideas to address the lack of accommodation of substantive Indigenous rights within their own domestic legal frameworks. This article reports on the case of the Interior Alliance who submitted an amicus curiae brief to the WTO panel set up to resolve a dispute between Canada and the US, arguing that the non-recognition of Indigenous rights to land in British Columbia has conferred a benefit to Canadas domestic timber industry, constituting a subsidy contravening the WTO agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (`SCM).[2] This paper addresses the development of amicus curiae at the WTO, its significance in terms of access to the WTO by non-members, in particular Indigenous peoples and the potential role that the WTO agreements may have for Indigenous peoples as an alternative to human rights forums.
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