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KGC Lecture: Social Law, the Environment and Development – Considerations of a Success Story

The third installation of the Kwa Geok Choo (KGC) Distinguished Visitors Lecture took place on 24 January this year, at the Moot Court of NUS Law’s Bukit Timah Campus, with KGC Distinguished Visitor, Professor Ronaldo Macedo. 

Over 70 participants from the law fraternity signed up for the lecture by Professor Macedo, titled “Social Law, the Environment and Development – Considerations of a Success Story”. Mr Eduardo Ramós Gomez, partner at Duanne Morris & Selvam LLP, chaired the session.

Professor Macedo holds a PhD in Philosophy and Legal Theory from the Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de São Paulo, a Masters of Philosophy and Bachelor’s degrees in Law and Social Sciences from the University of São Paulo. He was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School, a Visiting Researcher at Yale Law School, and a Post-Doctorate Fellow at King’s College School of Law. He has also been Professor at the Center for Transnational Legal Studies in London and Comissioner at the Brazilian Administrative Counsel of Economic Defense (CADE). He is currently a Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at São Paulo Law School of Fundação Getulio Vargas, a Professor of Legal Philosophy and Legal Theory at the Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de São Paulo, and a State Prosecutor in São Paulo.
The lecture talked about how the enforcement of new social rights strongly affects public policy and development strategies in countries like Brazil. Some of the areas that Professor Macedo spoke of include how applying and effectively implementing social rights contribute to development, and the best ways to apply law using the logic of social rights.

He also discussed the use of class actions as an instrument to impose or implement public policy, constituting one of the most interesting and troubling issues related to protecting diffuse or collective rights. When can the Judiciary branch simply determine that the State must implement public policy? How and how much can (that is, if it can) a legal decision determine that works should be carried out or public policy should assure diffuse or collective rights? To what extent can a legal order “invade” or “encroach” on the discretionary environment of the government’s political acts?

The lecture looked to provide some provisionary answers to some assumptions within these numerous questions. It also argued that there is an essential elective affinity between expanding the use of general legal principles, the collective protection of trans-individual interests and the invention of Social Rights. For this, it first develops a more general and theoretical presentation of the Social Law concept.

In the second part, a concrete case was presented and analysed (Toritama – Laundries and the environmental issue in Brazil) which clearly illustrates the workings of the normative rationale, characterising it within a local context. With this, it seeks to highlight the usefulness of the method for case studies that articulate directly between law and development, as well as the importance of theoretically understanding the logic that regulates it.

The event was organised with the support of Wing Tai Foundation by Wing Tai Holdings Limited and WongPartnership LLP. Established in July 2011, the Kwa Geok Choo Distinguished Visitors Programme invites leading law academics to Singapore each year to teach a course at NUS and give public lectures on highly topical legal issues.

From left to right: Dean Simon Chesterman, Professor Ronaldo Macedo and Mr Eduardo Ramós.

Professor Andrew Harding poses a question to the speaker in the Q&A session.




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