Book Review: International Development Law

International Development Law: Rule of Law, Human Rights, & Global Finance. Rumu Sarkar. Oxford University Press, 2009. ($95.00 | 496 pages | Hardcover: 9780195398281).

“While other areas of law may be more strictly aimed at producing legal outcomes that may be considered “just,” international development law also broadly captures an underlying element of equity that is directed toward poverty alleviation in order to elevate the human condition.” (International Development Law, Sarkar, pp. 124-125).

Modernism, IBRD, dependency theory, Zimbabwe, ICESCR, Weber, Janus Law Principle, ROL, Hobbes, Mexico, Czech Republic, UNIDROIT, Locke, India… it goes on and on—theories, acronyms, names, places. At first glance, 496 pages of international development and finance law appeared to be frighteningly confusing and more than a little boring, especially since I never took the time in my studies to more than touch on philosophy, business/economics, or political science. However, I have to commend Dr. Rumu Sarkar—she managed to make this bewildering topic both interesting and easy to learn.

There is a huge amount of historical and philosophical information packed into International Development Law, with smatterings of anthropological and sociological thoughts here and there, that provides a text covering the complex legal & financial issues involved in international development. And Sarkar does it in an easy to read, well-organized manner (the glossary, abbreviations list, and index are nothing to sneeze at either). The footnotes are often very helpful in providing not just her citations (to material in journals, newspapers, law reviews, books, the Internet—all over the place) but further explanations of information touched on in the main text. Though there are times when the text reads a bit repetitive, most of the time the repetition aids the reader as she re-phrases a concept to increase understanding. There are also enough typos to be noticeable; yet this is not necessarily a reflection on the author. I would recommend this book for any academic or firm library, definitely, as an academic treatise as well as a helpful guide for practicing attorneys in international development law.

Dr. Rumu Sarkar has written a treatise that combines academic insights into development law with her experiences as a practitioner. She often describes a theory or principle and then uses a real-world situation to detail the results of applying said theory. Sarkar uses a multi-disciplinary approach, beginning with the historical roots of development, and follows the legal principles formed throughout the past century. Additionally, she provides an in-depth analysis of the “human right to development”, again covering the history, theory and application of the concept then providing some thoughts for the future surrounding this question. Part II of the book links the history and theory in Part I with the global financial systems from the past several decades, including international borrowing, privatization, and how emerging capital economies today are changing development. An underlying theme throughout the book turns on the need to understand and make decisions using a contextual approach as opposed to following one or another specific theory. And though Sarkar writes much about the historical foundations of international development law, she uses this background to build a framework for the future of this complex area of law.

Though this is the first edition of International Development Law, I wouldn’t rule out future editions. Dr. Sarkar has also published Development Law and International Finance, which is in its second edition.

Katie Lynn is the Electronic Services Librarian at the Wyoming State Law Library in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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