Charter cities give law experts food for thought

City states with their own laws and healthcare systems, as well as fundamental rights and tax principles determined by the founder, sound attractive – at least to multinational corporations.

Charter cities give law experts food for thought

A project resembling such a city is currently in progress in Honduras. President Porfirio Lobo Sosa has marketed the concept to private and public investors around the world.

With the required majority of two thirds, the National Congress of Honduras voted to amend the constitution to allow for such cities, which are called special development regions.

The areas intended for these cities cover about 1,000 square kilometres each, which would enable them to develop into metropolises of as many as 10 million people.

No charter cities have yet been established, but the idea aroused great interest in a round-table discussion with Canadian professor Craig Scott at the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights of the University of Helsinki.

Scott admitted to being slightly scared of the concept.

– Obviously, the visionaries are proceeding much more rapidly than international laws or academic research, he pointed out.

If charter cities are established, they may be very difficult to dismantle. According to present plans, disestablishment would require the agreement of a majority of two thirds of the administrations of both the host city and the charter city.

Charter cities are administrative areas that are marketed to corporations. According to Jussi Pakkasvirta from the Department of Political and Economic Studies, one of the participants in the round table, the arrangement is suggestive of the United Fruit Company and banana republics in the early twentieth century.

Research is intent on catching up with the visionaries behind charter cities. All of the participants agreed that the legal aspects related to charter cities need to be examined thoroughly.

The Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights » »

Text: Juha Merimaa
Photo: Ari Aalto
31.3.2011
Translation: AAC Global
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