Research proposal samples For LAW PhD degrees This document

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					    Research proposal samples
      For LAW PhD degrees

                This document contains THREE research proposal samples

Sample Proposal 1
  A study of the operation of contractor remedies under the EC
                    public procurement rules

One of the main reasons for the failure of the original European procurement
directives of the 1970s was inadequate enforcement. To address this
problem, the European Community has adopted directives setting minimum
standards for the provision of national remedies to aggrieved contractors, on
the basis that actions by contractors should be the primary mechanism for
deterring breaches. However, the recent study for the European Commission
as part of the single market review (EuroStrategy, Public Procurement) has
found a continuing low level of compliance, with notices being published only
for 14% of regulated contracts.

One explanation may be the inadequacy of the enforcement system. In
particular, there is a perception that firms are unwilling or unable to use (or
threaten to use) their legal remedies. This could be explained by a number of

i) The inadequacy of the remedies provided. Previous work on the
implementation of the directives on remedies has revealed many
inadequacies. In particular, many Member States have failed to provide
"rapid" remedies as required by the directives. Other features of the remedies
systems not dealt with in the directives, such as costs of proceedings, may
also deter their use.

ii) Uncertainty over the remedies available. (For example, in some states it is
not clear whether firms may sue for lost profits).

iii) Lack of awareness of the procurement rules and the remedies to enforce

iv) Fear of losing future business and/or damaging a good relationship with
the procuring entity. It is often speculated that this is a significant factor for
apparent non-use of remedies in the United Kingdom although initial
evidence from states with effective systems where there has been a lot of
litigation suggests that this might not be as significant as is sometimes

v) Informal understandings whereby threats to litigate are "settled" by
awarding other contracts to the complaining firm.

In this context, it is proposed to undertake an empirical study to examine:
i) The willingness of firms to use their legal remedies in procurement,
including who is most likely to use such remedies (eg. large firms or small
firms; firms with or without an existing business relationship with the
government; firms in sectors with or without a tradition of preferential

ii) How far the factors listed above affect the willingness of firms to sue.

i) an analysis of the features of the legal remedies systems (such as the costs
of legal proceedings), to supplement and update the existing legal literature in
this field;

ii) a study to determine the number of cases filed; and

iii) an examination of the use of the system by contractors, based on a survey
using a structured interview-questionnaire approach. This will be piloted
initially in the United Kingdom and extended to the other chosen states if

There is little published work on the actual use of legal remedies in general
and this study will therefore be of interest to lawyers, economists and policy
makers in general, and not just those in the procurement field. More
specifically, it is hoped that the results will inform the European Commission's
review of its procurement policy which is being undertaken over the next two
years. The findings will also have implications for the design of enforcement
systems under other international arrangements.

The information obtained from this study will contribute to the development of
a strategy for enforcing the Community's public procurement rules which is
credible and effective. In particular, the material will help to answer the
question of whether it can ever be effective to rely upon contractor remedies
as the primary enforcement strategy, and, to the assent that such a strategy
is useful, how Community and national measures on this subject can most
effectively be developed in the future.

Sample Proposal 2
               Implementing Social and Cultural Rights

In international law, human rights are divided into three groups or
generations: civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; and
rights of solidarity. The international community has developed a number of
standards when interpreting first generation rights which has allowed for the
successful regulation of the implementation of these rights; realisation is
subject only to states' compliance with these international standards. The
situation regarding economic, social and cultural rights, and, more
specifically, social and cultural rights, is far less satisfactory and, the
implementation of these rights has not proved as successful as it has with
regard to first generation rights. Besides the problem of state compliance with
international standards, a phenomenon of international law in general, the
international community has not succeeded in developing standards by which
state compliance with economic, social and cultural rights can be regulated.
As a result, effective regulation of state compliance with these obligations
remains elusive.

The Cold War fuelled the dichotomy between the two generations of rights,
the pre-eminence of the first generation being advocated by the West and
that of the second generation by the East. Today, with the end of the peace-
threatening ideological divide in the international community, improvements in
the implementation of second generation rights can be made outside the
arena of intense political rivalry. The paradox of the ideological divide was
twofold. First, the dived ignored, in practice, the principle of the
interdependence of the two generations of rights. The UN organs have
repeatedly advocated this principle of interdependence which forms a
fundamental pillar of human rights theory but it has never been transposed
into practice. Second, the relegation of economic, social and cultural rights to
a secondary position by the West was, in part, due to a misinterpretation of
those rights; many believed that second generation rights had as their
purpose the regulation of the respective positions of "classes" within society.
In contrast, economic, social and cultural rights do not presuppose any
particular political policy. Rather, second generation rights can be interpreted
as guaranteeing a basic level of rights to every individual regardless of the
higher levels enjoyed by the more advantaged groups in society.

With the Cold War over, a number of changes have been proposed regarding
the implementation procedures for second generation rights. At the
international level an Optional Protocol allowing for individual petitions under
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(ICESCR) has been drafted. At the European level an Optional Protocol to
the European Social Charter creating a collective complaints procedure has
been adopted. Such developments will ultimately require international law to
regulate state compliance and to develop standards by which regulation is
made possible.

One objection raised with regard to economic, social and cultural rights is the
uncertain content of these rights. Vierdag implies that successful
implementation of second generation rights will evade the international
community until the content of these rights is developed with sufficient clarity
and precision. Alston believes that if a system of individual petition is
accepted by the international community the content of the rights will be
developed with greater precision. However, the adoption of standards with
which states must comply under the ICESCR will not ensue automatically
from such a development. Rather, a detailed analysis of the basic obligations
undertaken by states under A2(1) ICESCR is required. As Alston notes, a
violation of a substantive right will not necessarily entail a violation of the
Covenant for which a violation of A2(1) is required. Individual petition alone
will not solve the problem of regulating state compliance. In contrast, it
necessitates a speedy development of the standards of states obligations if
the ICESCR is to avoid falling into disrepute.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) has
emphasised that where states fail to realise a core minimum standard of
rights, they will be prima facie in violation of the Covenant. Beyond this most
basic of obligations, however, the Committee has not managed to develop a
methodology by which states' compliance with "progressive realisation" can
be measured. This is an area where international lawyers are required to
create innovative means of interpretation and methods of regulation. The
nature of states' basic obligations under A2(1) ICESCR necessitates a fresh
approach; standards used in regulating the implementation of civil and
political rights cannot simply be transposed into the arena of second
generation rights.

A number of theories have been proposed with a view to achieving a system
of regulating implementation. These are, however, in their embryonic stages
and further research is required. The aim of my research would be to
contribute to the developing law in this area, and more specifically in the area
of social and cultural rights. (This is because implementation standards and
large body of jurisprudence has already been developed in the area of
economic rights). To this end, the proposed research would consider
responses to a number of questions and would, in particular, aim at
expanding and developing the notion of "indicators".

                                Areas of focus

Current approaches of the Committee

Any constructive attempt to improve the current methodology used by the
Committee would be incomplete without an analysis of the Committee's
monitoring of states' basic obligations to date. Such an analysis would aim to
highlight the developments, or, more accurately, lack of developments,
achieved by the Committee and to outline the problems faced by it. This
would involve extensive analyses of the conclusions reached by the
Committee on state reports.

The problem at hand

One eminent jurist noted that the obligations regarding economic, social and
cultural rights "are largely formulated as broad obligations of result rather
than specific obligations of conduct". This is true of A2(1) ICESCR which, as
mentioned supra, represents the keystone when monitoring state compliance
with the Covenant. In the case of A2(1) the obligation of result is to
"progressively achieve" the realisation of rights. The obligation is
complicated, however, by the additional obligation that the conduct
undertaken by states reflects the use of "maximum available resources". The
crucial question is how can the Committee develop a methodology by which
states' compliance with the obligation to "take steps….to the maximum of ..
available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation
of the rights" (A2(1) can be monitored.

Quantitative Indictors

Some jurists have proposed a system of "quantitative indicators" as a means
of putting human rights obligations into operation. It is proposed that such a
system would allow international human rights obligations to be extended into
the realm of economics. Tomaševski argues that the benefits of quantitative
indicators would be twofold; they would indicate first, the willingness of
governments and second, the capacity of governments, to protect and
promote second generation rights. The crucial import of such a system would
be its role in distinguishing incapacity from unwillingness.

In my opinion two sets of indicators should be developed and a distinction
should be maintained between them; one set would indicate the willingness
of governments to protect and to promote the rights and, to this end, would
indicate the steps taken by governments and their input to progressive
achievement; the second set would concentrate on the capacity of the
government in question and would indicate state compliance with the
obligation to use the maximum of available resources. These two sets of
indicators could then be applied when monitoring the implementation of rights
by applying them in a three stage test: first, are the substantive rights in the
Covenant realised; second, have states taken steps which have allowed for
the progressive realisation of the rights; and third, in doing so have they used
the maximum of available resources? The test would necessarily proceed in
this order because the use of resources is only of relevance once one has
determined the steps taken; if one is unaware of the steps taken one is
unable to determine whether more could or should have been taken.

Indicators of Willingness

The indicators discussed by Tomaševski focus on non-discrimination, (which
she believes must be the starting point) national recognition of economic,
social and cultural rights (which would indicate the "sincerity" or otherwise of
state ratifications) and national mechanisms adopted with a view to
translating human rights standards into the practice of governmental bodies.
As she notes, these indicators must reflect the obligation to "progressively
achieve" the realisation of rights. To this end, the monitoring system based
on such indicators must concentrate on cross-temporal development within a
state as opposed to cross-national comparisons. State compliance should
only depend upon the measures adopted, their import to progressive
realisation and ultimately their relationship with available resources. In my
opinion, however, cross-national comparisons may have a role to play as
indicators of the reasonableness of any steps taken. The test of
reasonableness is one upon which I would like to expound; I believe it should
play a role in both the second and third stages of the test of state compliance.
When applied at the first stage of the test an additional control of
reasonableness would presuppose the existence of a system providing for
inter-state dissemination of information. Could an obligation to promote and
to provide such a system be read into the obligation to "take steps,
individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially
economic and technical"? (emphasis added).

In my research I aim to develop these issues and to add to the current "lists"
of "indicators of willingness". In order to do so my research is likely to include
examination of surveys conducted by NGOs and Development Bodies in the
area of social development. From such surveys I hope to be able to identify
potential indicators of willingness.

Indicators of Capacity

As noted, the third stage of the test of compliance would comprise monitoring
of state compliance with the obligation to use the "maximum of available
resources". My research would aim to expand upon the notion of resources
itself; those potentially available to a state and those actually available to
state. As Robertson notes, resources stretch far beyond financial resources
to include human and natural resources, information and technology. I would
then like to contribute to the development of standards through which
compliance with this obligation can be monitored. This will involve identifying
indictors of capacity. Again, I believe that the test of reasonableness has a
role to play. This could in certain circumstances involve cross-national
comparisons although this approach might not always be politically
acceptable. At least, an abstract objective test of reasonableness could be
used. This research will also involve the analysis of data obtained by surveys
conducted on social development. This is because an increase in resources
used does not necessarily lead to the increased realisation of second
generation rights. Individual rights and distinct circumstances will thus merit
considerable attention if this attempt to improve the regulation of state
compliance is to reflect reality.

At present, my limited research has allowed me to formulate a very crude
plan of a potential system of monitoring which is expressed in diagrammatic
form below. Although this is likely to undergo metamorphosis once further
research is undertaken it will at least provide a starting point for further

STEP 1 Are the substantive rights being realised?

Yes No violation


STEP 2 Are states taking steps which allow for the

Progressive realisation of rights:

* indicators of willingness

(cross-temporal illustrate progression or regression)

(analyses of surveys will allow for the identification

of appropriate indicators)

* notion of reasonableness

(cross-national comparisons may have a role to play)

Yes / No

STEP 3 Are the steps taken utilising the maximum of available resources?

* identify potential resources

* identify actual resources within a state

* aim to identify an internationally acceptable standard of "maximum" which
can be adopted

* notion of reasonableness
Sample Proposal 3
    The influence of scientific knowledge on the making and
implementation of International Conventions on the environment
                 - a case study on biodiversity

Legal obligations, combined with advanced knowledge of ecology and
environmental science, are likely to be the key to protecting as much of the
world's biodiversity as possible.

The main questions to be addressed in this research will be to what extent
scientific knowledge has influenced the making of international environmental
conventions and what role it plays in the implementation of these
conventions. Is science, in both processes, taken into account to a maximum
extent, or do political and economic factors largely shape the outcome of
environmental conventions?

A chronological approach will be taken in order to reveal possible changes
and trends of the influence taken by scientific knowledge over time.

The work will take the form of a case study of five major conventions
concerned with the preservation of biodiversity:

    • International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946)

    • Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Especially as
       Waterfowl Habitat (1971)

    • Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

    • Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

    • Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)

In order for this study to be comprehensive, it is an important first step to
explain why the conservation of biodiversity is crucial. The answer lies mainly
in ecological research.

Biological diversity can be found at different levels: at the specials level,
genetic level, community level and ecosystem level. Preservation of diversity
at all four levels is vital for the survival of species and communities. The
approach taken will be to show firstly why individual species are necessary
for the maintenance of communities and secondly to show how communities
and eventually ecosystems are vital for the proper functioning of the earth's
natural processes. Ecological theories and experiments will be presented and
analysed for this purpose.

At the basis of the main part of the study lies Kimball's observation:
"Of all the institutional relationships, the ability to tap into worldwide
knowledge and translate it effectively for decision-making is the least well
developed … There is a vital role for convention advisory bodies to
synthesise and interpret relevant scientific findings for decision-making, but
intermediate filters may be needed to lighten the burden."

Does the difficulty "to tap into worldwide knowledge and translate it effectively
for decision-making" actually lie in the fact that this knowledge might
necessitate far stronger conventions and would therefore lead to politically,
socially and economically unacceptable agreements? Or ids it like Kimball
suggests merely due to an underdevelopment of relationships between
relevant institutions and due to inefficient allocation of responsibilities among
these? Or, finally, is the knowledge simply not available in an all-convincing
form due to the 'untidiness' of environmental science?

With respect to the first question, Soulé & Sanjayan refer to a 'heroic
accomplishment' if a targeted 10 or 12% of each country's land or each
ecosystem were to be protected. Yet, this numerical target is 'far from
adequate', implying that today's efforts to preserve biodiversity are a long way
away from what is actually needed.

Further, Meffe suggests that much scientific knowledge is not yet available to
policy-makers. This could stem either or both from a limited wish on the sides
of the policy-makers to be fully informed ("… if we … do not actively and
aggressively put our knowledge to use in development of public policy and
legislation …") and/or a poor interinstitutional relationship ("The scientific
information we have to offer is too central, too important … for us not to
become major players. But do we know … how to do it?")

The third question addresses the fact that environmental science is
controversial to the extent that competing theories co-exist. Competing
opinions can also arise due to biases between individuals and groups of
experts. This lack of agreement leaves a vacuum of uncertainty that is
exploited by a lobby less in favour of protecting the environment than
protecting its own interests. Consequently, it can claim that a particular
regulation is not justifiable by sound science and therefore should not be
adopted. In this case there would not be so much of a 'difficulty' to tap the
worldwide knowledge as an unwillingness.

It is this scientific uncertainty that led to the development of the precautionary
principle, another key issue to be researched in this study. It is incorporated
in the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment (e.g.
Proclamation N.6, Principles 3 & 7) and most recently its importance has
been clearly marked by its inclusion in the Rio Declaration on Environment
and Development. Principle 15 states:

"In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be
widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are
threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall
not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent
environmental degradation."

The implementation of conventions based on the precautionary approach
requires an approach manifesting that a community response might be
needed in case of an environmental problem: depriving an 'injuring State' of
its rights with the aim of protecting the global commons and the interests of
future generations is inappropriate. Boyle therefore suggests the "reliance on
institutional machinery in the form of intergovernmental commissions and
meetings of treaty parties as a means of … developing the law, supervising
its implementation … and putting community pressure on individual States."

Such 'institutional machineries' are established by the six conventions
considered. It will be of interest to finally find out what role the advancement
and/or revelation of scientific knowledge plays in their implementation.

The work will be based both on literature research and on collaboration with
appropriate Secretariats and Committees. The convention's provisions on the
role of science will be analysed. Analytical data on how these provisions have
been implemented will be collected by researching the functions and
structure of the Secretariat's and (where they exist) Scientific Committees.
Interviews as well as questionnaires could be utilised for this purpose.

The IUCN's Publication Unit is located in Cambridge, as well as the
International Whaling Commission; the Ramsar Convention Bureau is
situated in Gland, Switzerland; the UNEP/Convention on Migratory Species'
Secretariat is located in Bonn, Germany; CCAMLR's Secretariat and
Commission are situated in Tasmania, Australia. The Biodiversity
Convention's Secretariat is located in Montreal, Canada.