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Fostering justice and stability: rights protection and national sovereignty in the Honduran zones for employment and economic development

Michael Castle Miller, L. Grant Shubin


Honduras's Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico ("Zones of Employment and Economic Development"; "ZEDEs") are new, independent governing institutions for designated zones of the country, established by popular consent and international best practices for governance. Honduras’s National Congress approved the ZEDEs’ legal framework as a solution to confront the institutional instability, corruption, and violence that have undermined the protection of basic human rights. Given their novelty and their troubled emergence against a backdrop of institutional failure, ZEDE critics have voiced concerns about individual rights, Honduran sovereignty, and exposure of the Honduran people to abuse and exploitation by foreign companies. This paper addresses the question of whether the ZEDEs are consistent with Honduran sovereignty and human rights. It constructs a general rule for ZEDE autonomy that defines the scope of what a ZEDE can legally do. It begins by highlighting contemporary challenges in Honduras. It then analyses the laws creating the ZEDEs to formulate the general rule of ZEDE autonomy. It details the human rights safeguards that ZEDEs must comply with and the relationship between ZEDE autonomy and Honduran sovereignty. The paper clarifies the ZEDE’s legal obligations regarding human rights and national sovereignty, thus helping define the scope of ZEDE autonomy.


law; government; sovereignty; human rights; statutory construction.

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