Equality and the Democratic Deficit

This post by Global Justice Co-Director, Dr Tahl Kaminer, reports from the first Urban Justice Lab Symposium: ‘Who Saved the City?’. Follow the link at the bottom of the post to our Lecture Library to view videos from the day and to find out more about the Urban Justice Lab and what it does.

Who Saved the City

The recent exposure of a letter by David Cameron to Oxfordshire County Council (as reported in the Oxford Mail, and The Guardian), in which the PM berates the council for front-line budget cuts, generated a minor storm on social media. Less than a fortnight earlier, Annette Hastings of the University of Glasgow presented the findings of a Rowntree Foundation report, which lucidly depicted the application of cuts to front-line budgets of city councils across the UK. Her eloquent and precise presentation demonstrated vividly why the government’s cuts necessarily hit front-line spending, and particularly the poor.

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Serving women in Iraq and Syria: has UNSCR 1325 made a difference?

Rosie Ireland is a student on this year’s LLM in Human Rights at The University of Edinburgh. This is Rosie’s second report as a Global Justice Academy Student Ambassador – from the 2015 Montague Burton Lecture, which was delivered by Frances Guy on 2 November. Frances Guy is the Head of the Middle East region at Christian Aid. Rosie’s report outlines the key points made during the lecture, which was entitled ‘Serving women in Iraq and Syria: has UNSCR 1325 made a difference?’.

It is nearly the fifteenth anniversary of the UNSCR 1325; the first ever resolution aimed to enhance the role of women in peace building. Frances Guy analysed the effectiveness of the resolution in the context of Iraq and Syria in relation to four key areas: participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery.

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The Fast-Eroding Glue of Union: Devolution and the Human Rights Act

Director of the Global Justice Academy and Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Edinburgh, Christine Bell, first blogged on the difficulties that repeal of the Human Rights Act would pose for the UK’s devolved settlements in May 2015. This blog builds on those initial arguments, first appearing on The Centre on Constitutional Change Blog. It has since been picked up by the UK media.

The Conservative government’s proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act (HRA) and possible withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Council of Europe, would have far-reaching implications for the UK’s devolved administrations and relations with the Republic of Ireland. These run deep into the constitutional marrow of the nations involved; so deep that it is difficult to see how repeal of the Act could take place without their consent. The government’s difficulties in relation to, especially, Scotland and Northern Ireland are significant but different and worth reviewing separately.

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The Freedom of Conscience Debate and Broader Implications for the NI Peace Process

This guest post is by Sean Molloy, a Principal’s Career Development Scholar in Law at the University of Edinburgh. Sean completed his LLB Law at Queen’s University Belfast, continuing to read for an LLM in Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice at the Transitional Justice Institute. Following a period working as a research assistant for a human rights solicitor, Sean began his PhD research at Edinburgh in September 2013. He edits the monthly Global Justice Academy Newsletter, and is a founding member of the Global Justice Society.

Freedom of Conscience in Northern Ireland

Conscience 1In December 2014 DUP MLA Paul Girvan introduced a Freedom of Conscience Bill aimed at allowing businesses to refuse services to a customer if they feel it is against their religious convictions. The Bill arose following the announcement of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission that they would be issuing legal proceedings against Ashers Baking Company for their refusal to accept an order for a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

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Regeneration in an Edinburgh Neighbourhood: the Craigmillar Project Report

In 2014-15, the Global Justice Academy launched its Urban Justice Lab. Based on the MIT-pioneered model to address global challenges, the Urban Justice Lab creates space for discussions and debates as well as collaborations in research, teaching, and outreach for university academics that study or operate on the city.

Dr Tahl Kaminer, GJA Co-Director (Urban Justice Lab), is a Lecturer in Architectural Design and Theory at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA). One track of Tahl’s research studies the means of social amelioration via urban transformation. In 2014, students from the MSc programme in Urban Strategies and Design produced the Craigmillar Project Report – an extensive analysis of the Edinburgh neighbourhood, of the regeneration project, and of current conditions. 

L-R: ‘Charlie’s Bus’ Craigmillar Festival playscheme Bus, historical photograph by Andrew Crummy; Craigmillar flats, photograph by David Flutcher; the White House in Craigmillar, photograph by John Lord.

L-R: ‘Charlie’s Bus’ Craigmillar Festival playscheme Bus, historical photograph by Andrew Crummy; Craigmillar flats, photograph by David Flutcher; the White House in Craigmillar, photograph by John Lord.

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The Resilience of Neoliberal Urbanism

TSVeneziaThis guest post is by Dr Tom Slater, Reader in Urban Geography at the University of Edinburgh. It first appeared in January 2014 on openDemocracy, in the openSecurity: Conflict and Peacebuilding theme.

On 27 January 2014, I noticed a few tweets announcing the Guardian’s new “Cities” section. The newspaper has a track record of publishing excellent short essays addressing urban issues, especially in its “Comment is Free” section, so I confess to initial interest and perhaps even mild excitement.  Then I read two of the introductory pitches by the editorial team, delivered with an intention to “start the debate”. The first was by editor Mike Herd, entitled “What makes your city so special?” the sort of emetic rubric you might expect to find a ‘Business Traveller’ section of an in-flight magazine. Here is how he invited browsers to contribute:

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Will Class Become Caste and Birth Become Destiny?

jeremywaldronportraitThe University of Edinburgh’s Annual Gifford Lecture Series has now begun. Professor Jeremy Waldron is University Professor at the New York University Law School. Professor Waldron’s work in jurisprudence and political theory is well known, as are his articles on constitutionalism, democracy, homelessness, judicial review, minority cultural rights, property, the rule of law, hate speech, human dignity, and torture. This post appeared originally on the Gifford Lecture Blog.

In a stimulating opening Gifford Lecture tonight, Professor Jeremy Waldron emphasised the urgency of not only eradicating ‘surface inequality’ in public legal relations, but in carrying out a theological and philosophical examination of what may underpin human equality in a world where ‘grotesque differences in economic lives’ create the risk of ‘leech and leak’ to undermine our commitment to a common humanity. We re-assure ourselves that the ‘surface inequality’ between rich and poor is compatible with an inviolate ‘basic human equality’ which underlies our mutual existence. But is that weakening in our society, such that the view may emerge that ‘the poor are not fully human’ and ‘only the prosperous live fully human lives’? Is there a danger now that a ‘conditional’ legal status due to the vicissitudes of life, such as that of an African-American in jail, becomes re-inforced as a ‘sortal’ status of permanent identity to delineate rights and all human potential, in like kind to the evils of slavery or apartheid in the past?

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WikiLeaks Evidence in Court

Dr Laura Jeffery is a Lecturer and ESRC Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in forced displacement, migration, the environment, and human rights. Her academic profile can be viewed here.

In this guest blog, Laura considers how WikiLeaks evidence has been used in courts and whether documents obtained by WikiLeaks are admissable as legal evidence.

UK government policy is to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) the authenticity of unauthorised leaked documents. The rationale for NCND is twofold: firstly, authenticating a leaked document could compound any damage already caused by the leak and secondly it rewards those involved in leaking documents. NCND is applied as a blanket policy because selective commentary would give rise to the supposition that leaked documents whose authenticity was not explicitly denied are implicitly authenticated.

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Minority Women and Politics of Austerity in France and the United Kingdom

A guest blog by Akwugo Emejulu, University of Edinburgh and Leah Bassel, University of Leicester, in which they argue that in order to counter the asymmetrical effects of the current economic crisis, intersectional analyses and coalition building are required. They consider how researchers might capture the effects of austerity on representations of minority women’s vulnerability as well as their activism. They do so by drawing on their current empirical project, ‘Minority Women’s Activism in Tough Times’, which explores the impact of the crisis on minority women in Scotland, England and France.

 

At the time of writing, the UK is undergoing the most extensive reduction and restructuring of its welfare state since its enactment after the Second World War (Taylor-Gooby and Stoeker 2010; Yeates et al 2011). The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government is presiding over a 27% cut to local government—the key mechanism for delivery of public services—and a 68% cut to the social housing budget (Taylor-Gooby 2011: 4). Whilst France was not implementing as stringent measures until the January 2014 budget was announced, a key policy aim of the Socialist government is austerity (Clift 2013). The headline of President François Hollande’s 2013 budget, which he described as ‘the biggest budget shock of the past 30 years’ (Guélaud 2012), was a commitment to cutting the deficit to 3% of GDP in 2013 (L’Express 2012). However, the beleaguered Socialist government missed this budget target (BBC 12 March 2013).

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The Ukrainian crisis and the challenges of integration

A guest blog by Dejan Stjepanović of the University of Edinburgh on the Ukraine crisis.

The ongoing Ukrainian crisis raises a number of serious questions about the future of political relations in Europe. Until now, the primary driver of regional integration in post-socialist Europe was the European Union. The return of Russia onto the stage, and its not shying away from using its military power, caught some observers by surprise. Behind the struggle for geopolitical dominance lies a deeper problem which arises from the pervasive influence of the essentialist understanding of nation, state, sovereignty and borders. Continue reading