Challenges of the New Urban Agenda

This guest post is by Pedro Cisterna Gaete, who is reading for an LLM in Global Environment and Climate Change Law at Edinburgh Law School. Pedro is a qualified lawyer from Chile, and former Deputy National Social Director of TECHO, Chile. In this post, he explores the ideas around the Right to the City, and current challenges facing the world’s urban spaces and their populations.

Almost two years ago, the last UN Conference on Human Settlements was celebrated in Quito, Ecuador. At this international meeting, representatives of the majority of governments and also several non-governmental organisations discussed what the essential international urban challenges for the next 20 years would be, and raised a vigorous agenda relating to our cities. This post addresses three main aspects of this  meeting:

  • the official inclusion of the right to the city;
  • the existing and growing housing challenge; and
  • the crucial implementation of this agenda.

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Complicity, Elitism and Storytelling: Exploring Moral Ambiguity in Times of Injustice

In her second post for this blog, GJA Communications Intern, Jee-Young Song, reflects on the recent GJA GREYZONE Summer School keynote session on ‘Conceptual Perspectives’.

The Summer School kick-started on Monday the 25 June, the theme this year being ‘Navigating the Grey Zone: Complicity, Resistance and Solidarity’.The following is from the ‘Conceptual Perspectives’ talks, where expert speakers from the fields of human rights, philosophy, and political theory (Ruth Kelly, Charlotte Knowles and Lukas Slothuus, pictured above) each gave their unique insight on the key issues.

Storytelling as a way to reinforce human rights

First to speak was Ruth Kelly, who focused on the potential for narrative to help communities articulate approaches to the development of human rights. To give an example of such artistic intervention, she showed footage taken at a poetry workshop in Uganda, where a woman recites a poem about struggling to choose between action and complicity, entitled ‘Should I stay? Should I go?’.

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Global Justice Academy Spring School: Using Critical Discourse Analysis in Community Settings

In April 2018, the GJA sponsored its first ‘Spring School’ in a collaboration with Moray House School of Education. In this post, Spring School Co-organiser and GJA Management Group member, Dr Callum McGregor, reflects on the Spring School’s innovative community-university partnership, which fostered strong links with local organisations and social justice practitioners. It is hoped that a similar Spring School will run again next year. Callum is also the programme director for the online MSc in Social Justice and Community Action, which is sponsored by the Global Justice Academy.

The Global Justice Academy (GJA) is an institutional forum for dialogue with practitioners engaged in justice issues locally and globally. This short blog highlights one such example of local dialogue, in the form of a series of community-university workshops on Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). CDA is a form of critical social research, whose purpose is to analyse the ways in which language can be used to both reproduce and challenge social injustice. Discourses can be thought of as representationsof various aspects of our social lives. These representations are made up sets of rules and statements that determine whatcan be expressed within a particular context, howit can be expressed, by whom and under what conditions. Discourses are important because they have real material effects on the distribution of burdens and benefits along different axes of inequality.

Between April and May 2018, three workshops were held, with the purpose of bringing together community practitioners, community-based adult learners, activists, students and academics to learn together about CDA. Specifically, the workshops focused on how CDA can be used creatively to link education to social action, through addressing the interests and struggles of ordinary people in communities.

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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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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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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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A community that has less, uses less, and therefore needs less

This guest post is by Janice Brewer. Janice is studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Specialised Studies at Ohio University, in Sustainable Food System Planning and Development. Janice took the ‘Place-Making and Making-Places’ summer school module at the University of Edinburgh during July 2014 – you can read more about the group and their investigations of Global Justice here. In this post, Janice recalls her visit to Eigg and what she learned about sustainability in an island setting.

While awaiting the Ferry in Mallaig I glanced across the blue waters to a special outline of an island I would soon visit.

The Inner Hebrides is sprinkled with over 30 inhabited islands, each with its own history and charm. Located just to the south of the Isle of Skye sits the Isle of Eigg stretching only 5.6 miles by 3.1 miles. Eigg is decorated with “Singing Sands” beach, dramatic climbs, and sheep Xing with every step. This seemingly “just another island” is pioneering is way out of the ordinary; 17 years ago the – now 83 – inhabitants bought the land and the island became community owned. On 1st February 2008 the island switched off the grid. Eigg is the first of its kind to develop an electricity system powered only by wind, water and solar energy. Electricity would become available 24 hours a day for the first time in this islands history. The community won first place in the Big Green Challenge to tackle climate change and received £300,000 from National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

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Spectating and Acting: a Workshop Report

On June 20, 2014, Mathias Thaler (University of Edinburgh) organized a workshop dedicated to the tension between spectating and acting in democratic politics. The event drew an engaged audience of about 40 participants, both from Edinburgh and from outside Scotland. Apart from Law School and School of Social and Political Science staff (such as Zenon Bankowski, Christine Bell and Jonathan Hearn), the event also attracted academics from farther abroad (like Phil Parvin from Loughborough University, Cara Nine from the University College Cork and Audra Mitchell from the University of York). Furthermore, many PhD students attended and contributed to the workshop.

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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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Responding to the moral crisis in northern Nigeria and expecting the unexpected

In this guest blog by Zoe Marks of the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh, she discusses responses to the kidnapping of nearly three hundred school girls in northern Nigeria, and argues that something can be done. This blog was written on May 6, 2014.

What is a war on terrorism if not the rescue of 276 hostages? Prisoners, forced wives, sex slaves, chattel for market, domestic servants, human trafficking victims – aspiring, diligent, brave young girls.

We are facing an urgent moral crisis and fumbling. More than 20 days have passed since over 300 schoolgirls were corralled onto lorries in the middle of the night, captured by men claiming to be soldiers there to protect them. For three weeks, the Nigerian government has punted, Western governments have stood on the sidelines, and regional allies and the African Union have not even shown up to the pitch. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not call his first strategy meeting until last Saturday (4 May). His military advisory committee was convened only today for the first time (6 May).

When abducted on 14 April, the students were already far from home. They had travelled to Chibok Government Girls Secondary School despite school closures throughout Borno State not to make a political statement, but simply to sit the same high school certificate exams being taken by their peers across West Africa.

Boko Haram

Boko Haram militants. Source: Boko Haram video.

Boko Haram, the al Qaeda-aligned insurgency that has destabilized the region, only claimed responsibility for the kidnapping yesterday (5 May). They released an hour-long video of masked men standing heavily armed and silent while their leader read a lengthy harangue. The girls were nowhere to be seen. He parroted back as threats what the news media has been recycling as fact, raising more questions than answers.

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