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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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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What Does It Mean To Be A Socially Responsible University?

A guest blog by Dave Gorman, Edinburgh University’s first Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

“I’ve got principles….and if you don’t like them well I’ve got other principles”
Groucho Marx

I love Groucho Marx, but he did once say that he wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would allow him as a member, so we continue to work to improve our approach to make sure we stick to our principles, and I wanted to share some emerging thoughts on where we are heading.

The University’s own Strategic Plan calls for us all to help make a significant, sustainable and social contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world. We have been trying to do just that, publishing a Social Responsibility Strategy in 2010, a Climate Action Plan in 2010 and more recently undertaking a review of the University’s approach to socially responsible investment. We’ve also been thinking hard about how these issues should feed into the University’s approach to learning and teaching.

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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. » Read more

Responsible Investment and Edinburgh University: Part 3

Edinburgh University has recently published a consultation paper on responsible investment and is seeking responses.

In the third and last of a series guest blogs on the subject, Tim Hayward of the School of Social and Political Science in Edinburgh, discusses the relationship between university investments and the creation of wealth.


Investment in Reality

To think about the fundamental principles that should guide a responsible investment policy it is helpful to get back to conceptual basics. So I shall start with a moment of philosophical reflection. » Read more

Responsible Investment and Edinburgh University

Edinburgh University has recently published a consultation paper on responsible investment and is seeking responses.

As part of a series of guest blogs on the subject, Tim Hayward of the School of Social and Political Science in Edinburgh, discusses the relationship between academic Freedom and Responsible Investment.




Why should a university be socially responsible?  A question thrown into relief by the current debate over universities’ investments concerns the social role of the university and the relation of that to its core academic activities.

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A guest blog from Tom Daly

Nils Muiznieks_CoE


Nils MuižnieksCouncil of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Seminar

Last Wednesday, 10 December, fresh from launching the National Action Plan of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, gave a seminar at the School of Law to mark International Human Rights Day; established by the UN in 1950 “to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

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A guest blog by Dr Elisa Morgera and Tom Gerald Daly.

In this article, Dr. Elisa Morgera and Tom Gerald Daly explore the role that ‘Benefit-Sharing’ might be able to play in adressing the environmental challenges associated with the use of natural resources.  The authors pose important questions about Benefit-Sharing and its potential to contribute to the protection and sustainability of natural resources, whilst enabling opportunities for the growth of communities, indiginous peoples and developing countries in culturally-sensitive and equitable ways.  Could Benefit-Sharing present a tool to address these issues?

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Global Justice and the Fringe

A guest blog from Sarah Anderson of the Beltane Public Engagement Network.




Members of the Global Justice Academy are invited to stage their very own Edinburgh Fringe show in 2014.


It’s only a few months since the big purple cow in Edinburgh’s Bristo Square was dismantled, but planning for the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe is already well underway. The Beltane Public Engagement Network is one of the groups intending to stage shows when the crowds descend next August. With luck, members of the Global Justice Academy will be among Beltane’s star performers!

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