Co-Designing Student Engagement

Co-Designing Student Engagement

TEDx University of Edinburgh

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In February, EUSA Global and the University – including the Global Academies, Beltane Public Engagement and Innovative Learning Week – organised TEDx University of Edinburgh.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At our event, we hosted a line-up of speakers who shared their expertise and sparked deep discussion around the theme Global Challenges, Grounded Solutions. While the TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, our individual TEDx event was self-organised by a team of staff and students at the University of Edinburgh.

The event was a huge success and highlights included

–- Student leadership from across the University Ten Student Choice Award submissions to win a spot in the speaker lineup. In one minute, students were asked to share their idea worth spreading and the University community voted on their favourite. www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2MCRRnnHp5M2M67wvoiLDnsIpIxOMD3O&feature=view_all

– An open masterclass for speakers arranged by Beltane Public Engagement. The University community was invited to attend and learn some tips on public speaking – http://tedxuniversityofedinburgh.com/author/tommer/

– Seven engaging speakers from disciplines across the University, including Lesley McAra Head of the Law School. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWEqLcPTv9U&list=PLsRNoUx8w3rM_7URm7bIQXHvQzSOOVigQ&index=4

– A student-led design concept, including an animation from an ECA student showcased at the event – http://tedxuniversityofedinburgh.com/programme/ and https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4458562262045

This campus is full of ideas, not all from academic research. Our students are passionate and hope to inspire change. TEDx University of Edinburgh demonstrated the importance of co-designing these activities alongside our students. This not only creates meaningful leadership and engagement opportunities, but it builds a vibrant community –both staff and students – focused on discovering grounded solutions.

For more information on TEDx at the University

Website – www.tedxuniversityofedinburgh.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh

Twitter – twitter.com/TEDxUoE

If you are interested in volunteering with next year’s TEDx event, please email tedxuniversityofedinburgh@gmail.com with your interest.

If you are interested in getting involved in other EUSA Global activities, please visit www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/global.

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Student Reading Groups

Student Reading Groups

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A number of student reading groups and discussion groups relating to Global Justice issues, often organized by doctoral students, exist. Below we identify some of them, as they all encourage inter-disciplinary participation. Please contact us if you have others you would like to see listed.

Commercial Law Postgraduate Discussion Group

The Commercial Law Postgraduate Discussion Group is a graduate community dedicated to the discussion of commercial law issues (i.e. company law, intellectual property, banking, IT law, telecommunication and financial law issues.). Topics will involve contemporary and challenging issues in commercial law which are of interest.

Meetings: Regular

Contact Persons: Katarzyna Chalaczkiewicz and Humberto Carrasco

E-mail: K.Chalaczkiewicz@sms.ed.ac.uk

Website: http://blogs.sps.ed.ac.uk/commerciallawgroup/

Constitutional Law Discussion Group (CLDG)

The Constitutional Law Discussion Group (CLDG) is co-ordinated by PhD students at Edinburgh Law School and aims to provide a structured forum for debate on constitutional issues in the Law School, especially at the student level. The Group operates with support from the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law.

Meetings: Fortnightly

Contact Persons: Tom Daly and Silvia Suteu

E-mail: cldg@ed.ac.uk

Webpages: http://blogs.sps.ed.ac.uk/cldg/

Criminology Postgraduate Research Group

The Criminology and Criminal Justice Postgraduate Research Group is run by PhD students for postgraduate students within the university with an interest in criminology and criminal justice. The aim of the group is to foster a criminology community within the university by encouraging student participation in the each other’s research, and to build ties between the students who are scattered across different schools.

Meetings: Regular

Contact Persons: Cara Jardine and Jessica Bird

E-mail: bird.jessica@yahoo.com

Webpages: http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/communities/mainview.aspx?ref=10

Ethnicity, Nationalism, and National Identity Network (ENNIN)

ENNIN brings together students and staff across the disciplines at the University of Edinburgh whose research explores the issues of ethnicity, nationalism and national identity. The aim of the network is to provide students and professors with a forum where they can discuss their research interests and exchange ideas with their peers from the University of Edinburgh, as well as other universities, research centres and academic programmes that focus on similar issues and topics.

Meetings: Fortnightly

Contact Person: Marie-Eve Hamel

E-mail: ennin.rg@ed.ac.uk

Webpages: http://nationalismstudies.wordpress.com/ethnicity-nationalism-and-national-identity-network/

International Law Discussion Group (ILDG)

The Edinburgh International Law Discussion Group organises seminars and discussions on a wide range of issues in public international law. The Discussion Group is co-ordinated by PhD students with the aim of complementing the Edinburgh Law School’s strong record of research and scholarship in international law.

Meetings: Fortnightly

Contact Persons: Giedre Jokobauskaite and Diogo de Sousa e Alvim

E-mail: ildg@ed.ac.uk

Webpages: http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/communities/mainview.aspx?ref=1

Legal Theory Reading Group

The Legal Theory Reading Group is organised by PhD students involved in research on legal theory at the School of Law. The Group selects a reading list for every semester and meets for two hours every fortnight.

Meetings: Fortnightly

Contact Person: Alex Latham

E-mail: convenor.legaltheory@ed.ac.uk

Webpages: http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/legaltheory/readinggroup.aspx

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Get involved: Human Rights National Action Plan Consultation

Edinburgh Students Participate!

Contribute to the Scottish Human Rights National Action Plan

NOW CLOSED – INFO ONLY

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My name is Victoria Perez Saez, I am a 3rd year exchange student from Paris, studying at the University of Edinburgh Law School. Inspired by my Human Rights Honours course and driven by the idea that human rights issues are everyone’s concern and responsibility I wish to present to you this project which I believe involves everybody and touches very important aspects of our every day life.

 

This initiative represents an opportunity to hear citizens on what they consider to be the main proprieties regarding human rights in Scotland. You represent the views and aspirations of the local people living in Scotland, your feedback is thus fundamental for constructing the most suited implementation mechanisms and policies that would fulfill your expectations and needs.

 

The initiative aims to provide a substantive contribution to the efforts deployed by the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in launching Scotland’s National Action Plan in the summer of 2013.

http://www.scottishhumanrights.com/actionplan

 

It is the Commission’s priority to obtain feedback from citizens on what the main Human Rights issues in Scotland and how they should be addressed (for more information see the Executive Summary Getting it right! Human rights in Scotland available at:

http://www.scottishhumanrights.com/application/resources/documents/SNAP/GettingitRightexecutiveSummary2012.pdf )

 

Thus, this initiative seeks to encourage a close collaboration between the SHRC and the University of Edinburgh. By expressing your views you would be contributing to build a constructive and enabling environment where a broad range of students and faculty members from the University are supporting the SHRC National Action Plan.

 

Via this simple and straightforward Participation Form you will contribute to the accountability and monitoring of the process of implementation of human rights.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KP3VLNC

 

An Event at the University of Edinburgh on the 13th of March 2013 has been organized as a base for discussion and information on key human rights issues in the context of Scotland’s National Action Plan where Professor Alan Miller, President of the SHRC, and Professor Christine Bell from the University of Edinburgh will be the keynote speakers.

 

The event benefits from with the support of the Global Justice Academy, the University of Edinburgh and EUSA (the Edinburgh University Student Association).

 

For more information please contact: victoria.perez-saez@hotmail.com

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Get Involved in our Fair Trade Academic Network

Get Involved in our Fair Trade Academic Network

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The University of Edinburgh’s Fair Trade Academic Network (FTAN) is looking for new academic staff and PhD student members from any discipline, interested in examining questions fairness in trade from a broad range of perspectives.

What is FTAN?

The University of Edinburgh’s Fair Trade Academic Network (FTAN) has been set up to encourage and facilitate interdisciplinary inquiry into questions of fairness in trade. FTAN is coordinated by Professor Tim Hayward, Director of the Just World Institute, with the support of Liz Cooper, Fair Trade Coordinator. We are a Fairtrade University, in a Fair Trade Nation, a status announced on 25th February 2013, yet further investigation is needed into what these terms could or should mean in terms of policy and practice, among other issues. FTAN is not just about fair trade certification systems, but about broader ideas of justice and fairness in global trade.

For more details on our remit, current members, and activities, see our new FTAN web pages, housed within the Just World Institute.

Fair Trade Academic Network website

FTAN activities

In 2013, we have held two FTAN events: ‘What’s Fair about Fair Trade?: Insights from Senegal and India’, by Liz Cooper on 31st January, and ‘Negotiating the meaning of fair trade: The case of Malawian rice in Scotland’, by Dr Alastair Smith on 28th February. We have launched a Fair Trade Dissertation Prize for the academic year 2013/14. We have begun collating information on teaching and research at Edinburgh relating to fairness in trade. Professor Tim Hayward has written a blog piece on why it is intellectually respectable and worthwhile to carry out research on and teach about fair trade.

How to get involved

We are looking for new members (academic staff and also PhD students) from any discipline, to take part in workshops and research collaborations over the coming year(s).

Contact FTAN@ed.ac.uk to be added to the network.

We are also looking for research papers by Edinburgh academics, and information on taught courses, that touch on issues of fairness in trade, to include on our website.

All are welcome to sign up to our new FTAN mailing list

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The Global Justice Academy

The Global Justice Academy

What is it?

Understanding Global Justice

Our Themes

How we Work

Who are we?  

  • What is the Global Justice Academy?

The Global Justice Academy is a new inter-disciplinary network of people, centres and networks established to explore Global Justice and support research and courses reflecting global justice concerns.  It seeks to build on the work of these centres and networks and to better connect them.

In particular, the Global Justice Academy has been established to provide:

  • A multi-disciplinary exploration of what global justice is
  • A network of people, centres and networks of those working on global justice issues across the University (see Centres and Networks)
  • An intellectual meeting place regarding new ideas regarding a more just world
  • Increased dialogue with those engaged in justice issues locally and globally (see Local-Global Dialogue)

As we begin our work we have set out four current themes around which we are organized.

  • Understanding Global Justice

What is Global Justice?  We view the idea of ‘Global Justice’ as something that needs discussion and exploration, and this will be a central purpose of the Global Justice Academy.  We hope to encapsulate some of our debates by encouraging discussion among those associated with the Academy, on our website.  See our initial thoughts by Director of the Just World Institute, Tim Haywood, and Arriana Andreangeli, Lecturer in Competition Law, School of Law.

Why and how is it ‘global’?

There are different senses in which Global Justice may be global.

Global Justice as a ‘unified’ justice that asserts itself across the globe. A global justice agenda could mean a concept of ‘unified’ global justice, for example asserted by globally applicable legal norms that aim to create a more just and peaceful world.  International legal standards, in particular those relating to human rights, humanitarian law, and international criminal law could be understood as the normative underpinning of a ‘global justice’ agenda in this sense.  However, these norms on their own set out a limited agenda, and also on occasion pit universal norms against different local conceptions of justice.

Transnational approaches to global problems. Global justice could alternatively be understood as justice responses to transnational challenges, in the sense that they are ‘cross-border’ in their reach.  These could include issues as diverse as climate justice or organized crime both of which have cross-border dimensions.  Or the transnational dimension could be understood slightly differently, as justice challenges that different countries across the globe experience in common, such as reform of the justice sector or responses to new technologies or urbanization.

Justice issues thrown up by globalization.  Or global justice could be understood as justice responses to globalization, such as the need for some sort of new global constitutionalism to provide for the accountability of new global governance, or how just responses to global crises such as the economic crises could be fashioned. 

Globally Just Order.  Or global justice could be understood as justice that seeks for some more social just order, for example through global re-distribution between those who have and those who have-not both within and between countries. 

Justice as language of change.  For people and communities in different situations, the language of ‘justice’ unlike the language of ‘law’ is a language that aspires to change.  The idea of global justice from this point of view, speaks to an agenda for change that is of global relevance.  

Current Themes

To begin our discussions we have identified current themes relating to global justice in which members of the University are engaged, where we hope to assist exchange and the building of inter-disciplinary agendas.

Understanding Global Justice.  This strand of work situates global justice theoretically by questioning what we mean by the term ‘global justice’ and what it means to work together under that banner.  (see Hayward and Andreangeli blogs).  Under this theme we examine

  • What is Global Justice?
  • Global Constitutional Law

Citizenship and Belonging.  Under this theme we examine

  • Citizenship
  • Equality and non-discrimination
  • Gender Justice

Human Rights, Humanitarianism, Conflict and Peace.  This strand of work includes those who engage with legal norms, but also with questions of conflict and peace. Under this theme we consider

  • Human rights, Humanitarian and International Criminal Law
  • Conflict and Peace

Transnational Problems. This strand of work groups those who examine problems that are seen as transnational because they have a cross-border manifestation, such as climate change or organized crime, or economic collapse, but also problems that are transnational in the sense that they are manifest across a range of countries where they present similar justice issues, such as urbanization (see Tahl Kaminer’s blog on Urban Justice).Under this theme we consider

  • Economic Justice
  • New Technologies
  • Urban Justice

How do we work?

The Global Justice Academy at present meets as a group of steering committee members from across colleges or departments.  Through the website it also attempts to further network those across the University who are working on global justice issues with a view to developing new ideas and connections between disciplines.  We hope to also communicate with those beyond the University who study or are engaged in global justice issues.

As a practical matter, we hope to use the website to highlight four things:

  • relevant events relating to Global Justice issues
  • new research relating to Global Justice issues
  • relevant courses relating to Global Justice issues
  • relevant student reading groups

We hope that by highlighting these activities we can things we can help to foster new ideas and synergies.  We view the Academy’s strength as lying: first, in its loose network structure that aims to support and build the work of existing centres and institutes; and second, in its ability to cut across University Schools and Colleges to provide a fluid mechanism of communication and cooperation.

We hope to also be pro-active in assisting new cross-cutting discussions, and initially view the steering committee meetings and small-group discussions as one such place in which this type of discussion can take place.

Who are we?

The Global Justice Academy currently meets as a Steering group with a wider group of those interested and working in global justice issues connecting as Members and taking part in and arranging University-wide events.   If you wish to be involved or mailed re our events please contact us.

Globally Just Leadership Teaching Learning Community – Personal Values Assessment

Globally Just Leadership – Personal Values Assessment

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Values guide how we make decisions, behave, and choose large or small steps in life. We often feel most at ease and cared for when we live in a community and country that reflect many of our personal values. In addition, most of us have a sense of when we feel aligned or misaligned with our own values and/or with the values of those around us.

During 2012 the Barrett Values Centre, a global values assessment company, collaborated with the UK Office for National Statistics and the charity Action for Happiness to conduct a major study into the values held by people in the UK as a whole, with separate breakdowns for people in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and nine different regions in England. The ‘UK National and Community Values Assessment 2012’ questioned 4000 people living in the UK to discover the values most important to them personally, the values they currently perceive are operating in the nation overall and in their individual communities or breakdown areas, and the values they would like to experience in the nation and their local communities. Those results were shared with the government in mid January and released to the public on 24 January 2013.

Four key messages emerged from the summary report. First, the personal values of UK citizens show that meaningful relationships are vitally important to them. Next, when asked about their direct experience of life in their local communities, UK citizens paint a predominantly positive picture. Third, when asked about their perceptions of life in the nation, they paint a far more challenging picture. Finally, the desires and priorities of UK citizens for their communities and the nation reflect the essence of their personal values.

Over time I can share more detailed information that might stimulate exciting dialogues about what comes next. For now, please feel free to take your own personal values assessment (pva) at no cost. Go to http://www.valuescentre.com/pva/ OR to http://www.valuescentre.com and click on ‘Products and Services’, then on Personal Values Assessment (PVA). Follow the instructions, and you’ll complete the assessment in about five minutes. Within 5-10 additional minutes, you’ll receive an email with an 8-page pdf attachment showing your results and providing some interesting links. Enjoy.

MaryCatherine Burgess
L.P.C Research Fellow in School of Health in Social Science,
The University of Edinburgh Medical School,
Teviot Place, Doorway
6 Edinburgh EH8 9AG

4 February 2013

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Minimum price on alcohol in Scotland—a local measure affecting global issues?

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Dr Arriana Andreangeli, Lecturer in Competition Law, School of Law

Alcohol abuse is one of the major threats to public health worldwide.  According to the World Health Organisation, it represents the third largest cause of premature mortality and on its own accounts for 2.5 million deaths each year; it also stands to lead to other societal harms, such as work absenteeism, child neglect and domestic violence.

The misuse of alcoholic substances represents a major threat to health, public order and the economy in the whole of the UK: in respect to England, statistics compiled by the NHS in 2010 and referring to the period between 2007 and 2009 indicated, among other findings, almost 7,000 deaths for alcohol related illnesses only in 2008 (an increase of 24% from 2001) and a net cost to the NHS of about £2.4 million for prescription drugs aimed at treating these conditions only in 2009.  The situation is certainly not more encouraging in Scotland: according to the NHS, in the period of 2010/11 there were an average of 695 alcohol related hospital discharges per 100,000 heads of population, totalling close to 39,000.  Importantly the rate was 7 times higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

In light of the above it is not surprising that the SNP led Government sought to honour its election pledge of enacting legislation setting out a minimum price on alcohol.  Similar measures are also in force in Canada and New Zealand and are also under discussion in Westminster, with a consultation being open on whether to impose a minimum price of 45p per unit.  The Act was approved in July 2012: it sets out a minimum price per unit of alcoholic substance, which is calculated on the basis of the alcohol percentage for each drink and provides a “floor price” of 50p per unit.  According to Alex Neal, Scottish Health Secretary, “Minimum pricing will save lives and reduce the harm caused by alcohol misuse and we believe the policy, agreed by parliament and backed by expert opinion is the most effective pricing measure”.  However, the legislation is yet to receive Royal assent, pending two legal challenges, one before the Scottish courts and one before the Court of Justice of the EU: appellants in the former are seeking judicial review of the measure on the grounds of it both going beyond Holyrood’s legislative powers and contravening free trade and competition principles.  At the same time, the Scottish Whisky Association had complained to the EU Commission that minimum pricing would infringe the EU Treaty free movement and competition rules.

In a recent opinion, leaked from the Commission to the UK press, the Commission’s Secretary General, Catherine Day, expressed the view that the measure in issue, while being consistent with the public health policy goals pursued by the EU, raised questions as to its proportionality to the objectives being sought—in other words, is there a less restrictive measure vis-à-vis imposing a minimum price? In this respect, higher taxation on alcoholic drinks was highlighted as a less restrictive alternative, on the ground that it would apply across the board on all drinks, whether imported or domestic; it would also not place foreign drinks at a competitive disadvantage on the ground that it would not prevent suppliers from exploiting efficiencies and therefore transfer the ensuing economies of scale to consumers through lower prices.

But is taxation the most effective solution when it comes to achieving its public health goals, especially in terms of the reduction of harm arising from hazardous drinking? The 2010 Sheffield study on alcohol consumption provides clear evidence that a direct causal link exists between sustained price increases and reduction in consumption.  Furthermore, a study published by academics at the Canadian University of British Columbia, and concerning three distinct provinces where minimum prices apply, albeit at different levels, shows that imposing floor prices at purchase has the maximum effect in terms of displacing and potentially eroding demand from the most hazardous drinkers, who are the most price-sensitive on the ground of their tendency to maximise alcohol intake per dollar spent.

Against this background, it is legitimately queried whether the debate now centres on pitching goals of free trade and free and unconstrained markets against objectives of public health and of protecting society from the harmful effect of excessive alcohol consumption: it may be argued that the Scottish Government seeks to maximise the attainment of the former, albeit at the expense of the latter.  The Scottish Whisky Association and other stakeholders, supported, at least in part, by the concerns expressed by the EU Commission, seem to be poised in the opposite direction—in other words they do not appear prepared to dispose of their profits for the sake of achieving the widest harm reduction effects.  More generally, it is argued that the Scottish legislation on minimum price on alcohol represents a “microcosm” of how the “global market forces” are in tension with other “global challenges”, such as the protection of health against the ill-effects of addictive substances.

Andrea Local-Global Connections blog

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‘Global justice: what does it mean? An attempt to start answering…’

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Dr Arianna Andreangeli, Lecturer in Competition Law, Edinburgh Law School, University of Edinburgh

Why do we talk about ‘global justice’? Today is this just a “trendy” expression, or does it reflect the changing nature of the legal, political and economic frameworks governing, shaping and more generally “populating” the complex web of relationships existing across the world and involving states as well as private actors?  Justice is already a laden term, aspirational as well as positive: for us lawyers, ‘justice” passes through equality, fairness, due process of law, democratic debate and openness; yet, there is so much more than this.  Could a society where everyone is treated equally before the law when it comes to, say, criminal trials, but where resources (whether natural or financial) are only controlled by a few? Surely, one would object to this: for justice today is increasingly “economic”: in other words, the principles of the free market, with its emphasis on unhindered competition, full access and contestability and on the need to protect and encourage investments and greater human endeavour, have increasingly been tempered with considerations of “fairness” in the sense of “giving workers what is due to them” and of encouraging the sharing of finite resources.

More generally, the recognition that poverty has now largely surpassed war as a main source of “human misery” has pushed the development of notions of justice toward assuming a more economic substance; take the ‘poor’ for instance: it was perfectly acceptable in the 1930s to think of them as ‘feckless’.  Today, we are all too aware of the barriers to social mobility and of their implications for anything from school attainment to access to employment.  And we have come to accept that the ‘state’ should act in a way that ‘realises justice’, by eliminating these barriers and thereby improving life expectancy and enabling social mobility.  At the same time, this new understanding of what a ‘just society’ and a ‘just nation’ are has challenged the existing frameworks through which decisions are taken and, more generally, debate takes place with a view to influencing policy agendas.  New actors, not necessarily belonging to the “state realm” have powerfully emerged; the greater ease with which mass media can be accessed makes the circulation and cross-fertilisation of ideas much more immediate and gives them greater impact; perhaps most importantly, it draws a strong emphasis on the involvement of private actors in this process. The push toward privatisation of key industries, such as energy and other essential utilities, means that it is private actors that determine the dynamics of the economy in many sectors and especially in markets that have a direct impact on the lives of individuals, especially the most fragile.  Thus, the challenge of creating a “socially just” society can no longer be attained in the limited remit of “politics”; it must also pass through an honest and careful look at what we mean by a “balanced” economy—one in which profits are made without plundering the environment, investment is protected and sustained without limiting access to key resources only to a “lucky few” and consumers are protected from harm, even though that protection may come to a cost.  This idea of a “social market economy” is not new—it is actually at core of the EU treaties, for starters.  It is what we do to attain it that matters, and how.

So, why ‘global’? One could argue that it is primarily for the ‘state’ to take care of its citizens by exercising the powers conferred to it via its agencies and thereby realising commonly shared goals through instruments that are shaped by the debate and the decision making taking place within its space.  However, since the end of World War II, the decline of this idea of “Westphalian”, all-encompassing and all-powerful state has inexorably declined.  Borders are porous, if not altogether movable; the state activity itself is constrained, shaped and directed via influences, factors and energies that cannot be cajoled into the “institutional structures” through which the state itself acts.  New actors have emerged, whose economic might makes them more “pervasive” in their action than the state structures and powers themselves, without any “democratic check” being put on them.  All of these factors mean that dialogue, debate, decision-making and practical action no longer occurs in the “limited space” of the nation state: the UN, the Bretton Woods System, the emergence of regional supranational structures as well as the greater institutionalisation of multilateral treaties have resulted in states having to cede or limit their sovereign powers and to pool them together to achieve overarching policy goals.  Civil society is also alive and well and robust in its involvement in and scrutiny of this decision making.  Individuals themselves are also part of this picture: the application of “non-domestic” rules impacts more and more often on them; businesses have a very relevant and “heavy-hitting” role in the “rooms of power”.

This is in short what makes the quest for justice today ‘global’: the recognition that decisions taken in individual jurisdictions both span out of their boundaries and are guided by outside influences; yet, at the same time they raise challenges that are both ‘global’ and ‘local’ and seek to answer to them by adopting solutions that may reflect common values as well as being guided by different formats and dynamics. The awareness of the fact that the arena in which important decisions as to how to realise this “just society” is populated by a variety of actors and extends way beyond the boundaries of states; the recognition that ‘private’ and ‘public’, ‘markets’ and ‘power’ are deeply intertwined.

This is what ‘global justice’ is for me: both an aspiration and a concept having a number of key legal elements within it.  As an aspiration, it depicts a society in which political deficits and economic gaps tend to be filled and greater fairness, equality of opportunity and stronger checks on power (whether political or economic) are present.  As a “legally laden” notion, it encompasses a set of rules designed to realise these goals: from upholding civil rights’ guarantees to the protection of rivalry for the purpose of maintaining open markets and efficient sharing of resources as well as good functioning of infrastructures; from furthering equality not only before the law but also with a view to accessing economic, educational and labour opportunities to eventually seeking to bridge the differences between social layers.  It also inevitably hinges upon a complex, spider-web structured institutional framework which is often “soft” and “informal” but which should not be beyond transparency and scrutiny.

In the words of Thomas Pogge:

“(…) this question focuses attention on how today’s massive incidence of violence and severe poverty, and the huge excesses of mortality and morbidity they cause, might be avoided not merely through better government behavior, domestically and internationally, but also, and much more effectively, through global institutional reforms that would, among other things, elevate such government behaviour by modifying the options governments have and the incentives they face (…).”

(“What is global justice?”, lecture given at the MacMillan centre for International and Area studies, Yale University, 2011; accessible at: http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/globaljustice/docs/gjlecture.pdf).

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On the Question of Global Justice: from Polis to Cosmo-polis

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Plato, more than 2,000 years ago, opened the most influential work of western philosophy with this question: What is Justice?  He asked it in the context of the Athenian city-state, the polis.  The question still held centre-stage for the twentieth century’s leading western political philosopher, John Rawls, in the context of the modern nation-state. In our own new millennium, a new context opens for political thought. Beyond the ancient city-state; beyond the modern nation-state too: the question we now face is what is justice for the world?

The world can be thought of in various ways.  The great Edinburgh philosopher David Hume was an astute commentator on the world of men: he distilled an underlying sense of how the question of justice has fundamentally to do with how human beings should live together when they are impelled by circumstances to cooperate and by instinct to pursue their separate advantage.  And as this University’s late and much missed professor, Sir Neil MacCormick, reminded us, understanding what justice means more specifically depends on taking account of how those circumstances are changing.

The world in Hume’s day, from the perspective enshrined in the treaty of Westphalia – is depicted as a set of sovereign nation-states that deal with each other as separate autonomous entities.  This is a world of nations, with their sum being equal – morally as well as physically – to the sovereign parts.

But no nation is an island, not even Great Britain – in fact, especially not Great Britain – in a world with ships and other accoutrements of trade and war.  Simple facts of physical geography do not determine the ethical shape of the world, and as wealth and plunder, colonists and slaves, move around the globe, a new political economic map begins to evolve. Increasingly complex international legal frameworks gradually emerge to govern relations between nations.  And because in the development of law, a source of legitimate authority has always to be sought, an increasingly complex set of moral ideas began also to crystallize.  Some of these were to become critical of some of the practices condoned by nations.

The idea that a state could be legitimately sovereign in its internal affairs is supplemented by increasingly explicit ideas about criteria of legitimacy in a state’s inter-national relations.  In the modern period, moral thinking about the world tends to move from a perspective of nationalism to one of internationalism.  This way of thinking reaches a climax with the end of the Second World War and the resolution of nations uniting that we should all recognize human beings as ethically connected to each other in ways that political organisations like the state do not always recognize – and in the worst of cases, atrociously deny.

The connection between global justice and human rights appears in our own era an indissoluble one.  The world that now provides the ethical context for justice is no longer the Athenian polis but the global cosmo-polis.

So much, then, for the development of the context in which Global Justice becomes a question.  What of answers to that question?  One famous philosopher who was sceptical about the value of talking too much about justice pointed out that philosophers merely interpret the world whereas the point is to change it.  But some of those who then acted in Marx’s name have provided ample demonstration that the world can be changed for the worse.  And that cannot be the point.  So this is where we come in – our aim is, by combining careful empirical investigation and ethical reflection, to understand what, today, counts as a change that will make this a more just world.

 

Tim Hayward

Professor of Environmental Political Theory,

Head of Politics and International Relations,

Director of the Just World Institute,

University of Edinburgh

12.12.12

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Urban Justice: Demanding the Right to the City.

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Tahl Kaminer, Lecturer in Architectural Design and Theory, Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

As the world becomes fully urbanised, with a majority of the global population living in cities, the question of justice itself becomes increasingly urban. The implications of this include, on the one hand, the city as the locus of protest and dissent, recently visible in the Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park, New York, the protesters in Syntagma Square, Athens, or the protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo. On the other hand, the centricity of cities to the world population means that issues such as economic and social justice or human rights are increasingly discussed and debated via the lens of the urban condition.

These urgent issues are visible everywhere: the spatial segregation of cities which reflect social, economic and political divisions and the marginalisation of the urban poor; the vast gaps in housing qualities and basic amenities within diverse cities and between cities; the dislocation of urban poor from city centres; the continuous development and re-development of cities for the benefit of the few and determined, to a great extent, by narrow private economic interests – interests which rarely coincide with the greater good of society.

If the economic policies of the last decades suggest a re-distribution of wealth from the masses to the few, urban development reflects a similar logic: the cleansing of city centres from the ‘unwanted’ – migrants, the poor, unemployed and unskilled labourers, as a means of reclaiming cities for finance capital and its necessary white-collar employees, whether via gentrification or other forms of urban transformation. The rising prices of homes in cities, accompanied by the absence of new council housing in Britain and a limited availability of ‘affordable’ housing, are not limited to the United Kingdom, and reflect trajectories of global scale. The morphology of the city has fragmented, a physical expression of the fragmentation of society itself, as governmental powers have been curtailed to allow private developers to speculate with property and more flexibility in their operations on the urban tissue.

Public space, once a symbol of civic society, has been mostly privatised; the privately-owned shopping mall has replaced the city square as the locus of societal interactions and exchanges, albeit exchanges of particularly consumerist and economic value in a space marked by exclusion – whether of homeless, of ‘hoodies’ or others. The remaining public space has been reorganised, smoothed, often annexed to consumerism, and placed under the surveillance of CCTV and police. Neighbourhood gardens have been fenced, with access limited, at first, to locals, and nowadays exclusively to locals who pay additional fees. Every aspect of the city has been turned into a commodity, it seems, and carries a price tag.

The members of the middle class, originally supporters of the airbrushing and cleansing of inner cities, are at last developing a consciousness that it is not only the subaltern who are expelled, but that they too can no longer maintain a foothold in city centres. With limited financial access to affordable housing or to good education in the inner cities, the middle class now recognises that the revitalised city emerging in the 1990s is a city for the privileged. From ‘reclaim the streets’ to ‘the right to the city’, slogans and movements have been formed to counter the injustice of the contemporary metropolis. The demands of the middle class as well as the poor are straightforward: the demand for living wages; for affordable (and decent quality) housing; for affordable (and decent quality) education; for quality public space – and specifically, that all these will be available to everyone, everywhere, that no area of the city becomes the exclusive domain of a privileged social group. These demands are at the heart of the global call for urban justice. As the current crisis is not only economic, but also social, political, and urban, it provides an opportunity to restructure, to change priorities, and initiate new policies aimed at creating a more fair and just city.

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