Introducing the Trailblazer programme: Free CPD for Bristol Law School alumni

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Bristol Law School are offering our alumni a pioneering and exclusive complimentary professional development programme, relevant across disciplines, regardless of when you graduated.

Launching in September 2018, our Trailblazer Programme will blend face-to-face sessions with webinars and social events. You will be motivated to maximise personal impact, boost effectiveness and develop leadership skills.

Facilitated by experienced academics, seasoned practitioners, and inspirational speakers, this programme echoes the mantra of learning by doing what is integral to our Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School.

Who is it for?

Offered exclusively to UWE Bristol alumni on a complimentary basis, this is a chance to continue the learning that you began when you were a student. The programme enables you to take advantage of your lifelong connection to our expertise and community.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this programme, however places will be offered exclusively to UWE Bristol alumni from our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Content

The programme incorporates four face-to-face sessions alongside online learning through webinars and two social events per a cohort.

Session 1 – Leading Self for Personal Effectiveness: Learn how to adapt your behaviour and actions when dealing with different individuals, tasks and situations. Acquire the skills to deliver exceptional performance, authentically.

Session 2 – Leading Others for Impact: Practical tips on creating high performing teams focusing on; healthy team dynamics, influencing and communicating.

Session 3 – Coaching and Mentoring: Transform your personal management style in this practical session by developing your coaching and mentoring skills to enhance performance and encourage self-exploration.

Session 4 – Design Thinking: Experience the creative process of finding new and transformative solutions to problems whilst also generating innovative ideas and opportunities.

Webinars: Webinar topics will be decided at the start of the programme to ensure these are relevant to the current business environment.They will be available live or pre-recorded.

Graduation: Graduation event for the year’s cohorts.

Professional accreditation

We are seeking to get this programme approved by the CPD Certification Service, meaning you will receive a certificate to demonstrate your CPD hours through completion of this programme*.

The growing network of participants will benefit from lasting relationships with likeminded professionals.

*subject to approval being granted.

Places for the course are limited to 40 participants per cohort. For more information and to apply for your free place, please see here.

Guest blog: My Day at Clarke Willmott as Part of the Faculty Advisory Board Mentoring Scheme

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Guest blog by Noëlle Quénivet: 

The Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School launched at the inception of the 2017/2018 academic year a pilot Faculty Advisory Board Mentoring Scheme, the chief aim being to contribute to UWE staff’s personal and career development and provide further, external feedback on the 360 review that all senior academic staff had undergone in the past few years. Among, the wider purposes of this scheme are to create a culture of positive employee engagement and develop a broader understanding of external organisations and the dynamics within an external business so as to be in a position to engage at the right level in target organisations.

As someone who had never worked in a private company and teaches subjects that lead to careers in the public and charity sector as well as in international organisations the opportunity to meet with someone completely outside my world was incongruous, albeit intriguing. I signed up to the scheme and was allocated Karl Brown, a Senior Associate in the Commercial Property team of Clarke Willmott in Bristol, as my mentor. That was no doubt a full immersion into the private and commercial world! We arranged for our first meeting to be over the phone and used the 360 degree feedback as a guide to help kick off the discussions and identify some specific areas for discussion. Designed to be relatively informal this kind of mentorship works well. Whilst overall as well as specific expectations and objectives are set for such meetings, there is plenty of leeway to broach new issues, topics and challenges I am facing in the Bristol Law School, both as a researcher and a lecturer. It also gives Mr Brown, a member of our Advisory Board, the opportunity to get a glance into the academic world. Furthermore, such meetings are an occasion to exchange ideas and discuss the potential involvement of the private sector in academic life. In other words, it is a two-way street, not just a mentoring scheme.

At one of these meetings Mr Brown suggested I spend a day at Clarke Willmott to gain insights into the way a law firm works. He arranged for me to be placed with Richard Moore, a partner at Clarke Willmott working in its Commercial and Private Client Litigation team which focuses on commercial litigation and dispute resolution. The date was set for Wednesday 11 July, at a time when teaching/marking is off the table. Upon my arrival I was met by Mr Brown who gave me a brief tour of the law firm. I quickly realised the size of the firm and the breadth of the legal issues its employees covered. And this was only the Bristol office as Clarke Willmott has also offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Taunton and Southampton! I was then introduced to Mr Moore who presented me to his team and explained the type of work the team undertakes. I was then whisked to attend the compulsory introductory health and safety training.

When I came back from the training three folders had been placed on my desk. Mr Moore explained that it was probably the best way to give me an idea of the type of work carried out by his team. Looking at these folders very much reminded me of my internship at UNHCR London when solicitors would send by post huge folders accompanied by a letter seeking our assistance. I remember staring at my first folder in horror, wondering how I could possibly read this folder in a couple of hours. Indeed, some solicitors would inform us that their client would be deported within days and unless we promptly intervened on their behalf the client would be returned to their country of origin. I quickly learned which documents needed to be read first (or at all) and which sections were the most relevant and thus had to be read in full and with a keen eye for details. All this had to be done in light of UNHCR guidelines and the relevant legal framework. Here, at Clarke Willmott, the case I was given related to a company that had threatened another (and a large number of its customers) with patent litigation if it continued to use a particularly product for which it claimed it had a patent. My knowledge on the subject-matter being pretty much that of a laywoman I decided to focus on the procedure and the practical aspects of the case, eg how can a solicitor know whether a patent claim and counter-claim are genuine, why does a solicitor recommend their client one procedure over another (in this case the shorter trial scheme), how are experts chosen, how is information collected, is it standard practice to reply to a claim paragraph by paragraph (ie point by point), why are there track changes in some of the official documents, etc.? As Mr Moore came back from a meeting I had the opportunity to ask him some of these questions. My next opportunity to understand better the work of a commercial law solicitor was to attend a conference call with a client who had instructed Mr Moore on a variety of litigation matters at Clarke Willmott and his previous firm. Interestingly, he explained to me that some clients even follow solicitors who change law firms. Clearly, this must be an indication of the importance of trust and confidence between a client and a specific solicitor. That being said, Mr Moore also stressed that a hugely positive aspect of being employed by a large law firm is that clients can use the wide range of services offered by the firm and thus all their legal dealings stay ‘in-house’. The conversation indubitably showed this established trust relationship between Mr Moore and his client. The issue at stake was the misuse of a franchise and, sadly for the client, it was not the first time the client was faced with this problem. Mr Moore explained in a very honest manner the advantages and disadvantages of the range of courses of action available to the client. In particular, he pointed out that a change in the law meant that using a previously favoured course of action might not yield the results expected and might be more costly. He expounded his preferred solution which was to send a robust letter to the company in question and to avoid court litigation if at all possible. At first I was a bit bemused by Mr Moore’s attitude as it gave the impression that he was simply saying to the client that they did not need his help. Yet, this would be a flawed understanding of this conversation: capacity-building is part of building a trust relationship between a solicitor and the client. He was advising his client to undertake a course of action which would save them money on legal fees and was putting his client’s interests above those of his own law firm; principle over profit.

Another folder appeared on my desk: it was a pending case relating to fraud in a company. The information was of a different type from the previous case: company reports, interviews, accounting reports, etc. Having previously taught on the module Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility that is offered on the LLM programme at UWE (see eg LLM in Commercial Law) I was flabbergasted by this example of poor practice of corporate governance. In fact, I wondered whether similar documents could be used as the basis for a student assignment. After all it would neatly fit with the Faculty’s strategic priority to offer practice-led modules and programmes. And so, on my ‘to do’ list appeared the item: ‘need to talk to relevant module leaders and suggest this type of document to form the basis of scenario to be looked at in workshops or set for assignment’.

My last insight into the work of a commercial solicitor was fast-paced: it was a conference call from a known client who was wondering whether they could challenge a procurement decision. In a less than ten minute conversation Mr Moore first tried to get an idea of the relevant legal issues and the time-frame and then asked the client to send him the materials as soon as possible. As he put down the phone he informed his colleague who had attended the call to find out as quickly as possible whether suitable barristers were available for such a case (bearing in mind it looked like a week-end job) and to start the paperwork as soon as the client would send formal instructions to Mr Moore. It was interesting to see the beginning of a case with a team working against the clock and without any prior knowledge of the claim.

Overall I very much enjoyed my day at Clarke Willmott. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on the modules we offer and more specifically the design and assessment of these modules. Whereas an academic law degree centres upon the acquisition of relevant legal knowledge and skills procedural issues are hardly ever looked at. They are definitely more the focus on the LPC and BPTC, the professional courses we offer at UWE and prepare law graduates to become solicitors and barristers. The tasks Mr Moore undertook on that day were those taught on these courses, yet without a rigorous knowledge of company law and the law relating to copyright, patent and procurement he would not be able to deal with these cases. It is really a matter of building students’ knowledge step by step whilst giving them an insight into the next step. In fact, students who are taking part in the vast range of pro bono activities offered by the Bristol Law School benefit, like me on my day at Clarke Willmott, from a better insight into the procedural aspects of legal action; one might say, a better insight into the real world.

Jackie Jones addresses the United Nations on women’s human rights

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Professor Jackie Jones was one of only 9 representatives of all UK Non-Government Officials (NGOs) speaking at the United Nations in Geneva.

Professor Jones was author of the United Nations Wales Shadow Report on Women’s Human Rights that has been submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  The Shadow Report compiles  evidence from the Third sector (NGOs) on how well the Welsh and Westminster governments are complying with their international law obligations.

The report highlights some serious gaps, including, closure of courts, rape crises centres, lack of funding opportunities and increases in violence to name but a few. It also calls for transposition of the CEDAW into domestic law to ensure no regression in rights for women in the future. The report has been received by the Committee and is on its website.

CEDAW monitors the implementation of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (adopted 18 December 1979).  Countries who have become party to the treaty (States parties) are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of the Convention are implemented.

During its sessions, the Committee members discuss these reports with the Government representatives and explore with them areas for further action by the specific country. The Committee also makes general recommendations to the States parties on matters concerning the elimination of discrimination against women.

In this instance, Jackie Jones was giving evidence to the pre-session of CEDAW. The Committee heard evidence about the compliance of the UK with its human rights obligations towards women.

Professor Jones focused on domestic transposition/implementation of CEDAW into UK law – and the effects of devolution on women’s unequal position in the 4 nations – as reflected in British society, policy and law.

For more information about the process, please see:

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/CEDAWIndex.aspx

Give us your feedback on the Bristol Law School

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As part of an exciting new research project, the Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School are looking to gather opinions on their new building.

Opened in April 2017, Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School is a flagship space to attract international and home students, facilitate links with businesses, and provide collaborative spaces for staff to work together.

Stride Treglown (the building architects), ISG (building contractors) and Godfrey Syrett (furniture suppliers) and UWE Bristol Business School are collaborating on this research project to explore personal, emotional and sensory user experiences of the building through the use of social media and photography.

They want to hear from staff, students and visitors on how they have used the building.  Over the next year, they are asking everyone to take photos to show how they are using the building and how they feel about the building.

Participants can then post their pictures on Instagram using #myUWEBBSview or you can email your pictures and comments to myUWEBBSview@uwe.ac.uk

The research project is led by Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor in Organisation Studies at UWE Bristol.

Take a look at the project website for more details.

Pro bono works

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In a series of blog posts Associate Head of Pro Bono, Marcus Keppel-Palmer will be sharing with us why Pro Bono at UWE Bristol works. In this first post Marcus shares research shared at the UWE Learning & Teaching Conference about the similarities between Law students and Journalism students:

Pro Bono gives students an opportunity to develop their professional identity as lawyers, allowing them to develop skills, confidence, ethics and professionalism outside the classroom.  I explored this at the UWE Learning & Teaching Conference jointly with Sally Reardon (UWE Journalism), who also found that journalists form their professional identity away from the gaze and strictures of assessment.

Students come to University with pre-formed views as to what Journalism and Lawyering is, views that are mainly formed by media images, often casting these characters as the hero of the story. Typical depictions of lawyers and lawyering can be found in To Kill A Mockingbird, The Rainmaker, and other John Grisham stories, whilst crusading journalists are depicted in films such as All The Presidents Men and The Post.

However, when they start to study, students are shocked that the reality of study is at odds with these romanticised images. Sally and I argued that students needed to see these professions in the round, creating an individual professional identity, and through that a coherent learning community. Professional Identity is the more than simply ethics and professionalism; it is the way a lawyer understands his or her role relative to all of the stakeholders in the legal system, including clients, courts, opposing parties and counsel, the firm and the legal system or society as a whole. Journalists of course play a valuable role within the courts too, but of course have a wider set of stakeholders and wider social impact to engage with.

In order to develop professional identity, students need opportunities to experience the complex interlay of professional behaviours, skills, ethics, and the relationships, whilst using their doctrinal knowledge. For law students and journalists that often requires participation in extra-curricular activities. Sally spoke about the Global News Relay, an annual event whereby UWE journalists collaborate with students from other countries around the world to compile a snapshot news programme across time zones and continents in one day. I spoke of the professional identity law students forge through participation in various strands of pro bono, such as the welfare benefits advice service, the Business Advice Clinic, and the Bristol Music Advice Service.

To find out more about the pro bono offering at UWE Bristol please see here.

Visiting Scholar Dr Philippe Karpe at the Bristol Law School

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Written by Dr Noelle Quenivet

Between 10 February and 10 March 2018 the Centre for Applied Legal Research hosted Dr Philippe Karpe as Visiting Scholar. Dr Philippe Karpe is a senior legal researcher and international expert working for CIRAD, a French agricultural research and international cooperation state organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions. Worldwide there are 850 CIRAD researchers assigned in 40 countries involved in an array of projects. Dr Karpe is currently posted in Nairobi, Kenya.

Invited by the International Law and Human Rights Unit and the Environmental Law Research Unit it was a pleasure to have Dr Karpe with us as he took part in a wide range of teaching and scholarly activities offered by the Bristol Law School whilst also pursuing his own research on indigenous people and the management of natural resources. By education Dr Karpe is a public international lawyer who studied at the universities of Nancy, Paris 10 and Strasbourg in France and holds a ‘habilitation à la direction de recherche’ (Accreditation to supervise research,) a French post-doctoral degree allowing him to supervise PhD students. Besides supervising PhD candidates at CIRAD he also teaches at the universities of Strasbourg (France) and Hokkaido (Japan). The bulk of his work however consists in planning and running projects with and for international organisations (eg United Nations Development Programme-UNDP, World Bank), NGOs (eg Rainforest Foundation Norway, Organisation des Nations Autochtones de Guyane-ONAG) and other stakeholders applying his expertise on governance and rule of law, including indigenous peoples’ rights (general and particular rights, especially land rights, forest’s and carbon’s rights, forest users’ rights, women’s rights), socio-environmental safeguards, sustainable forest management, rural and forest land tenure (including for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance on Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security-VGGT), participative management of lands (including the use of artificial intelligence), participative mapping, institutional arrangements and stakeholder commitments (civil society, forest communities, etc.).

Dr Karpe led workshops on three modules (‘Natural Resources’, ‘Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility’ and ‘European Environmental Law and Policy’) offered on our LLM programmes. In each of these modules he shared with the students his extensive knowledge and practical expertise in the relevant fields. In particular he brought law to life by using concrete legal problems he had been confronted with in his own field work. For example in the module ‘Natural Resources’ led by Prof Jona Razzaque Dr Karpe produced real forest legal texts that were enacted by regional, national and local public authorities. The students could thus see how forests are protected (or not). This undoubtedly allowed the students to understand better the practical applicability and application of the law as well as its (sometimes unintended) consequences on local populations. In the module ‘Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility’ the students were asked to engage in a discussion on ethical aspects of activities carried out by multinational enterprises using real contracts that were agreed upon between indigenous people and organisations. Passionate discussions in this workshop run by Dr Karpe and Dr Sabine Hassler on for example the protection of traditional knowledge in India and the protection of the intellectual property rights of the indigenous peoples ensued. This inquisitive and practice-oriented type of engaging with the students was again displayed in the workshop on the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the module ‘European Environmental Law and Policy’. Together with the module leader, Christian Dadomo, Dr Karpe challenged the students to analyse the current CAP reform and its interface with the environment and, more largely, the future shape of the society. He notably discussed with the students the negative and positive connections between agriculture, the society and the environment (eg pollution, deforestation, drying up of rivers, etc) and how the reform of the CAP deals with these issues. Dr Karpe’s visit to UWE was no doubt an asset to further nurture our practice-led and student-centred teaching culture on the LLM programme at UWE.

Throughout his stay at UWE Dr Karpe also took the opportunity to attend a number of external engagement events organised by the units of the CALR such as the Brexit and Corruption talk by Dr Lorenzo Pasculli and the Brexit and Trade Relations panel discussion. As a scholar working often far away from European legal issues he particularly enjoyed this insight into one of the most commonly debated issue in the UK: the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. In this context, he sincerely enjoyed the great variety and quality of the different UWE’s opportunities to develop and enrich the knowledge on many scientific and political vital present concerns.

Dr Karpe had the opportunity to deepen his present academic research especially on Harmony with Nature, the Commons, the indigenous peoples and the farmers by collecting many references and academic articles on the UWE’s virtual library and by daily discussions with colleagues on a variety of topics, some of them relating to research methods and methodology (eg epistemology, social-legal studies and critical legal studies). Furthermore his stay at UWE gave him the opportunity to consider some new academic concerns such as conflict, war and the humanitarian legal framework.

On two occasions Dr Karpe presented his work to UWE staff and students. At a first event he shared with us his practice-based research and at a second reflected upon his work as a lawyer in the field. A roundtable on ‘The Future of the Commons’ was organised on 28 February 2018 to discuss the definition of the concept of the ‘Commons’ and develop the ‘Commons Thinking’. Dr Karpe’s intervention focused on his own experience of the commons in the African context. For example he was once confronted with what appeared to be an odd situation in a village. The local population did not seem to be related or linked, the concept of society did not seem to apply either and it appeared that each person was working for him/herself. A positive, classic lawyer would have undoubtedly failed to realise that there was something beyond that and that in fact these individuals were connected by a common, shared ‘space’. Dr Karpe then questioned whether the concept of the commons was an answer to this practical/technical problem which could be turned into a political concern. He posited that current values do not conform to aspirations of justice and that contemporary laws do not help support, protect and promote the life of individuals who live in such a situation. Yet, as a lawyer, his job is to establish justice between people and to find solutions to concrete technical as well as political problems. Thus in his view the concept of the Commons appear to be the most suitable tool. However, when trying to write the law of the Commons the lawyer faces the harsh reality of having to acknowledge that law simply is not the most appropriate tool. For example, law is usually split in different areas such as contract law, family law, property law, etc and yet the Commons transcend these separations. Also the Commons are a ‘space for development’ as they create opportunities for changes and evolution. This all makes it difficult to freeze the Commons into law. Dr Karpe then argued that for him it was crucial that human rights be at the centre of all these activities. Law should be created around human rights. He also challenged the vertical relationship of law whereby constitutional law sits at the top of the hierarchy of any national legal system. Whilst he admitted that this might sound revolutionary as lawyers struggle to understand law in anything but hierarchical terms and categories he emphasised that only a horizontal understanding of the law could avoid corrupting the Commons. As he explained his support for the Commons he however warned that the concept of the Commons might in specific contexts be used as a new form of colonialism enabling State and organisations, for example to deny rights to indigenous people on the basis that under the principle of non-discrimination and shared access to resources no special rights should be given to them.

Last but certainly not least Dr Karpe gave a talk entitled ‘Has the Wandering Lawyer Reached his Destination? – The Adventures of a Lawyer Working in the Field’ which gave him the opportunity to reflect on his work. It was an enlightening talk as Dr Karpe shared with us over 25 years of research in Cameroon, the Central Republic of Africa, Madagascar, Democratic Republic in Congo, Gabon, etc. He kicked off this presentation by asking ‘What am I? What is my purpose as a lawyer?’. Looking at the type of jobs he usually carries out he acknowledged that his work tends to touch upon a range of topics (eg weddings, contracts, etc) though it does focus on forestry. Yet, as a human being he questions what his real role is. For him, he should be promoting justice and more specifically social justice. As a result he does not question the abstract internal coherence of the texts, the content of texts or their effectiveness and efficiency as such. Rather, these are only steps in this research work. The basic research question is ‘under which conditions may the lawyer contribute to improving the living conditions of the local population?’. The objective is thus to understand how law can contribute to improving the living conditions and ensure the protection of a certain idea of a community of life. For this, four assumptions – in the meantime, he challenged them –  must be made: 1) laws and rules may contribute to social change and lawyers are thus useful; 2) laws and rules have a political function; 3) there is a community of life and 4) the function of laws and rules is to guarantee social peace. Likewise Dr Karpe conceded that there were a number of challenges: 1) working with disadvantageous groups such as indigenous people, rural women, etc; 2) the status of users’ rights in developing countries and 3) the status of peasants. All these challenges relate to various aspects of vulnerability and deprivation of rights. With this in mind the lawyer must think about how he can have a positive impact on society. In Dr Karpe’s eyes the most suitable way to understand societies and to then be in a position to support them is to conduct extensive research in the field. For example this means using involved, immersed and applied research techniques so that a concrete and continuous contact with the relevant people can be established. Closer to the problem one can feel it. Dr Karpe also stressed that the nature of the field obliges all actors to adopt an interdisciplinary approach and so he works with economists, anthropologists, biologists, pharmacologists, etc, bearing in mind that each person brings his/her own views and perceptions of the situation and that all these views as well as methodologies need to be integrated into one’s work. Does that mean that the lawyer disappears? As Dr Karpe stressed he remains a positive lawyer (one that is trying to find the best solution to a problem that affects people), a humanist (there is no doubt a need for empathy and humility in these circumstances) and a ‘questionnaire’ (a person who asks questions) and thus a ‘wandering lawyer’. In his opinion this ‘wandering lawyer’ has a fundamental political and moral obligation to remember, think, defend and realise the key destiny of a lawyer: social justice. As a result he/she must revise his/her vision of the law, its essence, substance and form. Four main research themes derive from this stance towards law and the role of the lawyer: 1) the commons, the harmony between nature, humanity and values (justice); 2) the nature and the content of the law (juridicity); 3) the tools for implementing the law and 4) the methodologies of knowledge of law. Dr Karpe presented some of the results of his reflection, explaining that the law should not be in the form of specific provisions, that the new ‘Common Law’ should correspond to a right of communion, a transcendental right and that the new Common Law must correspond to an idea, that of a community of life. Under the Common Law individuals enjoy the same rights and there is no hierarchy of rights. That being established, Dr Karpe questioned the way law is created, articulating the idea that law is often crafted by a certain type of persons for a certain type of person and for a specific objective and that consequently law may not be really that ‘common’ in fact.

As Dr Karpe left UWE he had made contact with many colleagues in the Bristol Law School and hoped to be able to involve these colleagues in his work. He proposed to establish an opened think-thank on the Commons, the Wandering Lawyer, Law and the Juridicity, named: “the Rainbow Team”. Discussions were also had about future collaboration notably in the form of common projects relating to the protection of the environment, biodiversity and conflict. It was with regret that we had to let Dr Karpe go back to his work as it was such a pleasure to talk to him on a variety of topics.

Guest Lecture: Dr Jane Rooney: Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Armed Conflict

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By Noelle Quenivet

On 14 March 2018 the Centre for Applied Legal Research welcomed Dr Jane Rooney, Lecturer at the University of Bristol, to present a paper on ‘Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Armed Conflict’. Dr Rooney began by explaining that she was challenging the commonly held view that human rights law and the European Convention on Human Rights more particularly subject States to a higher threshold than international humanitarian law.

To support her key argument Dr Rooney took the example of internal disturbances that are not covered by international humanitarian law as they do not reach the required levels of violence and organisation of non-State actors. In such instances Article 2 ECHR becomes of paramount importance. Under this provision force may not be used unless absolutely necessary and so the European Court of Human Rights will examine whether force has been used in a proportionate manner as well as how the operation was planned and controlled. As she explained, Article 2 ECHR contains two types of positive obligations (substantive and procedural) and negative obligations. With regard to negative obligations, Dr Rooney observed that they are never looked at in an extra-territorial context. She added that even in an internal context they are only examined in cases relating to terrorism, high levels of violence and internal disturbances but not armed conflicts. As a result a human rights paradigm is applied because the situation at hands is not one that falls within the remit of international humanitarian law. A law-enforcement perspective is thereby espoused.

Dr Rooney focused her attention on three cases against Russia: Isayeva (2005), Finogenov et al (2011) and Tagayeva et al (2017) as they provided good examples of high levels of violence yet not necessarily falling within the scope of international humanitarian law. The first case relates to the bombardment of civilians leaving the siege of Grozny, the second examines the hostage crisis in a Moscow theatre and the third looks at the hostage take-over of school in Beslan.

In McCann et al the European Court of Human Rights scrutinised the planning of the operation as and applied an honest belief test to establish whether the principle of proportionality had been complied with. Yet, in Armani da Silva (2016) the Court applied a subjective test of proportionality. Dr Rooney argued that it seemed that increasingly the European Court of Human Rights was adopting a rather deferential attitude towards the State. For example in Finogenov it used the margin of appreciation doctrine to allow the State a certain degree of discretion. Usually, the Court sets out the test and applies it. Another exampled used by Dr Rooney was the use of poisonous gas. In Finogenov the Court deemed it proportionate whereas under international humanitarian law such weapons (ie riot control agents) are banned. Dr Rooney pinpointed that whilst political considerations were embodied in international humanitarian law this was not the case of human rights law. Was it however possible that the Court was building political considerations into its jurisprudence?

In an armed conflict paradigm, force will be used and individuals will be killed but the principles of distinction, discrimination and proportionality will set the limits to the use of force. In other words the use of force is intimately related to the designation of people in an armed conflict.  The reason for this is that international humanitarian aims to protect those who are not taking part in hostilities. The principle of proportionality under this legal regime allows for incidental loss of civilian life but only on the basis that it is proportionate to the military advantage. Thus international humanitarian law is more permissive in relation to the lethal use of force.
In Tagayeva the Court appeared to use international humanitarian law to decide on the legality of the attack carried out by the Russian forces with a view to freeing the hostages in the school. After all it did refer to Article 51(4) of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol III to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Incendiary Weapons) in describing the relevant legal framework. However, it turns out that although the Court mentioned international humanitarian law it did not use it. In fact the Court examined whether the basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials had been complied with. Here the Court examined whether a legal framework was in place on the national level, concluding that it had failed to set the key principles of the use of force as required by the Convention. In fact the Court seemed to focus its attention on the negative obligation of Article 2 ECHR, investigating the planning and control as well as the investigation after the attack. It observed that Russia had failed to take precautionary measures although it was aware that the individuals had travelled to North Ossetia, similar attacks had been carried out and no warning was issued to the school administration. As for the investigation since no inventory of the weapons used was made, the evidence was disposed of summarily, etc it failed to comply with the principles of Article 2 ECHR. Interestingly, as the Court concentrates on issues prior and after the attack it seems that it is using these tools to deter States from using force, stressing the importance of working on prevention and investigation and the need for States to put in place appropriate measures to avoid the recurrence of such unlawful uses of force.

The European Court of Human Rights defers to the state on proportionality of use of force on the grounds that the judiciary is not equipped with the expertise or democratic legitimacy for making such a decision that is vital to national security. An evaluation of the jurisprudence indicates that adopting a human rights/law enforcement paradigm can result in a more permissive regime of use of force than under the armed conflict paradigm.  International humanitarian law should serve as a point of reference for the European Court of Human Rights in ‘internal’ disturbances, especially where the alternative is a more permissive regime of use of force on the part of the state; where politics dictates the characterisation of the violence as a domestic disturbance rather than an armed conflict; as well as its characterisation as internal or transboundary. Dr Rooney concluded by stating that there needs to be further assessment of the cross-section between counter-terrorism and armed conflict regimes in order to clarify our expectations of state behaviour in these difficult circumstances.

Community Asset Transfers: Legal and Practical Issues seminar

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On 19th April Bristol Law School co-hosted a seminar with The Old Library, Eastville on the legal and practical issues surrounding Community Asset Transfers (‘CAT’).

Bristol Law School pro bono students, Alice Gibson and Lauren Johnson, gave an excellent presentation focusing on the legal issues of community asset transfer.

Debbora Hall from The Old Library focused on her practical experiences of going through the CAT process.

This was followed by a busy question and answer session with the audience.

The seminar was held at the former library on Muller Road, Bristol (now known as The Old Library) and it is amazing to see and hear how much the team of volunteers has achieved there in making this building a bright and vibrant space for the local community.

Due to the popularity of the event we are hoping to run another CAT seminar soon.

Environmental Law Student Conference 2018

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Elena Blanco, Associate Professor and Acting Head of the Environmental Law Research Unit hosted this year’s event at UWE on 14 March. Now in its fourth year, the Environmental Law Student Conference provides students with an opportunity to present on topics featured in their studies of environmental law, globalisation and natural resources law. Students of Environmental Law from our undergraduate (LLB) and postgraduate courses (LLM and PhD) were joined by students from the Universities of Cardiff and Swansea. The conference also provides the opportunity to network, socialise and share ideas with students from different law schools in the region.

The organising student committee at UWE was integrated by Cleverline Brown (PhD student); Siti Binti  Rosli (LLM) and Saluuga Hassan (LLB 3rd year). The students selected the different panels: on Human Rights and the Environment; Climate Change and Trade, Technology and the Future of Environmental Challenges. A variety of students from UWE and Cardiff University participated by giving excellent, provocative and confident presentations and engaging on an open and lively discussion with the audience. Students from Swansea chaired panels and contributed to the discussion.

The day was inspiring and engaging with a wide range of topics featured in the presentations including, pollution caused by business activities, environmental pollution, access to water in Israeli occupied Palestinian territories, the need for supranational governance on Climate Change and, the legal implications of  alternatives on environmental discourses. From the practical and topical to the conceptual our students showed a keen interest on environmental and sustainability matters as well as in being ‘part of the solution’ to environmental challenges from a variety of political and conceptual points of view.

This year a prize was offered to the best presentation by the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA), Wales Working Party. The presentations are to be judged by members of UKELA WWP who are legal professionals from Cardiff-based chambers and law firms. The winner will be granted a year’s free membership of this organisation!

The twenty four participants found the event extremely valuable, well organised and run, fun, fluid and well spaced out with a great balance of time to share views and informal discussion and some more formal presentations.

Individuals commented (on the feedback sheets returned to the organisers) on how much they enjoyed the opportunity to present in public beyond the classroom and beyond their own university but among such a friendly and welcoming like-minded group of people.

Thomas Neill, a final year LLB student at Swansea University, said: “I found the conference really enjoyable, there were a high quality and varied set of presentations which lead to some really interesting debates. It was also good to be able to network with students from other law schools and hear their thoughts on the issues facing environmental law and enforcement. I found it refreshing to have a wider discussion on environmental law rather than focusing on the issues relevant to my own course.”

Tobechukwu Kanayo Okonkwo, another final year LLB student who attended, said: “My time at the Environmental Conference was an enlightening experience. It allowed me to meet like-minded people and open my mind to different perspectives concerning the environment.”

Our talented students found the experience extremely valuable and offered them the opportunity to gain invaluable skills and to showcase their fantastic work further

Workshop ‘The Future of the Commons’ with Keynote Speaker David Bollier

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Photo by Liam Pozz 

On 28 February 2018 while Dr Philippe Karpe, Visiting Scholar of the Environmental Law Research Unit (ELRU) and International Law and Human Rights Research Unit (ILHRU), stayed at UWE Elena Blanco chaired and organised a roundtable on ‘The Future of the Commons’ as one of the events during his month long stay.

Philippe Karpe’s work for CIRAD in Kenya on natural resource management and his scholarship had touched and explored this alternative, sustainable discourse of ‘The commons’ not just as a natural resource management tool but, more importantly, as a challenge to traditional law practice and a re-framing of law as an instrument of social and environmental justice.

We were extremely fortunate to have David Bollier, the main authority in ‘The Commons’ scholarship and practice, to accept our invitation and join us via (green) Video Conferencing to share his latest work on the understanding of ‘value’ and its influence and articulation in policy. David has inspired a large number of researchers and activists through with his best known work ‘Thinking Like a Commoner’ and, after his keynote, he engaged in a lively discussion with invited participants and discussants.

With a topic as poignant as this paradigmatic ‘Commons Thinking’ we decided that this first roundtable (we would like more events like this to follow) would be critical and conceptual while a later event (which will be organised by the ELRU in June) will engage with practical perspectives and activism. Hence, the invited discussants to this event were critical thinkers and theorists like Dr Sam Adelman (Associate Professor at the School of Law of the University of Warwick), Dr Vito de Lucia (Researcher at the KG Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea, UiT Arctic University of Norway) and Professor Anna Grear (Professor at the School of Politics and Law of the University of Cardiff) to join Dr Philippe Karpe and his very interesting practical and theoretical insights into the potential of ‘commons thinking’. The audience included members of the ILHRU, the ELRU, FET and the Bristol Business School, including our doctoral students.

The workshop began with David Bollier’s keynote speech. He pointed out that that there are a multitude of ways to approach the concept of the common. Whilst many politicians and individuals working on issues relating to economics and property rights focus on the resources aspect of the commons it should in fact be viewed as a social system with a community of values, rules and practices relating to resources. Traditionally, natural resources such as fisheries, farmland and wild game have never been considered as significant for economic purposes because there is no direct cash attached to it. Anthropologists appear to be the ones most able to understand the concept as they view the commons as a food system in a community, be it in an urban or agricultural setting. Indeed the commons can be seen as a new movement enabling ordinary people to use and more importantly share and manage resources (eg community garden, public common partnership, wifi nets, etc). Often, the key features of these communities are open design and sharing.

David Bollier stressed that there is a burgeoning world of very diverse commons initiatives, all based on shared benefit, fairness, equality and inclusive participation which are the core elements of the commons. The idea is that individuals negotiate, collaborate and come to an agreeable conclusion. As a result the commons create social bonds, a social movement that exists outside of the State and politics. However, because it is non-conventional it is often viewed as irrelevant. Yet, this discourse and vehicle of expression can be used to counterbalance the politics of market. It is a new vision and paradigm of politics and governance as it is a politics of belonging. The commons are a different philosophy of human aspiration and existence, away from the capital market and liberalisation philosophies and values. In this view radical individualism is destroying social bonds.

That being said, the commons is not only a critique that challenges the systemic limitations of the neoliberal economics and political culture but also an inspiring platform for reform. A long history of the commons allows for the concept to be anchored in political and legal tradition. As the concept of the commons allows for transnational collaboration it reimagines the State and law more generally. It opens up spaces that are contextual. Moving forward, David Bollier suggested that the next step should be to bring together small initiatives with a view to develop horizontal relationships between the movements. This would allow the organisation of politics beyond political parties as well as be the opportunity to create a theory of values that focuses on non-monetarised elements. David Bollier concluded his keynote speech by sounding a note of caution: by ushering the commons into mainstream it should not lose its true meaning.

Several important insights arose from the event including many critical ‘cautions’ such as the danger of top-down (even if green) approaches, the need for participatory structures, the importance of formulating alternatives to development and the importance of escaping the ‘value trap’ that dominates all aspects of our lives at the moment.

The idea of ‘Legal Hacks’ was discussed at the end of the event and put forward by David as a way of transitioning to a sustainability informed, participatory approach to social, economic and environmental approaches. He also linked his work to that of his good friend George Monbiot who as a public figure regularly formulates alternatives to mainstream destructive economic approaches.

We think we speak for others when we say we left the event inspired, hopeful and determined to take this thinking and scholarship further. Elena Blanco was able to bring some of the insights of the day to the ‘Repair Acts Network’ event which took place in 13 March (see separate post).

If anyone is interested in participating in a ‘local-global’ commons inspired multidisciplinary project, please get in touch with Elena Blanco at Elena.Blanco@uwe.ac.uk .

Elena Blanco (Associate Professor on International Economic Law, Acting Head ELRU) and Noelle Quenivet (Associate Professor in International Law, Head ILHRU)