Combating environmental degradation in Nigeria through the recognition of the Rights of Nature

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By Cleverline T Brown, PhD student, a member of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group.

Environmental degradation has increasingly plagued the human and natural environment especially since the discovery of petroleum in Nigeria. The right to a clean and healthy environment although provided for in the Constitution,[1] has been seen to be non-justiciable[2] except by alternative pathways such as through the application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) [3] or in a foreign court. It is also a fact that environmental pollution cases have been lost due to technicalities.[4] This has emboldened some petroleum sector operators to continue bad environmental practices. Hence the need for alternative ways to combat environmental degradation from bad environmental practices such as the recognition of the rights of nature.

Global development of rights of nature

The concept of the rights of nature is an emerging field that is gradually being recognised by countries around the world. While the rights of human victims of environmental harm are protected under human rights law,[5] other victims of environmental harm such as nature and natural resources, exist and have been left behind by policy and law-making thereby rendering them invisible and silenced in the search for justice.[6] Rights of nature are rights that nature and natural resources possess, as distinct from the right of humans to a healthy environment. It can be a reformulation and expansion of existing human rights and duties in the context of environmental protection.[7] In some jurisdictions like India, New Zealand, Ecuador, Brazil, Columbia, Bolivia, nature is accorded human status.[8] This implies the right to be protected just like human beings under human rights laws; and the right to enforce such rights under the law.[9] Stone noted that until the rightless thing receives its right, we cannot see it as anything but a thing for the use of ‘us’ – those who are holding the rights at the time.[10] More countries are legally recognising the rights of nature in their domains. In February 2021, the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit recognised the Magpie River, a 3000km (186 miles) waterway in the cote Nord region of the Canadian province of Quebec, as a legal person.[11] Some of the sources of the rights of nature in these jurisdictions include case law,[12] the Constitution and other legal instruments.[13]

Rights of Nature in Nigeria

The non-justiciability of the environmental rights provisions in the Constitution of Nigeria has prompted victims of environmental harm to seek access to courts in pursuit of justice, through other pathways.[14] While this effort has yielded some positive results, it has not yielded an express pronouncement on the rights of nature and natural resources per se to be protected, specifically in Nigeria. When environmental harm occurs, the rights sought to be protected are the rights of the human victims alone and these rights do not extend to the protection of nature. Recognition of the rights of nature in Nigeria can expand the definition of ‘victims of environmental harm’ and extend the frontiers on which environmental degradation can be combatted. The closest to rights of nature practiced in Nigeria is the designation of protected areas. These areas include forest reserves and plantations, national parks, nature reserves and gazetted forests.[15] This implies that the areas so designated are protected against farming, hunting, trapping, timber cutting and other human activities. It does not, however, protect these natural resources and rivers from the effect of oil spills and other negative impacts of petroleum sector activities.[16] This does not also give the protected areas personhood or the right to enforce the protected status. Legally recognising the rights of nature in Nigeria could be a game-changer in the move to combat environmental harm especially from petroleum sector operations. It is argued that an outright pronouncement on the rights of nature and natural resources can provide an alternative option in the fight against environmental degradation from environmental harm and easy access to courts to enforce those rights.

Challenges of Rights of Nature

While some gains have been made by the countries that have taken the lead in establishing rights of nature,[17] challenges remain on the full realisation of the effect of the rights of nature. First, it is difficult to assess how far the courts will go on the issue of enforcement of such rights. This is because the concept of rights of nature has not been rigorously tested before the courts to establish precedents.[18] Second, like every other law, the challenges of compliance and enforcement remain due to the lack of political will to enforce compliance with the laws.[19] Third, governments still place the exploitation of natural resources for gains over the protection of nature and natural resources. This is because often, the government relies on the proceeds from the exploitation of natural resources to provide basic amenities for its citizens.[20] Fourth, individuals and small businesses fear that such rights will lead to a multiplicity of lawsuits threatening their businesses and livelihood.[21] Fifth, it is believed that existing legal and statutory frameworks adequately cater to protect nature and new laws stipulating new rights are not required.[22]

Conclusion

The significance of the attention on the rights of nature is vital to the fight against global environmental degradation. If more countries recognise the rights of nature, it could put a check on how nature is interacted with by human beings because these rights will be put into consideration in such interactions. Such considerations can be in form of complying with environmental regulations, policies and standards. Therefore, it is contended that if compliance and enforcement of environmental laws are effectively observed, the environmental rights of human beings and nature can easily be realised.

Recognition of the rights of nature could lead to stronger natural resource laws. Legally recognised rights of nature and the human right to a healthy environment can work simultaneously to promote effective compliance and enforcement because humans have an interconnectedness with the natural world and should acknowledge the rights of nature to exist, persist and maintain its vital cycles.[23] The legal recognition of the rights of nature by Nigeria can be an effective legal tool to save the Nigerian environment from a gradual but steady decline.[24]


[1] S 20 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 requires the government of Nigeria to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria and s 33 (1) which guarantees the right to life of every citizen of Nigeria.

[2] See s 6 (6) c of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 which essentially prevents any enquiry into any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution (under which a protected environment is provided for in the Constitution).

[3] Articles 4 which provides for the right to life and 24 which provides the right to a general satisfactory environment.

[4]  Such as standing and loopholes in the law. See Oronto Douglas v Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited & Ors (1998) LPELR-CA/L/143/97 Law Pavilion Electronic Law Report- Court of Appeal. Some of the oil pollution related cases arising from some Ogoni communities fall into this category.

[5] EO Popoola, ‘Moving the Battlefields: Foreign Jurisdictions and Environmental Justice in Nigeria’ <https://items.ssrc.org/…environments/moving-the-battlefields-foreign-jurisd…> accessed 19 August 2019.

[6] It has been argued that other victims of environmental harm exist and have been left behind by policy and law-making thereby rendering them invisible and silenced in the search for justice. See M Hall, Environmental Harm: The Missing Victims?, vol 90 (Centre for Crime and Justice Studies 2012) 1.

[7] D Shelton, ‘Human Rights, Environmental Rights, and the Right to Environment’ (1991) 28(1) Stanford Journal of International law 103, 117.

[8] Examples are New Zealand’s Whanganui River was granted rights of personhood in 2017, India’s Ganges River, Article 71 of the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador, essentially provides that nature has the right to integral respect for its existence and the maintenance and regenerations of its life’s cycle’s structure, functions and evolutionary processes. Examples of jurisdictions that have also recognised the legal rights of nature include Bolivia (Law of the Rights of Mother Earth and the Framework Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well 2012); Columbia (A 2018 Supreme Court decision held the Columbian Amazon to be a subject of rights based on the Columbian Constitutional’s Courts ruling that Atrato River had legal rights to be protected, conserved and restored); India (The 2018 Uttarakhand High Court decision declaring the animal kingdom to legal entities with rights, duties and liabilities of a living person); and the United States of America where Tamaqua Borough in Pennsylvania recognised the rights of natural communities and ecosystems in a 2006 ordinance) see G Chapron, Y Epstein and JV Lopez-Bao, ‘A Rights Revolution for Nature’ (2019) 363(6434) Science 1392, 1393

[9] CD Stone, Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment (Oxford University Press 2010) 264.

[10] ibid 3.

[11] J Kestler-D’Amours, ‘This River in Canada is now a ‘Legal Person’’ (2021) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/3/this-river-in-canada-now-legal-person> accessed 12 April 2021.

[12] As in the Indian cases of Maharaj Singh v Indian Oil Corporation (1999) A. I. R. 81; M. I. Builders v. Radhey Shyam Sahu M.C. [1999] A.I.R.  SC 2468; Mehta v Kamal Nath (1997) 1 S.C.C. 388.

[13] Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador 2008 Chapter 7, Articles 71, 72 and 73; Te Urewera Act 2014 of New Zealand; Constitution of Brazil 1993.

[14] Popoola (n 5).

[15] OI Imasuen, JN Oshodi, TUS Onyeobi, ‘Protected areas for environmental sustainability in Nigeria’ (2013) 17 (1) Journal of Applied Science and Environmental Management 53, 56.

[16] AP Onyena and K Sam, ‘A Review of the Threat of Oil Exploitation to Mangrove Ecosystem: Insights from Niger Delta, Nigeria (2020) 22 Global Ecology and Conservation 1, 3.

[17] S Borràs, ‘New Transitions from Human Rights to the Environment to the Rights of Nature.’ (2016) 5(1) Transnational Environmental Law 113, 143.

[18] CR Giraldo, ‘Does Nature Have Rights? Successes and Challenges in Implementing the Rights of Nature in Ecuador’ (2013) <https://constitutionnet.org/news/does-nature-have-rights-successes-and-challenges-implementing-rights-nature-ecuador> accessed 4 December 2020.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] OA Houck, ‘Noah’s Second Voyage: The Rights of Nature as Law’ (2017) 31(1) Tulane Environmental Law Journal 1, 29.

[22] C McDonough, ‘Will the River Ever Get a Chance to Speak? Standing Up for the Legal Rights of Nature’ (2020) 31(1) Villanova Environmental Law Journal 143, 161.

[23] Borràs (n 17) 143.

[24] DR Boyd, The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World (ECW Press 2017) 280.

Research into court reporting in criminal courts: Evidence submitted by UWE Bristol academics

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Written by Tom Smith and Marcus Keppel-Palmer.

In October 2019, the House of Commons Justice Committee published the report of its inquiry into Court and Tribunal reforms (see the full report here). The inquiry was prompted by “[s]erious concerns… about the effect on access to justice and its efficient despatch of the current court and tribunal modernisation programme, led by the Ministry of Justice and the senior judiciary of England and Wales” (p.3). As part of the inquiry, Tom Smith (UWE Law), Marcus Keppel-Palmer (UWE Law), Sally Reardon ( UWE Journalism) and Phil Chamberlain (Journalism, University of Bath), submitted evidence on their research into court reporting in criminal courts:

“In January 2018, we held a project at Bristol Magistrates Court, attending every case held in open court during one week. During this period of time, only one case was attended by a reporter from local media. We fear that important work shining a light on the work of the Courts will continue to diminish.

During the project, a number of cases were conducted using video link. The positioning of the video screens in court meant that it was often difficult and, in some instances, impossible to follow the evidence being presented. Actually being present in court, researchers were able to clarify details with the CPS, something that will not be possible if the hearing is online.”

They argued that:

“Open Justice is held up to be one of the great values of our legal system. At a time when economics dictate that many local media outlets are closing or cutting back on staff, it would be detrimental to that principle if the Courts Service enacted changes to hearings that impacted further on the ease of reporting the courts.”

The Committee’s report recognised this problem, and quoted the UWE team’s evidence as follows:

“The University of the West of England expressed concerns that the reform proposals would create further barriers preventing the reporting of the courts by the local media. They noted that: “[t]he number of dedicated Court Reporters on local newspapers is shrinking, and given the distances reporters would have to go to listen in on an online hearing at a booth at Court [this] can impose a further deterrent.” (p.54)

As mentioned above, the submitted evidence was based on an empirical study examining levels of court reporting, which was published by peer-reviewed journal, Journalism, in August 2019; and has attracted the attention of the Ministry of Justice, Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and journalism trade publication the Press Gazette.

The UWE Bristol team are currently undertaking a national survey of court reporting during one month in 2019 and preparing to bid for funding to expand the empirical study, underpinned by the concept of ‘Justice Reporting’ – the idea that reporting on courts should go beyond merely relaying facts and case details, but should examine the processes and issues that form part of criminal cases.

The team has also presented its findings at the SLSA 2018 Conference, the What’s The News Conference 2018 in Brussels, the MECCSA 2019 Conference in Stirling, and the Future of Journalism 2019 Conference in Cardiff, as well as presenting the research to visiting Chinese Judges.

Take advantage of degree apprenticeship SME funding with UWE Bristol

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15 May 2019 15:00 – 17:00

Register here

Are you interested in upskilling your workforce and does the cost of training seem a barrier to accessing local talent?

This event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from existing businesses who have apprentices at UWE, and how to make it work. In addition to this, we will be highlighting upcoming degree apprenticeships and further opportunities for your business to train your employees at degree level with the funding available.

UWE Bristol is the only university in the region with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support non-levy employers and has secured funding to support apprentices from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

David Barrett, Director of Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol, will welcome you to the event and alongside the Degree Apprenticeship Hub team will be able to help identify your training needs and suitable solutions.

Spaces are limited for this event, so please register below.

If you have any questions about this event or degree apprenticeships please feel free to contact Ellen Parkes.

We are looking forward to meeting you and beginning the degree apprenticeship partnership journey.

The event takes place in the University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus from 15:00 – 17:00.

Register here

Visiting scholar from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa shares his reflections after visiting UWE Bristol

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In December 2018, visiting scholar  Dr Windell Nortje from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa spent two weeks at the Bristol Law School. Below he shares his reflections of the visit: 

Guest blog by Dr Windell Nortje

I visited UWE between 4 and 18 December 2018. My home institution, the University of the Western Cape (UWC), in Cape Town, South Africa, granted me funding for a two-week international visit at a university abroad. I am truly grateful for the UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Research and Innovation Office for giving me the opportunity to visit UWE.

In October 2017 I started collaborating with Dr Noëlle Quénivet with a view to writing a journal article. This project turned into a book (Child Soldiers and the Defence of Duress in International Criminal Law) that has been accepted for publication by Palgrave. The manuscript is due to be submitted in March 2019. I approached Dr Quénivet in October 2018 and enquired whether UWE would be willing to host me as a visiting scholar. UWE graciously agreed. In my time at UWE I felt part of the Bristol Law School. I was warmly welcomed by Dr Quénivet, Dr Sarah Grabham, the Head of the Department of Law as well as all the academics and students.

This made my experience at UWE very fulfilling and rewarding.

The initial aim of the two-week visit was to work on the book and to collaborate with some of the academics at UWE. As it turned out, I held two guest lectures and presented my research to UWE academics. In addition, I collaborated with a number of academics with the view to writing journal articles, attended the first annual Criminal Justice Research Unit (CJRU) Lecture and importantly, also discussed the possibility of establishing a new LLM Programme between UWC and UWE. Finally, I also drafted a funding application with Dr Noëlle Quénivet for a potential writing workshop to be held in Cape Town in July 2019. I will be sharing some of the highlights of the activities above.

We are in the final stages of writing the book. Most of the chapters are completed. We are still finalising the conclusions and recommendations. Dr Quénivet had a few new books on child soldiers which I had not yet read and so I was able to incorporate some of the views of these authors in our book. Dr Quénivet and I also discussed the footnoting and referencing of the book as well as a follow-up article to be published in 2020. Dr Quénivet, being a leading expert in the field of international law, has been influential in turning the article into a book. I am grateful for her continuous support and guidance throughout the project. I would also like to thank Ms Shilan Shah-Davis and Dr Suwita Hani Randhawa for their invaluable comments when I discussed the book with them.

In a first for me, Dr Quénivet and I had the opportunity to present a public lunchtime lecture at the Bristol Central Library. This was a unique experience as we presented the lecture in the reception area of the Library and anyone was welcome to attend. The lecture entitled: “Child soldiers: Busting The Myth of their Victimhood to Better Understand who they are”, centred around the myth that child soldiers are victims only and that they should not be held accountable for their crimes. The audience found it fascinating to note that so many girls are also child soldiers since the perception is that the iconic child soldier is that of a boy. However, in some conflicts, the girls outnumber the boys. The audience, who consisted of about 20 people, had an opportunity to ask questions. I was grateful for this opportunity to discuss our work with the public as this is not an opportunity that comes by too often.

At UWE, I was invited by Mrs Evadne Grant to present a guest lecture on the International Law and Institutions module offered on the LLM progamme. The lecture, entitled: “The Fragmentation of International Law: An African Perspective” focused on the fragmentation of international law and how this has resulted in a conflict between African States and the International Criminal Court (ICC). There is no homogenous system of international law as different regulations are applied in different situations, thus a fragmented system. To explain this to the students I used the example of the concept head of state immunity within the context of Africa. The incumbent President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, is wanted by the ICC for the commission of war crimes and genocide. He attended the African Union Summit in South Africa in 2015. During the Summit a South African Court issued an arrest warrant for his arrest. However, he was able to return safely to Sudan and is still wanted by the ICC. As a result, the ICC ruled that South Africa had a duty under the ICC Statute to arrest Al-Bashir. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa. In the case of head of state immunity, there are various regulations that could be applied in this case hence alluding to the fragmentation of international law. After presenting the lecture, the students had an opportunity to discuss several question posed to them by Mrs Grant. This included whether fragmentation should be regarded as a positive or negative aspect of international law. The students provided constructive feedback on the questions. In South Africa we are not used to this style of interactive lectures, even at LLM level. This was a refreshing experience for me and something that I will be considering at my institution as well.

I was also given the opportunity to present my research at the final Criminal Justice Research Unit/International Law and Human Rights Unit end of semester talk. My research article entitled “The Protection of the Identities of Minors upon Reaching the Age of Majority: Centre for Child Law and Others v Media 24 Limited and Others (871/2017) [2018] ZASCA 140 (28 September 2018)” dealt with the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment concerning the ongoing protection of the identities of minors involved in criminal proceedings. The identity of child witnesses, victims and perpetrators when they reach the age of 18 is not protected and it is argued that this could have a damaging effect on the development of the child, depending on whether the case receives wide publicity or not. I received valuable feedback from Dr Tom Smith and Mr Ed Johnston.

I was invited by Dr Smith and Mr Johnston to attend the first annual CJRU lecture which dealt with the disclosure of evidence by the police in the Liam Allan case. It was a fascinating experience for me as this was the first time for myself, and many others, where we could hear the experiences of a former accused, his defence lawyer and the state prosecutor all in one lecture. It was clear from the speakers that the current situation in the UK needs proper reform, and hopefully initiatives such as those of the CJRU will encourage policy change. This event also inspired me to ask questions about the South African law regarding the disclosure of evidence and what lessons could be learned from the UK criminal justice system.

Regarding collaboration, Mrs Grant and I talked about the idea of creating a joint LLM between UWC and UWE in the future. We exchanged ideas and will be looking at funding opportunities to launch a new LLM between our institutions.

Lastly, Dr Quénivet and I embarked on a funding proposal to be submitted to the British Academy which would enable us to hold a writing workshop in Cape Town in July 2019. This workshop will potentially bring together leading international journal editors, UK based scholars and young and emerging African PhD students/scholars and give the emerging PhD students/scholars the opportunity to present an article to the specialist panel and receive constructive feedback on how to publish in international journals. The workshop aims not only to remedy the lack of quality publications by African scholars but also to support them more generally in their career.

In sum, my visit at UWE was an unforgettable experience which has left a lasting impact on my own emerging research profile and my development as a scholar in the field of international criminal law. I hope to see you again in the future!

 

The disclosure crisis: A suspect and practitioner perspective

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On Wednesday 5 December 2018 UWE Bristol hosted the first annual Criminal Justice Research Unit lecture on the topic “The disclosure crisis: A suspect and practitioner perspective.” The event was organised and chaired by Dr Tom Smithand Dr Ed Johnston and funded by the Centre for Applied Legal Research.

Roughly a year ago today our first speaker Liam saw accusations of rape dismissed after the police failed to disclose crucial evidence which fundamentally undermined the claims made against him. Liam gave us a very a personal account of his experiences with the criminal justice system. Jerry Hayes and Anthony Edwards each provided varied and valuable professional perspectives on the problem of disclosure. We hope that this lecture will help to promote meaningful and long term change in this area as well as furthering our goal here at UWE Bristol of research that shapes the future of organisations.

The lecture has been recorded and is available to watch online as a video, or to listen to as a podcast:

View Full video

Listen to Podcast

Liam Allan

Liam Allan is a criminology and criminal psychology graduate who was charged with rape in 2015 and spent two years on bail before his case collapsed owing to failures with the disclosure regime. Liam gave us a very personal insight into his experience and the trauma of accusation, from the moment he was arrested until the case was dropped. Liam described being made to feel that he was “guilty until proven innocent”. Liam arrived at the Crown Court charged with 13 counts of rape; days into his trial, it emerged that the police had 60,000 non-disclosed text messages containing vital information which led to the collapse of the case against him. Following these events, there was huge media interest and public outcry. Subsequently, 600 cases were dropped, 6 of which were rape cases. Since that time, Liam has continued his studies and founded the Innovation of Justice campaign, which seeks to unite organisations, lawyers and barristers, individually seeking to improve different aspects of the criminal justice system.

Jerry Hayes

Jerry was the prosecution barrister for Liam’s trial, and played a fundamental role in the discovery of the non-disclosed evidence. Jerry described some of the fundamental issues with the criminal justice system, in particular in relation to sexual offences. He argued that many members of a jury jump to conclusions in a “no smoke without fire” reaction to rape cases (something Liam suggested he had previously done, prior to his accusation). Jerry emphasised the importance of remembering that people are complainants, not victims, until a conviction or a plea of guilty. Jerry described in detail how and why the system very nearly failed Liam Allan – who would have served up to 12 years in prison and been on the Sexual Offenders Register for life. He suggested that the evidence that was withheld had been deemed “too personal” to be revealed and not relevant to the case. Yet, he argued, it was not only capable of undermining the prosecution case; it made it absolutely clear that Liam Allan could not be guilty. Jerry described Liam’s case as the worst he had seen in 41 years of practice.

Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards has been a practising solicitor for 45 years and gave us a professional overview of how disclosure should be handled to avoid major miscarriages of justice. Anthony explained some of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act (CPIA) and gave an overview of the recent Attorney General’s review of disclosure. He argued that, with sexual offences, there is added complexity and difficulty due to frequent “credibility contest” in such cases – that is, they turn on one person’s word against another. He stated that it is a routine part of defence practice to deal with non-disclosure issues; from major fraud to cases of minor assault. He suggested that poor disclosure practice undermines the criminal justice system, as police and prosecutors do not look for what is actually needed in a case. Anthony highlighted that this issue will not just go away (and not done so for decades), arguing for an enormous cultural shift from the police, the prosecution and defence, to ensure that all evidence is properly disclosed from the start. Anthony highlighted the need for an independent disclosure review process, conducted by an independent barrister, arguing that history tells us that the police nor the prosecution can or will do a satisfactory job. Anthony highlighted the related issues associated with the use of social media by parties in a case; particularly the problems of detecting and accessing such material when it stored on a third party’s account. He asked: how an accused can find such material if they do not know it exists? Anthony suggested that, with an independent disclosure counsel running the process, a significant proportion of cases that currently reach court and are subsequently dropped or dismissed by a jury would be filtered out of the system at an early stage, avoiding injustice.

Question and Answer session

We had a range of questions, some sent in advance and then opened up questions from the audience. Liam talked about how the case affected his personal life and that he was suspended from his job for 2 months. The emotional strain of the case understandably caused Liam to breakdown in court, but he also spoke about the impact on his family and friends. There was much discussion around the CPS and CPIA, whether they were fit for purpose and whether Liam was judged fairly. Anthony and Jerry gave an insightful discussion of the failings of the criminal justice system and how these failings impact genuine victims of sexual abuse. The idea of anonymity for those accused of certain types of offences was discussed by all three speakers, and the idea that it should be anonymous until a judge, because there may be other offences, directs that it should be made publicly known. There was criticism of the CPS and police using their lack of resources as an excuse for their failings, and whether this is a valid excuse or reason, nonetheless it needs to be addressed.

The entire lecture is available online here:

Full video

Podcast

Professor Anthony Arnull’s Distinguished Professorial Address – UWE, 24 October 2017

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‘Should we trust the EU?’ was the controversial title of Professor Anthony Arnull’s Distinguished Professorial Address held on 24 October 2018 at the Bristol Law School, UWE. Prof Arnull who holds the Chair of European Union Law at the University of Birmingham and is the author and editor of a wide range of well-known scholarly works in the field (eg The European Union and its Court of Justice (OUP, 2nd ed, 2006), European Union Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2017), The Oxford Handbook of European Union Law (OUP, 2015)) started his Address by asking the question ‘What does trust have to do with the EU?’. He pointed out that the concept of trust is increasingly invoked by the CJEU in its jurisprudence. The view of the CJEU is that because Member States share the same values they should trust each other to respect them and thus cannot insist on evidence to show that they are being complied with.

Prof Arnull’s first task was to define the notion of ‘trust’. First, he noted that in an article published in 2004 Lenaerts identified a number of principles that should enhance the trust of individuals in the EU: transparency, equality of arms, legal certainty and predictability, and sound administration. (‘In the Union We Trust’: Trust-Enhancing Principles of Community Law’ (2004) 41 CMLRev 317-343). Writing on the same issue in 2017 Lenaerts explained that the CJEU was expecting the constitutional courts of all Member States to monitor the lower courts. (‘La vie après l’avis: Exploring the Principle of Mutual (yet not Blind) Trust’ (2017) 54 CMLRev 805-840).

Looking at the concept in a more general way Prof Arnull explained that Baier understands trust as ‘reliance on others’ competence and willingness to look after, rather than harm, things one cares about which are entrusted to their care’ but that it might be possible to add another dimension to trust, that of risk, a notion introduced by Niklas Luhmann in his extensive writings on the subject. In this context, both parties expect things to go smoothly for the benefit of both (eg hiring a babysitter). So, the question boils down to asking how can someone draw the conclusion that another person is trustworthy? After all, it is about good judgment and usually one relies on evidence to establish such trustworthiness. In other words, the question is: ‘does the person have a good track record?’ Sometimes as it is not easy to gather evidence one needs to use proxy indicators. This is particularly the case in decentralised systems when it is often difficult to find whether trust is met. Trust can indeed be misplaced and so there might be a lack of trust.

Going back to the European Union Prof Arnull asked whether it is rational to trust the EU. He observed that a high degree of trust had been displayed by the European States between the 1950 Schuman declaration and the 1957 Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community. Yet, the States also seemed not to trust each other, considering the possibility that a State might not live up to its treaty commitments. The Commission was tasked with ensuring that the treaty be applied, and an enforcement procedure was established under Article 169. Prof Arnull also went back to the enforcement procedure under the European Coal and Steel Community to prove his point. After all, the idea of policing States tends to show a lack of trust. Such an argument is supported by the introduction in the Treaty of Maastricht of the possibility for the Commission to start a second set of proceedings against States with a view to obliging them to pay financial penalties if they did not comply with the initial CJEU judgment. The Lisbon Treaty went a step further allowing the Commission to ask for financial penalties to be applied without having to seise the CJEU again, though that is only allowed in limited circumstances (Article 260(3) TFEU). Prof Arnull argued that there is trust in the Commission to enforce EU law but it was much higher in the past, especially under the European Coal and Steel Community. The Amsterdam Treaty also introduced in Article 7 TEU the possibility to check on States failing to comply with the key values of the European Union. Now such a procedure is being used against Poland and Hungary.

Prof Arnull then provided a myriad of examples of trust and lack thereof towards both Member States and the institutions of the European Union. As he pointed out in the Q&A session the permutation of trust relations in the EU does not permit a structured analysis of how trust works in the EU. He also explained that mutual trust is the basis of EU law as well as an assumption. That being said, if there is a lack of trust it does not mean that there will be no trust anymore; rather, it means that trust must be re-established at a later stage.

The application of the European Arrest Warrant is an example of the trust or lack thereof between EU Member States as the recent preliminary reference to the CJEU on a case brought by an Irish court shows (Case C-216/18 PPU). Indeed, the Irish court questioned whether the right to fair trial would be guaranteed should Ireland extradite the individual to Poland.

With regard to individuals and how much they can trust the EU, Prof Arnull highlighted that originally, under the ECSC treaty, legal and natural persons had a relatively easy access to judicial review but the Treaty of Rome severely curtailed that right. The reason for this was that such judicial review was viewed as detrimental to the good functioning of the then European Economic Community.

To ensure though that individuals benefitted from EU law, the Court established the principles of direct effect and supremacy. If it had thought the Member States could be trusted to comply with EU law it would have probably not created these principles. The CJEU also works on the basis of trust in the sense that it assumes that the highest national courts comply with EU law as well as monitor lower courts. Unfortunately, this was recently put to the test as the Danish Supreme Court refused to follow a preliminary reference in 2016 (Ajos Case). So, if a constitutional court does not comply with EU law such monitoring disappears or, at least, becomes more difficult. Some academics claim that the Danish court’s reaction was because it views the CJEU as too activist and this does not work well with the Danish legal culture. The question however is why such an issue is raised after Denmark has been for so many years in the European Union.

The European Commission is viewed as one of the most powerful institutions and so trust in it is paramount. Unfortunately, a number of events have permitted us to doubt the trust we put in it. For example, in 1999 the Santer Commission resigned. In 2006 Edith Cresson, a Commissioner, was found guilty of misconduct (Case C-432/04). More recently in 2018 the Ombudsman has had to deal with two cases of maladministration against the Commission, the first one relating to Barroso, the former President of the EU Commission taking up a job as advisor with Goldmans Sachs and, the second one relating to the appointment of Selmayr as Secretary-General. It should however be noted that in the latter case the Ombudsman did not attack the individual, rather it was the process that led to his appointment that was put in question. This all does not look good when the Commission is, according to the treaties, the guardian of the treaties and yet seems to contain a number of individuals who cannot be trusted.

The history of the European Monetary Union (EMU) is another point in case. Italy wanted to play a strong role in the EU and thus had to show that it fulfilled the convergence requirements to be part of the EMU. The criteria were flexibly interpreted in 1998 and so Italy became part of it. Later, Italy and Greece became the victims of the 2008 financial crisis. This led to asking the question why Greece had been accepted in the Eurozone in the first place. The criteria, so it seemed, did not appear to have been rightly applied or, possibly, there was a deliberate attempt by Greece to mislead other EU Member States. In any case the issue of trust was raised in this context. The problem was that the Council is the only body that can oblige a State to correct the deficit within a certain timeframe. Yet, the Council, notably due to its composition is unwilling to do so. As a result we end up in a situation whereby commitments are made but not upheld and then the breach is not rectified because of collusion between Member States. All this reveals that the actors at stake cannot be deemed trustworthy, at least in the field of monetary policies.

Another good illustration of the issue of trust in the EU is the enlargement process. At the Copenhagen European Council it was agreed that Cyprus could become a Member of the EU and that accession by a united Cyprus was encouraged. Consequently, the process launched by Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, was supported by the EU. Yet, the EU did not attach any conditionality and so, despite the rejection by the Greek Cypriots of the unification of the island in a referendum organised by the United Nations, the EU allowed Cyprus to join the EU but on the understanding that the acquis was suspended in the northern part.

In conclusion, Prof Arnull explained that first the EU treaties have express provisions showing the lack of trust in the Member States. Second, practice also reveals that at times neither the Member States nor the EU institutions can be trusted. In other words, there are many reasons for not trusting the EU and the Member States. Does that mean that there is a crisis? No, according to Prof Arnull. Rather, all institutions must show that they are trustworthy and this can be done by setting practical guidelines and examples of good governance.

Bristol Law School’s Thomson Reuters Legal Student Representative awarded First Place Award at the annual Thomson Reuters Conference

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2nd year Law student Anita Dangova has been named First place at the annual Thomson Reuters Conference for the work she has achieved this year as a Thomson Reuters Legal Student Representative (TRLSR).

As a TRLSR, Anita organises different Westlaw workshops and sessions to help her fellow students achieve the best results possible.

As part of her role, Anita has worked closely with the Bristol Law School librarians to produce customised workshops and sessions for our students currently involved in the African Prisons Project (APP).

The APP offers high quality, accessible legal services to the most marginalised communities in East Africa through their training and leadership programme.

They operate in partnership with those who live and work within the justice system – from prisoners, to prisons staff and the judiciary – to those in government and other agencies, with individuals and organisations, towards a common goal, ensuring that everyone has access to justice.

Anita and the School Librarians have helped the APP Research Associates conduct their research effectively, using Westlaw. The research can be exported and shared with the group leaders from the APP which may be the first steps towards an African prisoner’s freedom.

Congratulations to Anita for the award and congratulations to both Anita and the Law School Librarians for a great collaboration!

Student blog post: Can the events that happened during the Maydan protests in Ukraine be qualified as crimes against humanity?

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This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication

Guest Author: Susanna Lando 

November 2013: President Yanukovych announces that Ukraine will not be signing the European Association Agreement. Within a couple of days the situation gets out of hand. The question however is: are the acts committed enough to qualify as crimes against humanity under the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute? In my opinion, they are.

After President Yanukovych’s decision went public, peaceful protests started in the capital Kiev. The facts are briefly outlined in the diagram I have made below (Euromaidan Press for details).

© Susanna Lando

Source: here

Although not a party to the Rome Statute, Ukraine accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC by a declaration under Article 12(3).The prosecutor however chose  not to continue the investigations on the basis that neither the widespread nor the systematic requirements were present (see I Marchuk, ‘No Crimes Against Humanity During the Maydan Protests in Ukraine? Or the ICC’s Prosecutor Flawed interpretation of Crimes Against Humanity?’ (2017) 35 Boston U Int’l LJ 50-55). The concept of crimes against humanity is outlined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute. Its chapeau contains two elements: the acts must be widespread or systematic and directed against a civilian population (see video for details). In addition, both an actus reus and a mens rea must be identified. The actus reus consists of acts of serious violence listed under Article 7(1)(a)-(k). The mens rea requires knowledge of the attacks on the civilian population, and the awareness that the acts constitute part of the attacks (ICTY, Prosecutor v Kunarac, para 99)

Let’s first look at the chapeau and whether it is fulfilled in relation to the events that took place during the Maydan protests. A civilian population comprises any person who is not a member of the armed forces (Article 50(1) of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions). A person ceases to be a civilian when he/she takes a direct part in the hostilities which is defined as the ‘(collective) resort by the parties to the conflict to means and methods of injuring the enemy’ (Interpretative Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in the Hostilities 43). In this case, however, the Maydan protests were performed peacefully and without weapons, therefore the individuals can be classed as civilians.

As the test for widespread or systematic is a disjunctive test (ICC, Situation in the Republic of Kenya, ICC, para 94), I will therefore only examine the requirement for systematic attacks. This concept was defined in Prosecutor v Katanga (ICC, para 394) and Prosecutor v Gbagbo (ICC, para 223) which referred to ‘the organised nature of the acts of violence and the improbability of their random occurrence’. The acts were frequent between December 2013 and February 2014 and they followed a clear scheme; there was an escalation in the choice of the different methods of violence: the beatings, the kidnappings, restrictive anti-protest laws, and finally the use of snipers and grenades. The pattern is, I believe, clear, and the acts were premeditated and planned as mentioned in Prosecutor v Akayesu (ICTR, para 580), which shows that the mens rea for the act was also present. Furthermore, it should be noted that the fact that they might have been committed for the President’s personal ends is irrelevant (ICTY, Prosecutor v Kunarac, para 103).

The specific crime concerned in this case in my opinion is persecution (Article 7(1)(h) Rome Statute). This entails three further requirements to the ‘chapeau’ of crimes against humanity. These include: ‘severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law (Commentary Rome Statute), on the basis of political, […] religious grounds or gender, and in connection with any act referred to in article 7(1)’.

With regards to fundamental rights being violated on the basis of discriminatory grounds, I believe there was a breach of Articles 7 and 10 of the ECHR in conjunction with article 14. Article 7 states that there shall be ‘no punishment without the law’. In this case the Maydan protesters were unlawfully arrested for charges with a higher penalty than the one applicable before the anti-protest laws. Article 10 refers to people’s freedom of expression which was clearly violated as the anti-protest laws cannot be viewed as falling within any of the lawful grounds for restrictions listed in the Convention (such as territorial integrity and prevention of crime). Finally, Article 14 regards discrimination on the basis of any ground such as ‘ethnicity, religion, political or other opinions […]’. The facts clearly suggest that the Ukrainian protesters were discriminated against because of their political ideas. Therefore both the first and second requirement for persecution are satisfied.

Finally, the acts must have been committed in connection to other acts enumerated in Article 7(1) of the ICC Statute. As Zimmermann explains, ‘[e]ven isolated acts […] will, if committed in connection with widespread or systematic acts of persecution, render those acts […] crimes against humanity’ (A Zimmermann, ‘Implementing the Statute of the International Criminal Court: The German Example’ in LC Vohrah et al (eds), Man’s Inhumanity to Man: Essays on International law in Honour of Antonio Cassese (Kluwer 2003) 977, 984). In my opinion it is therefore quite evident, based on the facts, that the beatings, kidnappings, shootings and anti-protest laws were aimed at intimidating and mistreating the population in order to force them to stop the protests.

Therefore, I argue that there are no doubts as to the nature of the crimes committed during the Maydan protests: they were crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of interest in the application of international criminal law in this matter.

Student blog post: To which extent is it possible to include cultural genocide in the definition of genocide as stated in the ICC Statute?

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This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication.

Guest author: Nikita Isaac

In this blog post I am addressing the highly topical issue of ‘cultural genocide’ and its potential inclusion in the definition of genocide. Whilst there is no legal definition of cultural genocide, we can still consider it as falling within the definition of genocide as stated in Article 6 of the ICC Statute. Several definitions of cultural genocide have been propounded by academics, one being a ‘purposeful weakening and ultimate destruction of cultural values and practices of feared out groups’ (pp 18-19). I believe that cultural genocide is present in many situations such as Darfur. This blog post argues that it is possible to include cultural genocide in the definition of genocide.

Signature of the Genocide Convention (Source: here.)

The work of Lemkin who coined the term genocide supports my view as in his broad definition he included cultural genocide alongside physical and biological genocide. He believed that physical genocide and cultural genocide were ‘one process that could be accomplished through a variety of means(D Short, ‘Cultural Genocide and Indigenous Peoples: A Sociological Approach’ (2010) 14 IJHR 833, 835), whether through mass killings or coordinated actions aimed at destroying essential foundations of group life.

The resulting definition in the ICC Statute is far from what Lemkin envisioned as still today cultural genocide is unrecognised legally. The travaux préparatoires of the Genocide Convention included a section on cultural genocide which was then excluded from the final version even though it had been deemed a serious human rights violation and thought to be a stand-alone crime. It is this version, that of the Genocide Convention, that was adopted in the ICC Statute. Political factors had played a part in the exclusion of cultural genocide as the United States were against formulating criteria relating to cultural genocide given their historical relationships with indigenous peoples (L Kingston, ‘The Destruction of Identity: Cultural Genocide and Indigenous Peoples’ (2015) 14 Journal of Human Rights 63, 65). So, ‘[t]he wording of the Convention was shaped … not to criminalize their own behaviour’ (C Powell, ‘What do Genocides Kill? A Relational Conception of Genocide’ (2007) 9 Journal of Genocide Research 527, 532).

The ICC Statute preamble states that parties to the statute are ‘[c]conscious that all peoples are united by common bonds, their cultures pieced together in a shared heritage, and concerned that this delicate mosaic may be shattered at any time’. Thus, if culture is a protected interest by the states that are parties to the ICC Statute why is cultural genocide not recognised?​​​​​​​

This picture shows how indigenous children were stripped of their cultural identity when forced into westernised schools. (Source: here.)

The example of what has happened to some indigenous groups in North America such as the Winnemem Wintu (see article by Kingston) substantiates my view that cultural genocide should fit within the definition of genocide. Cultural genocide affects these tribes as their culture and identity are stripped away over time and destroyed, though they may not suffer physical harm. The Winnemem Wintu are federally unrecognized (Kingston, p 70) by the US government and so are unprotected. Of the 14,000 Winnemem Wintu people only 123 remain (Kingston, p 70). They have continually lost land from the 1800s onwards (Kingston, p 70) and their cultural life as they know it is being decimated in front of their eyes. Their very means of life have been restricted through fishing bans, using plants for medicine and loss of ceremonial grounds (Kingston, p 70). The definition of genocide clearly does not safeguard indigenous people even though the loss of culture to them is just as devastating as loss of life (Kingston, p 72; see also this video). The UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous People offers protection now, but it has taken over 60 years to reach this point and in that time indigenous people suffered detrimentally. I argue that culture can be seen as a fundamental human right. Yet, although this shows progress with regard to cultural issues, in no way does it criminalize the behaviour against indigenous people which means that there is still no international platform to criminalize cultural genocide.

This picture displays the shocking difference before and after a child was forced into school (Source: here.)

A case which reaffirms my opinion is Prosecutor v Krstic as it dealt with the genocide of Muslim men and boys in the safe area of Srebrenica (see video). It is interesting to note that the ICTY opened the discussion of cultural genocide stating that ‘[t]he destruction of culture may serve evidentially to confirm an intent, to be gathered from other circumstances, to destroy the group, as such (para 53). So, it is taken that cultural destruction satisfies the test of dolus specialis needed to fulfil the mens rea of genocide. Judge Shahabuddeen dissenting acknowledged, ‘it is not convincing to say that the destruction, though effectively obliterating the group, is not genocide because the obliteration was not physical or biological’ (para 50). So, referring back to the Winnemem Wintu, although they have not physically or biologically suffered, it does not mean that they have not suffered through other means. The Winnemem Wintu have suffered through losing their culture due to the construction of a dam on their historic and sacred land. This undoubtedly reinforces the claim that cultural genocide can be recognised via case-law despite not being expressly included in the statute of an international criminal tribunal.

(Source: here.)

Overall, I truly support the idea that it is possible for cultural genocide to be included in the definition of genocide as stipulated in the ICC Statute. As discussed, originally, a much broader definition of genocide was drawn up that included cultural genocide; however, this was excluded, thereby leaving indigenous people unprotected for decades. This has had a knock-on effect in the case law which, although making obvious references to cultural issues in relation to genocide, does not recognise ‘cultural genocide’ as a crime as such.

Student blog post: In light of the article by Melissa Bellitto, ‘The World Bank, Capabilities, and Human Rights: A New Vision for Girls’ Education beyond’ (2015) Florida Journal of International Law 91 discuss the role of the World Bank as a funder of education.  

Posted on

 This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication.

Guest blog post: Daniele Tatoryte

Introduction

This blog post examines the role of the World Bank as a funder of education. Defined as an international organisation that helps emerging market countries to reduce poverty and promote prosperity, the World Bank is part of the World Bank Group, which is a family of five international organisations, and is composed of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association. The World Bank funds a variety of projects notably relating to education by providing loans in developing countries. It has been involved in education since 1962, thus being the largest international funder of education for development in low-income countries and supporting them with $3 billion a year. Overall, the World Bank has funded 2512 education projects. In this blog post I will first discuss the issue of gender inequality and then discuss education in the broader framework of human rights as I believe that the World Bank’s important role in supporting education should be more human rights focused.

 Gender Inequality

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is the key international legal instrument that seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. In spite of its existence, girls (M Bellitto, ‘The World Bank, Capabilities, and Human Rights: A New Vision for Girls’ Education Beyond 2015’ (2015) 27 Florida Journal of International Law 91) are the most affected by education inequality as a large majority does not have access to education owing to cultural and social barriers (M Nussbaum, ‘Women’s Education: A Global Challenge’ (2004) 29 Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 332). It is submitted that if girls could access education, they would better tackle issues such as medical care and contribute to the economy of the State, which is the aim of the World Bank (Bellitto at 101). Scholars such as Nussbaum and Sen have criticised the fact that women are treated as economic commodities and that their worth is based on their ability to contribute to the formal economy (see discussion in Bellitto at 95). The best way to deal with this problem is to implement anti-discriminatory laws that eradicate discrimination, a good illustration being India that has adopted a rights based approach in primary education. The World Bank, UNESCO and the Global Partnership for Education are focused on improving gender equality and empowering girls and women through quality education. To attain these goals, projects such as The Education 2030 Framework for Action (FFA) aims to achieve greater results by 2030. Some of their goals are to train more teachers, to support gender equality and improve the quality of teaching. In this light it is argued that educational planning could be a good approach to take into account and tackle all factors affecting education.

(The first UNESCO chart below shows the number of children (according to education level and gender) who were not enrolled in education between 2000 and 2015 whilst the second   indicates that the number of children without access to education varies depending on the continent.)

 

 Human Rights and Education

So, how can this problem be tackled? First, one may argue that the World Bank is bound by human rights law. After all, it has international legal personality as it fulfils three requirements: (1) it is independent from its member states in its functioning; (2) it possesses the capacity to create international rights and obligations; (3) and it possesses the capacity to bring or defend international claims (see here at 364-365). Unfortunately many courts do not have jurisdiction over international organisations and so there is no international judicial remedy against the World Bank. That being said, the Inspection Panel of the World Bank plays an important role as a control mechanism. If the funding provided by the World Bank is not used correctly, a claim can be brought by a minimum of two individuals so that the Inspection Panel can start an investigation. For example, in Nepal a claim, later dismissed, was made that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation applied to vocational education. Another solution could be to direct the funds of the World Bank to local NGOs, rather than to central governments and education ministries (see here at 61-62), with a view to making education more effective and compliant with human rights law.        ​​​​​​​

Conclusion             

From my point of view, the World Bank and the State should work together to overcome social and cultural barriers affecting gender inequality in education. Undoubtedly, there has been a marked improvement in providing education and achieve gender equality. That being said, I could also argue that the approach the World Bank is adopting towards education is more economic than human rights based as primary education is supposed to be free and accessible to everyone. If access to education depends on one’s ability to pay for it then the human rights to education is violated. Moreover, it should be stressed that education is a necessity for the economic growth and development of these countries. On the one hand the World Bank provides these developing countries with funding to improve their economy but on the other, it takes away their financial independence and obliges them to violate human rights law by complying with conditions such as the privatisation of schools. Consequently, the implementation of a monitoring body independent from the World Bank is essential to improve its functioning and ensure that all its actions comply with human rights law.

A summary of this blog post in the form of a Prezi presentation is available here.