Dr Zainab Khan wins at the Bristol Diversity Awards 2018

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Dr Zainab Khan picked up the award for Positive Role Model (Race / Ethnicity) at the 2nd Bristol Diversity Awards event on Saturday 18th May at the Mercure Holland Hotel & Spa.

Zainab was nominated for her work on the UWE Bristol Equity Programme.

Equity is a positive-action talent development programme aiming to improve BAME graduate outcomes  through identity coaching, enterprise education and large networking events.

It marks a major departure from traditional diversity practice in Higher Education, and has received  positive reception from external observers and city commentators for its innovation. You can find out more about the Equity Programme here

Prior to the event Zainab was interviewed for ITV’s local news to discuss the upcoming awards

Attending the awards were Equity student committee members, Donna Whitehead (Executive Dean & Pro Vice Chancellor), Dr Harriet Shortt (Associate Professor Bristol Business School), Mena Fombo (Motivational Speaker and Equity Programme Coach) and Alex Mormoris, former colleague and key member of the Equity Programme staff.

Congratulations to Zainab and the Equity team on this impressive achievement.

Bristol Law School host mock law trial based on award winning novel

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On the 24th and 25th May the Bristol Law School will be hosting a unique mock trial based on award winning novel by C.J. Flood.

Infinite Sky, a story about a teenage girl trying to come to terms with the abandonment of her mother when a family of gypsies set up an illegal camp in the paddock by her house, contains a violent death. It is this violent death that will be explored in the mock trial.

The trial will be conducted by HHJ Johnson, a Circuit Judge from Isleworth Crown Court. The defendant will be prosecuted and defended by teams of students on the Bar Professional Training Course. The witnesses will be played largely by a mixture of professional actors and undergraduates from the Drama School and the Law School.

Author of the book C.J. Flood, will be attending the trial to see hear the verdict cast for the character she created.

The mock trial is open for all to attend. Please see below for the details:

Venue: 2X112, Bristol Business School, Frenchay Campus, UWE Bristol

Timings: 10am – 5pm and 9:30am – 2:30pm

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

The Duke of York opens Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School

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The University of the West of England’s flagship £55 million business building has been officially opened by The Duke of York.

His Royal Highness received a guided tour of facilities at Bristol Business School, located at the University’s Frenchay campus, before unveiling a commemorative plaque marking the formal opening.

Offering a new approach to business and law education to benefit students and businesses in the region, the building opened to students and staff in 2017 and represents the biggest capital investment of UWE Bristol’s 2020 building programme. Features include two showcase law courts, a city trading room, a business advice clinic, an incubator for Team Entrepreneurship students, technology enhanced and flexible learning spaces, and an external business engagement hub.

On his tour of the business school, The Duke met students and staff from the Business Advice Clinic, where undergraduates work with mentors from industry to offer pro bono support to small enterprises, and the Team Entrepreneurship Hub, the home of a degree course dedicated to giving students the practical experience to launch and run their own ventures. His Royal Highness was also shown the school’s Bloomberg Trading Room and a Technology Enhanced Active Learning space during the visit.

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor at UWE Bristol, said: “We were proud to show The Duke that not only is Bristol Business School a striking modern building with state-of-the-art facilities but what goes on inside is equally impressive.

“Students are using the hugely expanded provision of technology enhanced active learning for greater co-creation and student-led problem solving, while a growing number of businesses are being welcomed through the doors to collaborate with staff and our ever more entrepreneurial students.

“It is this abundance of strong relationships with industry that sets UWE Bristol’s approach to business apart, with close collaboration ensuring the skills our graduates leave with are always relevant to employers’ rapidly evolving needs.”

Addressing guests at the opening, His Royal Highness said: “It’s a pleasure to be able to open and celebrate a building such as this. A building lives because of what goes on inside it and judging from what I’ve seen on my tour, the vibrancy of the staff and students working here is making this building sing to a very wonderful note.

“I wish Bristol Business School, and the whole university, every good fortune in creating the sorts of young people we are going to need in the new environment we’ll find ourselves in during the next two to five years. These are going to be very challenging times but we need to create a breed of young people who are enterprising, entrepreneurial and ambitious. If we can do that we can, and will, succeed. So good luck, I wish you every success.”

Elena Blanco takes part in Repair Acts Project

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Elena Blanco was invited to take part in the exciting network of artists, social scientists, lawyers, environmental and social justice activists brought together under the Repair Acts  (AHRC Funded project)

Teresa Dillon, Professor of City Futures at the School of Art and Design, UWE with Caitlin DeSilvey, (University of Exeter, Co-investigator) brought together a wide-range of perspectives, research an experiences within the creative and exciting background of the Pervasive Media Studio.

The day moved from the conceptual, to the stories and methodologies of practice and research towards a more socially just, sustainable system that abandons the consumerist agenda of persistent, unlimited growth. Bringing forward some of the discussion that arose on the research event organised by Elena Blanco on  ‘The Future of the Commons’  on finding a ‘post-value paradigm’ and a new role for law and policy the Repair Acts workshop identified a network of systems change, ideas and policy that emerged as a next step of this creative project that will develop throughout 2018.

This was followed by a public event at Arnolfini by with Ravi Agarval, Ben Gaulon and Lara Houston (Urbanknights.org). For more information please visit: http://repairacts.net/

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)

Free seminar: Community asset transfers: legal and practical issues

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The UWE Bristol Pro Bono Unit, in conjunction with The Old Library, will be holding a free seminar on Thursday 19 April from 6pm for anyone who would like to find out more about the legal and practical side of community asset transfer.

A Community Asset Transfer involves a charity or not-for-profit organisation taking a lease or licence of council owned premises to run and manage those premises.

The purpose is to generate social, economic or environmental benefits for local people.  Examples include community centres, libraries and playgrounds.

If you’d like more information or to register please see here.

We want your feedback on the new Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School building

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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.