AHRC Grant for Consolidating Peace and Indigenous Rights through Higher Education – a Biocultural Indigenous University in the Andean Amazon of Colombia

Photo credit: Estudio Bosque

Dr. Matthew Gillett and Dr. Marina Lostal, both Senior Lecturers in Law at the University of Essex, have jointly been awarded the competitive AHRC Grant to “Develop international networks to research peace and trust”.

Their project, titled “Consolidating Peace and Indigenous Rights through Higher Education – a Biocultural Indigenous University in the Andean Amazon of Colombia”, addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 concerning Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Dr. Gillett and Dr. Lostal have been awarded approximately £60,000 over 24 months to create an international, multi-disciplinary and inclusive research network, linking Indigenous representatives with researchers, human rights experts, and educational professionals. They will conduct the project together with International Co-Investigator Santiago del Hierro (ETH Zurich).

In addition, they have been awarded a £2,000 grant through the Essex IAA Active Engagement Fund to kickstart the project before the official start date of the AHRC Grant.

The research is connected to efforts to establish a “Biocultural Indigenous University” (BIU) in the Andean Amazon of Colombia. By centring Indigenous pedagogy in an autonomous institution, the BIU model seeks to strengthen the preservation and inter-generational transfer of Indigenous knowledge and contribute to pluri-epistemic collaboration.

“It is from the messages that biodiversity transmits to us, that the idea of establishing a territorial university was born: the Pan-Amazonian Indigenous Biocultural University-AWAI, led by the Inga people of Colombia, a space for dialogue between Indigenous knowledge and Western techniques, technologies and science, from a decolonial and liberating perspective, deeply collective and non-ethnocentric, with a perspective of biocultural peace to promote life until the sun goes out”.

HERNANDO CHINDOY CHINDOY (Atun Wasi Iuiai (“AWAI”), the Indigenous Territorial Entity of the Inga People of Colombia

Equally, the research project seeks to contribute to SDG Targets 16.1 (reducing violence) and 16.4, (combating organised crime and illicit financial flows), by providing opportunities for Indigenous youth to obtain qualifications and employment and escape cycles of violence, criminality, and alienation.

Given the traditional Indigenous connection with surrounding ecosystems, the BIU model also offers a pathway to ecologically-centred sustainable development.

Centring on the BIU, the research network will explore the feasibility of Indigenous-led and autonomous tertiary education in Colombia. It seeks to address the following matters:

  • how an Indigenous-led university can be established and recognised as an autonomous institution;
  • the implications of this university for the rights of Indigenous people to education, cultural and a healthy environment; and
  • the parameters of a rights-based framework for establishing an Indigenous-led autonomous institution at the tertiary level.

Alongside the creation of the research network, the project will be realised through knowledge exchange, including a workshop in Colombia, meetings with Colombian officials, and an engagement with relevant United Nations Special Mandate holders. The project will complement the Devenir Universidad network, which is researching and documenting the pedagogic and spatial planning aspects of BIU.

Prof. Theodore Konstadinides, the Law School’s Director of Research commented: I wish to congratulate Marina and Matthew for their recent success. This is a very important interdisciplinary project that will enable us to further develop our international research networks in South America and cement the reputation of the Law School as a pioneer in addressing global human rights challenges. I am looking forward to seeing Marina and Matthew stimulating new debate and exchanging ideas with the relevant stakeholders in Colombia and promoting the United Nations’ sustainable development goals“.

Preliminary work by the grant recipients has already been undertaken, including a submission to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples prepared together with Hernando Chindoy Chindoy (AWAI) and others. The implementation phase of the project will commence in early 2022, with outcomes of the research project to be disseminated via publications, including a report and an academic publication.  

Dr. Gillett and Dr. Lostal would like to express their gratitude to the research team of Essex Law School (Prof. Theodore Konstadinides, Prof. Stavroula Karapapa, and Prof. Ting Xu), the internal reviewers (Prof. Sabine Michalowski and Dr. Carlos Gigoux Gramegna), and Kai Yin Low for their invaluable input while preparing this proposal.

For further information about the project, please get in touch with the Investigators: Dr. Matthew Gillett and Dr. Marina Lostal at mg21486@essex.ac.uk and ml20391@essex.ac.uk respectively.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) European Postdoctoral Fellowships: Call for Expression of Interest

The University of Essex is a public research university in Essex, England. Ranked 51st in the law subject section in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Essex Law School is committed to excellence in research and excellence in teaching.

We have a global reputation for our research: more than two-thirds of our publications were rated as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the last national Research Excellence Framework, placing us in the top 20 for UK law schools (REF 2014).

Research and early career research development are supported through our research clusters, which provide a rich and engaging forum for discussion. We also provide supportive mentoring and research feedback to early-career academics, provided by our pathway to permanency system, as well as practical support through our research support fund and research funding application mentorship.

We host several successful research centres, networks, institutes and hubs, including the:

Further information about the School of Law can be found here. You can also find out more about the School’s research activities through our Essex Law Research blog.

MSCA European Postdoctoral Fellowships

We are looking to support a limited number of high-quality applications under the 2022 round of MSCA European Postdoctoral Fellowships and would welcome expressions of interest (see below) from interested researchers, particularly, but not exclusively, in the following areas aligning with our research clusters:

  • Administrative justice, including key areas identified in UKAJI’s research roadmap;
  • Criminal justice: contemporary issues;
  • EU Constitutional law including: the constitutional structure of the Economic and Monetary Union; social rights protection; rule of law and transnational solidarity in the EU context.
  • Human Rights theory and practice including: technology and human rights, international criminal law, gender and human rights, social and economic rights, law of armed conflict, regional systems, refugee law;
  • Environmental law including: human rights and the environment, the rights of nature, global environmental governance, international environmental law, the law of the sea, energy law;
  • Climate change law including: international climate governance, climate justice and climate litigation;
  • Commercial law, especially intellectual property;
  • Digitalisation, technology and the law;
  • Transitional justice

This year’s call for the MSCA European Postdoctoral Fellowship applications will open on 13 April 2022, with a closing date of 14 September 2022.

The Fellowships are highly flexible funding schemes offered to experienced researchers. Fellows are based at a host institution, where they will work with their supervisors to deliver a specific project involving research, innovation, training, and networking activities. The funding guarantees mobility and financial independence with a generous set of allowances.

The Fellowships:

  • are open to researchers moving within Europe or coming to Europe from another part of the world to pursue their research careers. These fellowships take place in an EU Member State or Horizon Europe Associated Country (e.g., the UK);
  • can last between 1 and 2 years and researchers of any nationality can apply.
  • a short-term secondment to anywhere in the world can be included during the fellowship.

Additional support to carry out a placement of up to 6 months in a non-academic organisation based in an EU Member State or Horizon Europe Associated Country at the end of the Fellowship is available.

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants should have a PhD degree at the time of the deadline for applications. Applicants who have successfully defended their doctoral thesis but who have not yet formally been awarded the doctoral degree will also be considered eligible to apply.
  • Applicants must have a maximum of eight years’ experience in research, from the date of the award of their PhD degree, years of experience outside research and career breaks will not count towards the above maximum, nor will years of experience in research in third countries, for nationals or long-term residents of EU Member States or Horizon Europe Associated Countries who wish to reintegrate to Europe.
  • Applicants should comply with mobility rules: they must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the beneficiary for more than 12 months in the 36 months immediately before the call deadline.

UK and EU

The UK Government has stated it is ready to formalise association to EU programmes at the earliest opportunity and that is its preferred outcome. As this aspect may be subject to new announcements by the UK Government, we encourage applicants to look for the most up-to-date official information here.

We will support applications only as far as they are in line with these announcements, which may mean that we might eventually not be able to support any applications in this round if UK Higher Education Institutions are not eligible to apply to Horizon Europe.


If you have any questions regarding this application, please contact Professor Theodore Konstadinides, Director of Research in the School of Law at this email address: t.konstadinides@essex.ac.uk.

Application Process

  • Read the Guidance for Applicants on the funder’s website.
  • Make sure you meet all eligibility criteria. Complete the Expression of Interest (EoI – outlined below) and send it to Ms. Kate Davis at kdavis@essex.ac.uk by 5:00 p.m. (London time) on 1 April 2022.
  • The review of expressions of interest will start shortly thereafter. Proposals will be evaluated based on research quality, the applicant’s future career prospects and the availability of appropriate supervision.
  • This will ensure sufficient time for matching the prospective applicant to a supervisor and the development of a strong application before the call for MSCA applications.
  • Applicants will be informed of the outcome of the evaluation by 15 April 2022.
  • The successful applicant[s] will be supported in completing their application by the selected supervisor. Successful candidates will also have the support of the University of Essex pre-award team in the Research and Enterprise Office, which will provide costings and will take the application through our institutional authorisation process.

Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowships 2022: Expression of Interest Application to the School of Law

  • Give your full name
  • Explain your eligibility for this Fellowship (e.g., nationality/long-term residence, confirm no more than 12 of the last 36 months spent in the UK for European Fellowships).
  • Provide the name of a proposed mentor within the School of Law, noting whether you have already discussed this with them, and why you consider them an appropriate fit to your proposed project. Another mentor may be suggested to you following our internal evaluation process.
  • Give details of any research projects you have worked on independent of your PhD supervisor (up to 200 words)
  • Explain why you would like to undertake a Marie Curie Fellowship, with reference to the scheme’s focus on international, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral mobility (up to 300 words).
  • Provide a summary (up to 500 words) of your proposed research project. This should include the rationale for the project as well as research questions or hypotheses and the methods to be used to address them.
  • Explain why you have chosen the School of Law at the University of Essex as the host institution for your Fellowship application (up to 500 words).

Sustainability as a Legal Principle: Call for Papers

Third YUFE LAW Meeting, Rijeka, 23-24 June 2022

Photo by Headway

YUFE, the Young Universities for the Future of Europe, is an alliance of ten dynamic, student-centred research-based universities and four non-academic partners from the non-governmental and private sector for an impactful European University. Together, the YUFE partners aim to establish one of the first true European Universities.

Essex is part of the YUFE alliance and is working with its partners to shape the future of European higher education by establishing a European University that’s open to all. 

Continuing its recently established YUFE LAW practice, first at the meeting in Maastricht in January 2020 and subsequently, at the meeting in Bremen in May 2021, applications are invited for the Third YUFE LAW meeting which will be held by the Faculty of Law in Rijeka, Croatia on 23 and 24 June 2022.

Following last year’s model, the discussion concerning the past and future cooperation within the YUFE LAW will be held in parallel with the dissemination of research at the international scientific conference dedicated to the topic of Sustainability as a Legal Principle.

The term “sustainable development” started gaining planetary recognition probably with the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and the Earth Plan. At the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the need for consistency between the three pillars of sustainable development – being social justice, economic growth, and environmental protection – was stressed as crucial thus paving the way for what we understand as sustainable development nowadays.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 to ensure common values of peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The core of the Agenda is made of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Understanding sustainable development as a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, its initial meaning has been broadened much beyond environmental protection to encompass virtually all aspects of human activities.

Reaching SGDs can thus be done by means of regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy, developing responsible ICT enabled transformation, reducing waste, or fighting extreme poverty just as by eradicating inequalities, empowering women, ensuring full and productive employment, and decent work for all, or promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Law is a powerful means in achieving SDGs because the underlying policies may be more efficiently achieved if effectively in-built in legal regulation and not just made part of promotional activities or alike. Reinforcement by means of legal norms seems to be one of the key factors in following through the 2030 Agenda.

Indeed, by now, many preambles, pieces of legislation. statements and declarations contain references to sustainable development, international, European or national. In various areas of law, support or justification for certain regulatory solutions is sought in sustainable development concerns. Such concerns are being more explicitly articulated by the courts and tribunals in different countries.

It is increasingly recognised at many levels that bringing together social, environmental and economic rules and regimes is necessary. Gradually, sustainable development has entered the legal sphere and we may ask ourselves to what extent is sustainability a legal principle.

Against this backdrop, recent years have witnessed also intensified academic discussions on the role of law in sustainable development. For legal researchers, this is a daring endeavour since it entails an interdisciplinary approach including deepening the understanding of the sustainable development and SDGs and attempting to gain a broader understanding and wider picture of the researched issues.

At the same time, legal scholars have a huge responsibility to attempt to discover the old laws which are at odds with the SDGs or to unmask the new ones which use the “greenwashing” practices rather than truly contribute to the achievement of one or more SDGs.

The Third YUFE LAW Research Conference welcomes papers from any area of law, with more or less interdisciplinary threads, which would discuss legal regulation in the context of the SGDs. The conference aims to gather experts in various fields of law affiliated with any of the YUFE partners, to discuss different topics under the umbrella of sustainability as a legal principle.

If you are interested and willing to contribute, please send the title and abstract of your proposed topic (1-2 pages) and your short CV (5 lines on current position and relevant publications) no later than 15 March 2022 to yufe.law@uniri.hr.

The conference will be held in hybrid form. The Faculty of Law in Rijeka will be able to provide lunch and refreshments to all onsite participants, but travel and accommodation should be covered from other sources (e.g., Erasmus+ funding or home institutions).

We look forward to meeting you in Rijeka!

Antonio Cassese: The Stubborn Sparrow

Photo by C D-X

Ιn collaboration with the Cassese InitiativeDr. Antonio Coco (Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex) recently launched ‘Antonio Cassese: The Stubborn Sparrow’, a podcast series on the work and legacy of the late Professor Antonio Cassese, pioneering international lawyer, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his passing.

The series is exploring Prof. Cassese’s impact on international law and institutions on five selected issues:

  • genocide;
  • terrorism;
  • torture;
  • human rights in the European Union; and
  • war crimes.

Two episodes are already available.

Episode 1 ‘Genocide and the Commission of Inquiry on Darfur’ discusses the findings on genocide and working methods of the UN Commission of Inquiry in Darfur, which Antonio Cassese chaired in 2004-2005. The two co-hosts, Paola Gaeta and Salvatore Zappalà, interview Fannie Lafontaine, who worked with Cassese as his legal assistant at the time.

Episode 2 ‘The crime of terrorism and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’ recalls that Cassese was the first President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a hybrid court established in 2007 to try those responsible for the attack that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and others. In February 2011, under Cassese’s presidency, the Tribunal rendered a controversial decision on the definition of the international crime of terrorism. The co-hosts Antonio Coco and Giulia Pinzauti discuss the decision and Cassese’s contribution to it with guest Guido Acquaviva, the Tribunal’s Chef de Cabinet at the time.

New episodes are released monthly on SimplecastApple PodcastSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon Music, and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Prescripted Living: Gender Stereotypes and Data-Based Surveillance in the UK Welfare State

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

From the post-war welfare state that inherently assumed married women would be supported by their husbands, to the 21st-century introduction of Universal Credit which financially disincentivises some women in cohabiting relations from working: the welfare benefits system in the UK has historically favoured individuals who conform to gender stereotypes.

At the same time, the welfare benefits system also uses more and more surveillance of claimants to determine who is ‘deserving’ of support, using increasingly sophisticated data analysis tools to impose conditions on welfare claimants and punish those who do not comply.

Laura Carter, PhD candidate in the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, published a new article in Internet Policy Review, which argues that both stereotyping and surveillance reinforce structures of categorisation – in which individuals are treated according to group membership (whether or not it is accurate) and control, through normalising some behaviours while punishing others.

The article argues that the combination of gender stereotyping and surveillance in the UK welfare state risks creating a vicious cycle, in which the categorisation and control dimensions of both stereotyping and surveillance reinforce each other.

This increases the likelihood of the system coercing welfare claimants—by definition, people living on low incomes—into certain ‘accepted’ behaviours, and discriminating against those who do not conform.

The increased conditionality of welfare benefits has already caused demonstrative harm to those who cannot or struggle to access Universal Credit. The article further argues that the coercive, surveillant nature of the welfare state risks cementing hierarchies of power that continue to stereotype and discriminate against low-income people.

This is the case particularly for low-income women who are expected to balance the demands of their disproportionate unpaid caring responsibilities as well as increasing requirements for job search activities.

Carter’s article applies a human rights analysis—including recognition of the harms of gender stereotyping, as recognised by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) —to this system of coercion and conditionality, in order to make visible analysis the specifically gendered nature of the harm caused by surveillance and conditionality to welfare benefits claimants.

Applying analysis of gender stereotyping can further identify—and combat—harms that are inherent in the current structure of the welfare benefits system in the UK, with the aim of ensuring that benefits are accessible for all who need them.

Article full citation: Carter, L. (2021). Prescripted living: gender stereotypes and data-based surveillance in the UK welfare state. Internet Policy Review, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.14763/2021.4.1593

Event: Posthuman International Law and the Rights of Nature

Photo by Elissa Garcia

Both posthuman theory and the rights of nature (RoN) movement have the potential to challenge the anthropocentrism of international environmental law (IEL).

Scholars have begun to document the transformative shifts that could occur through the application of posthuman legal theory to IEL, but these theories have yet to be applied to law in practice.

On the other hand, the RoN have been applied in domestic law but hardly in international law, while the question of what RoN includes and excludes remains contested.

Dr, Emily Jones, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, brings posthuman theory and RoN together, reflecting on how posthuman legal theory can contribute to the framing of RoN, with a focus on challenging the anthropocentrism of IEL.

She is presenting her work on the rights of nature and posthumanism at a special seminar hosted by Law and Global Justice at Durham (LGJD) on Friday 4 February 2022 15:00-17:00 GMT.

You can attend this event either online or in-person (Durham University, Room PCL152, Moot Court). To register, please email roman.f.chuffart@durham.ac.uk.