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UCL events news and reviews


UCL Year 12 conference

By news editor, on 29 June 2012

UCL porticoYear 12 students interested in studying the arts, humanities or the social sciences flocked to UCL for a human rights-themed conference on 19 June.

The event programme featured lectures and seminars on philosophy, law, archaeology and history, and stimulated the following selection of student responses.

Khadija Koroma
Should the UK give an official apology for its part in the slave trade? This is just one of the many questions that was discussed in the UCL year 12 conference. To most, their initial answer to the question was “yes”, but after having discussed such a controversial issue in the history seminar and lecture, many were left undecided.

This was due to the fact that today there are approximately 12–27 million slaves in the world – a figure that far outnumbers the 3.1 million Africans enslaved during the slave trade. Therefore, instead of apologising for something our generation did not play a part in, we should be trying to resolve the issue of slavery that is getting worse everyday.


The Ethics of Human Rights Philanthropy

By news editor, on 11 June 2012

Claire Lougarre, UCL Laws PhD candidate

Professor Philippe Sands and Sigrid Rausing

What would you do if  Saif Gaddafi offered you millions of pounds towards a research project, or if Rupert Murdoch did? Accepting money for research from philanthropic sources, or from people who might want to set research agendas, is a difficult ethical minefield.

Luckily, at this UCL Institute for Human Rights event on 29 May, we had capable guides to see us through the issues. Even if they did not have all the answers, they were certainly equipped to ask and deepen our understanding of the right questions.

Professor Philippe Sands QC welcomed Sigrid Rausing (Rausing Trust), Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy), Anthony Tomei (Nuffield Foundation) and Dr George Letsas (UCL Laws) to the panel.

Preserving independence
Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia (UCL Political Sciences), co-director of the Institute, welcomed the large audience by highlighting the recent UCL campaign to raise more than £300 million for UCL projects from donors. Does giving money buy you influence and power?

UCL Council has asserted its commitment to preserve the university’s independence from any donor agenda. Nevertheless, in the light of recent scandals, such as Gaddafi’s funding of the LSE, which led to the Woolf Enquiry, the question of ethics in research philanthropy remains.


The Human Right to Health

By news editor, on 3 April 2012

The latest book in the Amnesty International Global Ethics Series, published by Norton is The Human Right to Health, written by Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy).

On Tuesday 27 March, Amnesty International hosted a panel discussion to launch this new publication. The panel consisted of Jonathan Wolff, Mike Rowson (UCL Centre for International Health and Development) and Widney Brown (Amnesty International), and was chaired by Steve Crawshaw (Amnesty International).

Panel Discussion
Professor Wolff began by admitting that because of his philosophical roots he was a relatively recent convert to the concept of the human right to health. Despite this, his book defends the concept against multiple criticisms.

The first criticism to be discussed relates to the phrasing of “the right to the highest attainable standard of health” (United Nations).

Three routes of criticism seem to emanate from this statement, firstly, how is attainability measured – globally, nationally or regionally could give very different standards. Secondly, this seems an unreal expectation and thirdly, if this right exists – who is accountable for providing it.

A further point raised was the fact that health itself did not need to be a human right – it could be considered simply a culmination of other human rights.


The Triumph of Human Rights: Dream or Nightmare?

By news editor, on 2 February 2012

Claire Lougarre, UCL Laws PhD candidate, reports on ‘The Triumph of Human Rights: Dream or Nightmare?’, a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture held on 26 January. The talk was presented by Colm O’Cinneide (Reader, UCL Laws) and chaired by Michael Freeman (Professor, UCL Laws).

In 1945, the United Nations decided to provide a high level of protection to certain rights that it considered fundamental to human dignity, in response to the atrocities committed during the Second World War. This marked the start of human rights law.

This notion has since been stretched by academics, judges and the civil society to give rise to a greater protection of more and more human rights.

Colm O’Cinneide, Reader in Law with a considerable expertise in human rights, therefore, decided in his lecture to question whether the notion of human rights had been interpreted too extensively from its initial purpose.

And what perfect timing this was as, the previous day, David Cameron addressed in his speech to the Council of Europe the merits of human rights law, while criticising its extensive interpretation by the European Court of Human Rights.