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What corrupts independence and trust?

ucyow3c21 March 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Professor Richard Moorhead (UCL Laws)

Money’s influence on knowledge and politics was at the heart of the Centre for Ethics & Law’s annual lecture, March 14.  “The Place of ‘Institutions’ in the Idea of ‘Corruption’” was given by Laurence (“Larry”) Lessig, Professor of Law and Leadership and Faculty Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University.

US Capitol, an institution that needs public trust

US Capitol, meeting place for the US Congress.

His intellectual aim was to explore notions of corruption broader than the popular conception of backhanders, and to illuminate how institutions are subject to a more subtle but potentially insidious corruption through ‘dependence corruption’: the deviation from the purpose of an institution.

Such corruption can either directly weaken the effectiveness of the institution or it can weaken the public trust in the institution.

‘Independent’ institutions cannot and should not avoid dependence altogether. Indeed, institutions have ‘a proper dependence’ (democracies should depend on the views of the people; courts on the neutral interpretation of the law).

Independence is compromised when that dependence deviates from its proper root.  Just as when a magnet is placed next to the needle of a compass, an institution is corrupted when it is steered away from its intended aim. Professor Lessig’s second point was that trust is a function of independence. (more…)

Media regulation: time to turn the mirror of transparency?

news editor29 November 2012

Written by Anna Donovan, PhD student at UCL Laws.

We should fret less about state versus self regulation and think much more carefully about how best to protect speech. This was the lesson of the Centre for Ethics and Law’s annual lecture on 28 November, which considered the question of media freedoms and media standards.

The lecture was presented by Baroness Onora O’Neill, chaired by UCL’s Professor Richard Moorhead and had contributions from Gill Philips and Professor Ian Hargreaves CBE.

(more…)

What is modern slavery?

news editor2 November 2012

Written by Neil Rodger, UCL Communications Manager

So, what is modern slavery? That was the question posed in a Lunch Hour Lecture given by Dr Virginia Mantouvalou (UCL Laws), Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights.

Dr Mantouvalou takes the stance that forms of slavery exist in the UK and Europe today – particularly in the area that falls under the catch-all title of ‘domestic work’.

Domestic work can mean anything from care of children or the elderly, to cooking, cleaning and gardening. She explained that some of these domestic workers have their passports taken away and are often denied permission to leave the house.

Some even struggle to get enough food and water.

(more…)

The Ethics of Human Rights Philanthropy

news editor11 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.

(more…)