Highlights from our work in this area:

International Law and Corporate Actors in Deep Seabed Mining - Dr Joanna Dingwall

The deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction (known as the Area) comprises almost three-quarters of the entire surface area of the oceans, and it is home to an array of prized commodities including valuable metals and rare earth elements. In recent years, there has been a marked growth in deep seabed investment by private corporate actors and an increasing impetus towards exploitation. This book by Dr Joanna Dingwall addresses the unresolved legal challenges which this increasing corporate activity will raise over the coming years, including in relation to matters of common management, sustainability, benefit-sharing, marine environmental protection, and investment protection. Acting under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the International Seabed Authority is responsible for regulating the Area for the benefit of humanity and granting mining contracts. A product of its history, the UNCLOS deep seabed regime is an unlikely hybrid of capitalist and communist values, embracing the role of private actors while enshrining principles of resource distribution. As technological advances begin to outstrip legal developments, this book assesses the tension between corporate commercial activity in the Area and the achievement of the common heritage.

Oxford Monograph in International Law

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Publication date: July, 2021

ISBN: 9780192898265

Re-costing the Earth: Indigenous Governance of Silviculture in Southern Mexico and the Redesign of ‘Sustainable Development’ Consultation and Impact Assessment - Dr Anna Chadwick

Dr Anna Chadwick works in the fields of law and international development and international economic governance. Her research examines the obstacles to achieving sustainable and equitable food systems under current legal and institutional structures of food governance, and she uses an intra-legal approach to examine tensions between legal regimes that govern the global economy and financial system and the commitments made by states under international human rights law and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Anna is Co-Director of the Food Sovereignty Network at the University of Glasgow. She is working with colleagues in the arts and humanities, local farmers and growing communities, NGOs, and grassroots activists to co-develop research on scaling-up alternative food systems, as well as to identify and map local obstacles to achieving food sovereignty. The Food Sovereignty Network is working with resident artists to democratise the debate about food governance, and to communicate findings to the wider public. During COP2026, the Food Sovereignty Network will host ‘Growing Glasgow’ –  a screening of commissioned artworks realised in partnership with Arts Lab and the Dear Green Bothy project featuring of a documentary by filmmaker Zev Robinson and an animated conceptual map of food sovereignty by artist Trasi Henen. 

Anna is Co-I on a SRC-GCRF funded project, ‘Re-costing the earth: indigenous governance of silviculture in Southern Mexico and the redesign of ‘sustainable development’ consultation and impact assessment’ (Research Team: PI. Dr Julia McClure UoG, Co-Is, Dr Emma Cardwell, Prof, Peter Rosset, Dr Omar Filipe Giraldo) The project works with local communities in Mexico who are challenging the sustainable credentials of ‘Sembrando Vida’—an agroforestry, agroecology and biodiversity programme. Despite the participatory, sustainable development rhetoric of the programme, community organizations express grave concerns about Sembrando Vida as destructive of indigenous and peasant social fabric, and leading to increased environmental degradation. The Mexican government has made a legal commitment to inclusive government, but current processes of consultation are superficial, legitimating a pre-defined development agenda. Though Sembrando Vida rhetorically acknowledges the importance of traditional agroecological landscape governance (such as the milpa system) communities feel they are being co-opted into a state-led valuation scheme of economic maximisation that fails to do justice to indigenous and peasant governance practices. Responding directly to these community concerns, Re-Costing the Earth aims to understand the impacts of Sembrando Vida ‘on the ground’ and to advance understanding how this gap between policy and practice can be understood. Through partnership with local communities and non-governmental groups, developed through two previous SFC GCRF projects, the research team is exploring the way community governance reflects traditional value regimes (economic, social, political, and religious), and how these can be taken into account to enable proper consultations, accurate environmental impact ‘costings’, and to prevent the “perverse incentives” reported by local communities in response to Sembrando Vida.

Anna is also a member of the Glasgow Water Cluster – an interdisciplinary group of scholars working on the challenges threatening water systems and supplies in the context of climate change. Anna will be co-hosting a workshop on The Value of Water together with Professor Minty Donald and Dr Jill Robbie in May 2022.

International Inspections (Hague Academy of International Law)- Professor Christian J. Tams

This co-edited volume brings together 16 chapters analysing the diversity of inspections regime, from international environmental law to disarmament law and treaties protecting particularly sensitive areas (eg Antarctica).  The volume has grown out of the 2018 Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations of the Hague Academy of International Law, co-directed by Professor Christian J. Tams.  It will be published by Brill/Nijhoff in 2022.  

The International Legal Regime Governing Offshore Windfarms - Professor Christian J. Tams

This project analyses the rights of neighbouring States potentially affected by offshore windfarms. It assesses the different regimes providing for structured forms of neighbourly cooperation – from the UN Law of the Sea Convention to the Espoo and Arhus Conventions. Drawing on the case-law of international tribunals and the practice of treaty review committees, it highlights how contemporary international law strikes the balance between (a) coastal State rights to pursue renewable energy projects, and (b) neughbouring States’ rights to participate in the decision-making process, notably in a transboudary EIA procedure.

Status: on-going research

Sustainable Management of Water Resources in the Context of Climate Change - Dr Jill Robbie

Access to water is crucial for the human rights to life, health and an adequate standard of living. However, currently, 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water and 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries. Climate change will also increase uncertainty regarding the availability, reliability and quality of fresh water supplies. Dr Robbie was part of a team of experts which analysed the right to water for food and agriculture in a legislature study for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2020, which also considered the impact of climate change on the governance of water. Please see more details here

The water sector in the Western world is based on a model of centralised infrastructure. However, this model has high energy, capital and maintenance costs which are not compatible with a global net-zero economy. Dr Robbie is part of a multi-disciplinary team researching the implementation of de-centralised water technologies for sustainable rural communities. This project is funded by EPSRC and seeks to create de-centralised water and wastewater treatment systems which are affordable and low energy, reliable, easily maintained, safe, effective and desirable. Read more here.