Key Questions in Human Rights: Debates for the next generation of advocates

19 February 2014, 12:15 - 18:00

Speakers Abstract:

Dr David James Cantor, BA Hons (Cantab), MSc Dist, PhD, is Director and founder of the successful Refugee Law Initiative ( and a Reader in Human Rights Law at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is also an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Future Research Leader and the Editor-in-Chief of the ‘International Refugee Law’ book series published by Martinus Nijhoff.

Sarah Singer, LL.B, LL.M Dist, is an Early Career Academic at the Refugee Law Initiative and Lecturer in Human Rights Law at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Sarah is also Managing Editor of the International Community Law Review, a peer reviewed academic journal published by Martinus Nijhoff. She teaches the law component of the MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights.

Dr Damien Short is Director of the Human Rights Consortium (HRC) and a Senior Lecturer in Human Rights at the School of Advanced Study. He has spent his entire professional career working in the field of human rights, both as a scholar and human rights advocate. He has researched and published extensively in the areas of indigenous peoples’ rights, genocide studies, reconciliation projects and environmental human rights.  He is currently researching the human rights impacts of extreme energy processes (e.g. Tar Sands and Fracking - see our designated HRC website

Jake White began his career working for commercial law firms, but quickly discovered this did not chime with his personal values. After a brief period in the City (advising on intellectual property) he moved into government where he spent 10 years advising on a wide variety of issues for DTI and DECC. This provided a good training and a useful insight into life at the sharp end of a democracy (which is rarely a straight forward place to be).

It was with some relief he moved into the third sector, initially volunteering for a couple of human rights groups in Israel working on issues arising out of the occupation of the Palestinian Territories and latterly, happily with Friends of the Earth. He advises on a variety of issues there (including climate and energy) and spends a fair proportion of his time on fracking.

Dr Julian Burger teaches the optional module ‘Human Rights in Latin America’. Prior to this position Dr Burger headed the programme on indigenous peoples and minorities at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for 20 years. 


Please see description
Organised by:
Human Rights Consortium
Event Type:
Conference / Symposium
The Senate Room (Senate House, First Floor)
Venue Details:

Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU 

Download a map of the central precinct with directions for getting to the University of London Senate House.


This conference aims to introduce key questions, new debates and innovative ways of thinking about human rights to inform the next generation of human rights advocates, professionals and scholars.

Panel I: Refugees and Refugee Law

  • Dr David James Cantor, Director, Refugee Law Initiative
  • Sarah Singer, Refugee Law Initiative 
    Terrorism and rebels with a cause: who is really ‘undeserving’ of refugee protection? 
    The United Nations Security Council has called on States to exclude terrorists from refugee status, but in the absence of a universally agreed definition of ‘terrorism’ it is left to States to decide who a ‘terrorist’ is and which organisations are ‘terrorist’ in nature. In a decade already heavily characterised by uprisings and struggles for self-determination the question of who is excluded from refugee status for their role in armed struggle remains as important as ever. It is therefore crucial that these questions are determined in accordance with principles of international law and are not judged by political assessments as to who is, or is not, fighting on the ‘wrong’ side.
  • Nicholas Maple (alumnus, MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights, ICWS)

Panel II: Extreme Energy: Tar Sands, fracking, and human rights

  • Dr Damien Short, Director, Human Rights Consortium
    Introduction to extreme energy and human rights 
  • Tali Chester, Greenpeace, and Jen Huseman, Institute of Commonwealth Studies
    The Alberta Tar Sands and Indigenous Peoples 
  •  Jake White, Friends of the Earth
    Fracking and the law

Panel III: Business and Human Rights

  • Dr Julian Burger, Lecturer, Human Rights Consortium
    Business and human rights: contradictions and challenges 
  • Eric Gutierrez, Christian Aid
  • Manette Kaisershot, Institute of Commonwealth Studies
  • Peter Frankental, Amnesty International


12.15 - 12.30: welcome and introductions

12.30 – 2pm: Panel I: Refugees and Refugee Law

2.15 – 3.45pm: Panel II: Environmental Justice and Human Rights

4 – 5.30pm: Panel III: Business and Human Rights

5.30 – 6.00pm: Summary of the key debates


This event is free and open to all, however registration is required. Click here to register.

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