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Projects and activities

The Transnational Law Institute carries out a diverse range of projects and activities.

These activities are organised into three areas of focus: transnational human rights, democracy and the rule of law (TLI-HRs); transnational environmental law (TLI-EL); and transnational health (TLI-Health).

Project outputs include research papers, reports, articles, books, and databases as well as documentaries, audio-visual pieces and web-based pieces in blogs and other digital media.

Our three areas of focus

TLI-HRs focuses on projects that aim to study transnational human rights, democracy and rule of law issues in any topic with particular interest in three main broader areas: race, gender and socioeconomic deprivation.

TLI-EL focuses on projects that aim to investigate the relationship between law and other forms of regulation, the protection and destruction of the environment.

TLI-HEALTH focuses on projects that aim to study transnational legal issues related to health in general, in particular how laws, regulations and human rights impact on and are impacted by these issues.

Transnational Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law

From South Africa and Brazil to the United States and beyond, authoritarian forces are challenging democratic norms and are meeting resistance from domestic and transnational actors. The GRAD Consortium project will study authoritarian developments in selected countries and explore domestic and international resistance to them. Among other countries, we will look into autocratisation processes in Brazil, China, Hungary, India, South Africa and the United States, to name a few examples. The project asks, for example, What are the primary forms of autocratisation taking place today? What are the economic, social and political drivers of autocratisation? What are the sources of transnational resistance to autocratisation, how are they linked to domestic groups, and how effective have they been? The Consortium will be supported by the initial GRAD Partners: the Transnational Law Institute at Kings College London (TLI); the Fundação Getúlio Vargas Law School in Sao Paulo (FGVLAW-SP), the University of Wisconsin Law School (UW), and the Project on Autocratic Legalism (PAL).

Lead: Prof Octávio Ferraz.

A transnational study of the relationship between rights and race, in particular how black and other non-white communities suffer from a deficit of rights and a disproportionate share of state violence across the world and how law and rights may (or not) offer protection to these communities.

This project’s initial aim is to conduct case studies in the UK, the US and Brazil on the theme of police treatment of black people and respect for their human rights.

Collaborators: Patrick Granja (film maker, Brazil), MC Leo (rapper and activist, Brazil), Carlos Alexandre Teixeira da Silva (Capoeira Master and film producer, Brazil)

Publications and outputs: A Troco de Que? (For What Purpose?) – documentary on police killings in shanty-towns in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; ‘Disproportionate’ – research paper assessing the proportionality of state responses to criminality in poor communities in Brazil and in comparative perspective (work in progress)

Lead: Prof Octávio Ferraz.

A transnational study of the relationship between rights and gender, in particular how women and LGBTQ people suffer from a deficit of rights and a lack of state protection against violence across the world and how law and rights may (or not) offer protection to these communities.

This project has already led to a transnational study of the laws and jurisprudence on decriminalisation of abortion and the submission of an amicus curiae petition to the Constitutional Court of Colombia to support a landmark case on the decriminalisation of abortion in that country. (for details see the Transnational Legal Clinic below).

Publication: Research Paper ‘Abortion Decriminalization across the World’, prepared in collaboration with students participating in the Transnational Legal Clinic in 2020-21.

Lead: Prof Parosha Chandran.

A transnational research project surveying the adoption in legislation and court decisions of the ‘non-punishment’ principle of the international law of modern slavery.

This project started in the wake of the landmark decision of the European Court of Human Rights in V.C.L. and A.N. v United Kingdom, in which Prof Chandran represented one of the victims.

Publications: research paper on how the principle of ‘non-punishment’ is implemented in selected countries (work in progress)

Lead: Prof Octávio Ferraz.

A transnational study of the relationship between rights, poverty and inequality, focusing on how law in general and rights in particular can be both an instrument to combat poverty and diminish inequality but also to hinder progress or even make things worse.

The project has started with a grant from the British Council Newton Fund and the organisation of an international workshop in Brasilia in 2018 bringing together 30 early career academics based in Brazil and the UK to discuss work in progress.

Collaborator: Jeff King (UCL)

Publications: report on ‘The Laws of Inequality’ surveying how law has helped and hindered equality in selected countries (work in progress)

Lead: Dr Emily Barritt and Dr Carmen Pavel.

- This collaborative project unpicks the policy choices made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, analysing the way power has been used and abused by governments across the globe. The aim of the project is to draft a set of principles to help guide how governments should respond to emergencies like pandemics.

Collaborators: Centre for the Study of Governance and Society (King’s College London)

Publications: blog piece for the Lex Atlas and research paper (work in progress)

LLM related modules: Transnational Human Rights Law in Transnational and International Perspective; Law and Practise of Modern Slavery; Authoritarianism, Populism and the Law; The Law and Practice of the United Nations: Edging towards Transnational Constitutionalism?; International Refugee Law; Business and Human Rights; Transnational & International Criminal Law; Transnational Human Rights Litigation

Transnational Environmental Law (TLI-EL)

What roles can law - in particular environmental laws – play in advancing our sustainable future, one of humanity’s most urgent priorities in the 21st century? This is the overarching question inspiring this new Transnational Law Institute research project led by Professor Octávio Ferraz. The main aim of the project is to survey the normative landscape of laws and regulations aimed at protecting the environment (including the protection of biodiversity, measures to tackle pollution of the air, water and earth and measures to address climate change) across the world from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective and with a focus on "law in action", that is, on the effectiveness of the normative regime and the factors that facilitate or hinder its effectiveness. Continuing the TLI’s tradition of partnering with people and institutions within and outside the legal world and within and outside KCL, this project will seek to work with collaborators from across the globe interested on these questions and approaching them from a variety of perspectives.

Impact investments and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) benchmarks have become common objectives for both governments, investors and companies around the Globe after the United Nations (UN) launched their 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The TLI’s ESG Transnational Regulation - Applied Research, Seminars, and Workshops project, led by Dr Paulo Todescan Lessa Mattos, Visiting Researcher at TLI, has the objective to bring together academics, policy makers, government officials and private actors such as creditors, fund managers and corporate executives that are thinking, designing and/or operating institutions concerned with ESG global change.

The main two questions to be addressed are:

1. How to create incentives through transnational economic regulation, public policies and tax systems to foster capital allocation (a) on the use of more sustainable materials in the industries and global supply chains, (b) on the development of more sustainable products and services capable of changing consumer behaviors and the adoption of a full global circular economy, and (c) on the global use of renewable energy to power up industries and social life?

2. How to create an ESG transnational regulatory framework and new governance to avoid and monitor global warming and environmental destruction within the rule of law and metrics of human development, environmental impacts and quality and access to public services?

Lead: Dr Emily Barritt.

In 2018 a group of young Colombians won an history legal victory in the Supreme Court of Justice. The subsequent ruling not only compelled the Colombian government to bring deforestation of the Amazon to net zero by 2020, but also stated that the court would ‘recognise the Colombian Amazon as an entity, subject of rights,’ granting the rainforest legal rights as if it were a human.

This collaborative project uses interviews with the claimants and extracts from the judgement to create a film telling the story of how the Colombian Amazon was given a legal personality. Collaborators: Mark Knightly (theatre maker and artistic director of Crowded Room theatre company)

Publications: 360 degree film on the rights of nature

Lead: Dr Emily Barritt.

Environmental law across the globe is increasingly considering the spiritual dimensions of humanity’s relationship with the environment. From the recognition of the spiritual aspects of environmental protection to the bestowal of rights on sacred, natural sights, the mystic is now an important feature of many innovations in environmental law.

The project has two key features. The first is a theoretical account of what spirituality is in the context of environmental law. The second part showcases and unpacks transnational examples where spiritual considerations have shaped the formation of the law, with reference to examples where the belief systems of Indigenous cultures has helped to develop these legal innovations.

Publications: research paper (work in progress)

Leads: Dr Emily Barritt and Prof. Octávio Ferraz.

This project surveys and analyses environmental litigation, a fast-growing phenomenon, across the world and with a particular focus on countries of the so-called "global south".

Collaborators: Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE)

Publications: the project has published an annotated bibliography of resources related to climate litigation in the Global South. This bibliography has been developed by Professor Melanie Jean Murcott, Dr. Maria Antonia Tigre, Şimal Efsane Erdoğan, Lavinia Bhaskaruni and Felix LeRoux.

Lead: Prof. Octávio Ferraz.

This project explores the transnational legal protection of rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands and its relationship with environmental preservation and climate change reduction.

Collaborators: Clean Trade, Prof. Leif Wenar (Stanford) and Jeremy Gilbert (Roehampton, UK).

Bibliography of Climate Litigation in the Global South

LLM related modules: Global Law of Climate Change; Oceans Governance

Transnational Health (TLI-HEALTH)

Leads: Prof Octávio Ferraz and Prof Jeff King (UCL).

A collaboration between the TLI, UCL, the Max Planck Institute and a major network of 60 country teams across the world, exploring legal responses to the coronavirus pandemic in 60 countries.

Discover more on the LAC19 website, which includes country profile pages, blogs, analytical insights and datasets. The LAC19 has generous financial support from the AHRC. Collaborators: Prof Jeff King (UCL) and Pedro Vilarreal (Max Planck Institute)

Publications: Oxford Compendium on National Legal Responses to Covid-19, published open access here

Lead: Prof Octávio Ferraz.

A transnational study of the role of the internationally recognised right to health in improving population health across the world, in particular whether and how law and litigation can make a positive impact.

This project includes research, publications and events on the right to health. Workshops have been held in São Paulo in partnership with the University of São Paulo, in Washington in collaboration with Georgetown University and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and at King’s in collaboration with the School of Global Health and Social Medicine.

This project has received support from a King’s Together Grant. Publications: Special section of Health and Human Rights (Harvard School of Public Health) on Health Litigation in Latin America; The right to health in the new Chilean Constitution, forthcoming (in collaboration with Jude Bueno de Mesquita, Essex University).

LLM related modules: Transnational Human Rights Law in Transnational and International Perspective

Related Event: Pandemics and Inequality: the ethical, legal and policy challenges of tackling COVID-19 in an unequal world 2020-21

The Transnational Legal Clinic

The Transnational Legal Clinic (TLC) is a legal clinic working in collaboration with civil society organisations and actors from across the world, to produce campaigns and litigation aimed at social transformation. The Clinic is made up of staff and students from the Transnational Law Institute, enabling students the chance to apply their learning and develop skills in a real world context.

Read the full text of the decision of the Constitutional Court of Colombia regarding abortions (Spanish), following the Amicus Curiae brief prepared by the Transnational Legal Clinic.


Lex-Atlas: Covid-19

Lex-Atlas: Covid-19

A global academic project tracking and analysing worldwide legal responses to Covid-19.