Professor Craig Barker, Director of the Centre for Responsibilities, Rights and the Law at the University of Sussex


Welcome to the official blog of the Centre for Responsibilities, Rights and the Law based at the University of Sussex. The Centre was created in 2008 by members of the Sussex Law School with the aim of facilitating and developing doctrinal, theoretical and empirical research into responsibilities, rights and the law. The Centre is thus distinctive in exploring national, European and international aspects of human rights from a variety of perspectives along with questions of responsibility both as a legal concept and more generally. One of the primary aims of the Centre is to engage with end users, policy makers, government bodies, agencies and NGOs, responding to developments in law and policy in responsibilities and rights. One of the purposes of this blog is to facilitate such engagement, through the development of several streams of activity.

The Centre for Responsibilities, Rights and the Law

The initial work of the Centre was focused around ideas of Family Responsibilities and members of the Centre have made a distinctive contribution to the theorising, academic analysis of, and debates on responsibility as well as rights in family law and policy. A series of seminars and academic conferences resulted in a number of publications in which the concept of responsibility in relation to the family has been developed. Key texts include Responsibility, Law and the Family (2008), Children, Family Responsibilities and the State (2008), Taking Responsibility, Law and the Changing Family (2011), and Regulating Family Responsibility (2011) all published by Ashgate and variously edited by Jo Bridgeman, Heather Keating and Craig Lind. The family lawyers are continuing to examine various aspects of responsibility in family relationships.

 The second major stream of activity in the Centre’s recent work has been in relation to Human Rights. The Centre has considerable expertise in relation to the European Human Rights Regime, and a number of Centre members are currently engaged in research focusing on rights developments in the UK. Amir Paz-Fuchs’s book, Welfare to Work: Conditional Rights in Social Policy (OUP, 2007) addresses that particular theme. Within the Centre, the Human Rights Stream has organised a number of events including events focused on the human rights of minorities and migrants and on the issue of gender equality. Centre members have also engaged extensively with the debates within government – both the previous Labour administration and current Coalition government – on the development of a UK Bill of Rights. Susan Millns, in her capacity as Co-Director of the Sussex European Institute, secured a €20,000 grant from the European Commission for a series of events on the theme of ‘Connecting with Citizens’ to run from 2013-14. In January 2013 Elizabeth Craig was awarded a tender for research on cultural rights in post-conflict societies, with a particular focus on Northern Ireland, by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. This project was completed in July 2013.

Two further streams have been developed in recent months focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and on International Responsibilities. Work in the Centre in relation to CSR is focused on the development of the notion of CSR though corporate law, insolvency law and securities regulations, the latter stream is currently focusing on the notion of “Responsibility to Protect” while developing an interdisciplinary project on responsibility dialogues and a further project examining responsibility discourses in international law. A brand new stream on Criminal Law, Criminal Justice and Criminology (CCC) has just been created within the Centre. As with each of our existing streams, the new stream aims to support individual research, as well as to promote and foster collaborative work and the attraction of external funding.

Further information about the Centre and its streams and activities can be found at the Centre website.

Human Rights Day – 10 December 2013

 We have chosen 10 December 2013 as the day to launch our blog in recognition of the work of the United Nations in the field of Human Rights and to mark Human Rights Day for 2013. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 and the first Human Rights Day was declared on 10 December 1950. The UNDHR, as supplemented by the two 1966 Covenants, remains the preeminent international instrument on human rights and it is an instrument on which much of the work of the Centre rests.

human rights day

This year also marks the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and, thus, of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the Vienna Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993. The theme of this year’s Human Rights Day marks the work of that Office and the importance of the Vienna Declaration. This 100 paragraph document highlights many of the areas of human rights law in which members of the Centre are engaged. In addition to directly reaffirming “the responsibilities of all States, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to develop and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion” (Preamble), the Declaration also confirms the right to development and freedom from environmental harm (Paragraphs 10 & 11) as well as the human rights of women (paragraph 18) and of children (Paragraph 21) as well as the rights of minorities (Paragraph 19), all of which are primary concerns of the members of the Centre directly concerned with human rights issues. Furthermore, the concern expressed in the Declaration about continued gross and massive violations of human rights (Paragraphs 28-30) constitute part of the focus of researchers in the Centre examining the concept of responsibility in international law. To that end, we seek, together, “to contribute further to increasing public awareness of human rights issues, to the conduct of education, training and research in this field, and to the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Paragraph 38).

The Blog

The purpose of this blog is to provide a forum for debate and discussion about rights and responsibilities in current legal discourse. Members of the Centre will regularly post about their work but the blog will be open to non-members wishing to contribute to the work of the Centre. Colleagues and students from Sussex and beyond are invited to contribute posts and join in discussions. Suggested posts should be forwarded in the first instance to Amir Paz-Fuchs.

We look forward to developing a vibrant, topical and challenging dialogue through this medium.

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