Transnational Justice: activism, practice, theory

Transnational Justice conference at Kings, LondonBefore talking about Transnational Justice let’s first remember the obvious, simply that we are ruled by laws. So the major kinds of injustice in the world must need to be addressed in partnership with progressive sectors of legal theory and practice. This is something which us creative activists do too little of.

Last month I was presenting the work I do at a very worthwhile conference on political and legal justice connecting with environment, economy, health, migration, equality, activism and arts, the Transnational Law Summit at King’s College London. More info about this is at .

Keynote presenters included Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and Dexter Dias QC. Panel presenters like myself included the well known ecoliteracy guru Fritjof Capra, Nick Flynn from Avaaz and Jannie Staffansson from the Saami Council. Well funded (and equally well dressed) the conference had the air of being high profile with the strong intention of supporting justice for the future.

Transnational Justice – game-change for climate justice?

Transnational Justice conference at Kings, LondonI’m not going to attempt a full review or critique of the conference, but the session I found really compelling was titled ‘Climate Change and Court Rooms’. Was this the beginning of major shifts in reparatory forces to gain justice for damage to communities and to counter climate change? The outline intro and presenters for the session were as follows:

‘Courts are a key site for resolving disputes over environmental issues and for developing and interpreting environmental norms. In the last decade, litigation has become a key tool to promote climate justice. This workshop explores the nuances and complexities of climate change cases across jurisdictions and will consider the key challenges and barriers faced in climate litigation, its role within wider policy debates, and the future of such litigation.

Sophie Marjanac, ClientEarth
Nick Flynn, Avaaz
Brian Preston, Land and Environment Court of New South Wales
Gerry Liston, Global Legal Action Network
Fiona Haines, University of Melbourne
Moderated by Julia Dehm, La Trobe University School of Law’

Sophie Marjanac from Client Earth explained that the Science of extreme probabilistic event attribution has improved. It now can identify human causes to a high level of accuracy (though less so for storms). They can now also predict the probability for future events, so that infrastructure can be required in advance.

The limitations are that it doesn’t tell us WHO created the damaging emissions. However there are separate studies that DO look at which ‘actors’ are responsible. Then there were presentations about legal cases where citizens are increasingly able to take action against states, governments and multinationals with reference to cases in Peru, Pakistan, Colombia and Australia.

This area of transnational justice seems to have moved on massively in the last few years and it could begin to change the game due climate change, though yes – expect fight back from the big boys as always.

Migrant Justice – a daunting struggle

Transnational Justice conference at Kings, LondonIn contrast I was disappointed by the plenary presentations regarding migration (see picture on the right), with such little attention given to the wider driving contexts surrounding the issue.

The panel I was in luckily cut through this, being titled ‘Colonialism, Borders and Migrant Justice’. The intro text and presenters for this section were:

‘This workshop will consider the place of law in projects of migrant justice and will ask what forms of migrant justice look like in light of the multifaceted legacies of empire and ongoing state acts of expulsion and dispossession in contemporary places of settler colonialism. We’ll aim to unpack how ideas and projects of migrant justice are currently being articulated and practised by different actors and within various communities within and across settler colonial contexts, as well as how these may align with recognition of Indigenous sovereignties, laws and anti-colonial projects more generally.

Nandita Sharma, University of Hawaii
Kooj Chuhan, Virtual Migrants Project
Dorothy Guerrero, Global Justice Now
Moderated by Sara Dehm, University of Technology Sydney’

Some of the issues I raised included the phenomenon of refugee narratives generating a fetishism of the refugee experience.  I stated that dominant political leanings and legal forces rely on the support of popular and cultural attitudes, and then asked: What forms those attitudes? What is cultural justice for migrants? What is the role of artists and creative practitioners towards migrant justice?

Hopefully I’ll have some time to write this up properly one day, but life dictates that practical action and survival come first.

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