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Annual Human Rights Symposium, and Lecture with Prof Conor Gearty


This hybrid symposium gathered leading academic experts who explored contemporary challenges to social and economic or labour rights and the current state of these rights. It was followed by a keynote lecture by the distinguished scholar, Professor Conor Gearty.

The Symposium started with Goldsmiths Law’s Dr Dimitrios Kivotidis and Dr Aristi Volou reflecting on the socio-political backdrop, domestically and internationally, against which our annual symposium on human rights would be situated, while also providing illustrations of how the LLB Law, LLB Law with Politics and Human rights and LLM in International Human Rights programmes in our department place strong emphasis on developing cutting edge knowledge and understand around socio-economic rights.

The panel on social rights, chaired by Dr Aristi Volou.  The first presentation by Dr Koldo Casla emphasised the central importance of the right to property for social and economic rights and the need to re-conceptualise this right, taking examples from domestic law and foreign legal systems. Dr Meghan Campbell’s powerful presentation followed, which highlighted how courts and the society turn a bling eye to women’s socioeconomic inequalities. The need for courts to take a more active role in bringing governments to account was emphasised in Dr Campbell’s presentation. Dr Luke Graham’s presentation brought to the fore the State’s problematic reliance on charitable assistance, which can be seen as a deflection of its responsibility under international law, while Ms Clare James has shown how the right to food is eroded in the UK, an advanced economy, due to the disproportionate number of people lacking access to basic food.

The second panel, on economic and labour rights, was chaired by Dr Dimitrios Kivotidis. Dr Maria Tzanakopoulou kickstarted the debate. Drawing inspiration from recent cases of litigation concerning the rights of workers in the gig economy, such as Uber and Deliveroo, Dr Tzanakopoulou explored different forms of struggle and resistance to algorithmic exploitation. Dr Ioannis Katsaroumpas took up the theme of resistance in his presentation of UK labour law as a ‘tragic hero’, in the original sense of the term, trying in futility to escape a fate of juridification. Approaching the Minimum Service Levels Act 2023 as a potential neoliberal ‘hybris’, Dr Katsaroumpas explored the possible paths of redemption: political, legal, and social. Last but not least, Dr. Ricardo Buendia further solidified the presentation of the Minimum Service Levels Act 2023 as a neoliberal ‘hybris’ by arguing that the Act does not draw inspiration from ILO standards but from dictatorial and neoliberal Chile.

Our annual human rights (keynote) lecture followed, by the ever inspiring, highly distinguished human rights scholar, Professor Conor Gearty, of the LSE and Matrix Chambers, who took us on a journey and showed us the false divide between civil and political rights and socio-economic rights. Professor Gearty emphasised the anachronism of dividing the two sets of rights and called on the European Court of Human Rights to adopt a holistic and an interactional understanding of ECHR rights that draws on socioeconomic rights (and the European Social Charter in particular).

The day ended with the Head of the Law Department, Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, offering concluding observations that brought the themes explored during the day together, to extrapolate from them to the right-wing political climate that has given rise to attacks to the European Court of Human Rights and the ECHR, distracting our academic human rights community, and human rights activists in the UK, from the optimistic, forward-looking work urgently required when we’re confronted with epoch-defying challenges concerning socio-economic rights, at both the domestic and international level.


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