Taking Stock of the European Social Charter at 60

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An event marking the 60th anniversary of the 1961 European Social Charter

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The University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre, together with the  Roma Tre Centro Internazionale di Ricerca ‘Diritto e Globalizzazione and the European Social Charter Department of the Council of Europe, invite you to an event marking the 60th anniversary of the 1961 European Social Charter. Featuring expert speakers, this workshop will focus on ‘taking stock’ of the Charter and the work of its supervisory body – the European Committee of Social Rights – so far. 

The European Social Charter system is the oldest and most wide-ranging instrument providing for social rights in Europe. From the gender pay gap to the rights of migrants and unaccompanied children, from older persons’ rights to right to strike, the Charter has proved a living instrument capable of engaging with the challenges faced by Europeans in the 60 years since its adoption. Despite this, the system remains frequently neglected and misunderstood both by social rights and European human rights law actors. This event will both celebrate and critique the European Social Charter system in light of the legal, social and political factors that have shaped it since 1961.  

Speakers will address:

  • Key thematic areas in terms of the European Social Charter, including older person’s rights, children’s rights, the right to health, and equality and non-discrimination
  • The European Social Charter’s contribution to a European model of Social Rights
  • Key institutional developments throughout the history of the system

Download the full programme.

Speakers include:

Colm O’Cinneide - Turbulence as Potential: The Past, Present and Future Role of the European Social Charter in Europe

Colm O’Cinneide is Professor of Constitutional and Human Rights Law at University College London (UCL). A graduate of University College Cork, the University of Edinburgh and King’s Inns in Dublin, he has published extensively in the field of comparative constitutional, human rights and anti-discrimination law. He has also acted as specialist legal adviser to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Women & Equalities Committee of the UK Parliament, and advised a range of international organisations including the UN, ILO and the European Commission. He also was from 2006-16 a member of the European Committee on Social Rights of the Council of Europe (serving as Vice-President of the Committee 2010-4), and since 2008 has been a member of the academic advisory board of Blackstone Chambers in London.

Tonia Novitz - How the ESC Progresses ILO standards - A Brief Historical Journey

Tonia Novitz is Professor of Labour Law at the University of Bristol. A graduate of the University of Canterbury (Christchurch, New Zealand) and Balliol College, Oxford, she has held fellowships at the International Institute for Labour Studies (Geneva), the European University Institute (Florence), the University of Melbourne and the University of Auckland. She is currently chair of the steering committee of the Labour Law Research Network (LLRN), a UK representative on the advisory board of International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW), a member of the executive committee of the Industrial Law Society, as well as a Vice President of the UK Institute of Employment Rights. Her research interests encompass labour rights, international and EU trade, sustainability and migration. She was a participant in an EU Horizon 2020 project on Sustainable Market Actors for Responsible Trade (SMART) at the University of Oslo (2017 - 2020); and is providing an international and UK comparative perspective on a Swedish Research Council funded project on ‘inclusive and sustainable Swedish labour law - the ways ahead’ (2018 – 2021).

Keith Ewing - Brexit, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the European Social Charter

Keith Ewing is Professor of Public Law at King's College, London since 1989; previously at Universities of Cambridge (1983-1989) and Edinburgh (1978-1983). Author or co-author of several books on Labour Law and Constitutional Law, including A W Bradley K D Ewing and C J S Knight (Constitutional and Administrative Law, 17th ed, 2018). President of the Institute of Employment Rights, and President of the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom.

Aoife Nolan - Of indivisibility and interdependence: Children’s Rights under the European Social Charter

Aoife Nolan is Professor of International Human Rights Law and Co-Director of the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham. Professor Nolan’s professional experience in human rights and constitutional law straddles the legal, policy, practitioner and academic fields. She is Vice-President of the Council of Europe's European Committee of Social Rights, which she joined in 2017. In 2018, she served on the Scottish First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership and in 2019-20 was a member of the Scottish Government’s UNCRC Working Group to input on the best model of incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scottish law. She has published extensively in the areas of human rights and constitutional law, particularly in relation to children's rights and economic and social rights. She currently leads a major three-year international research project on ‘Advancing Child Rights Strategic Litigation’. Professor Nolan has acted as an expert advisor to a wide range of international and national organisations and bodies working on human rights issues, including numerous UN Special Procedures, UN treaty bodies, the Council of Europe, multiple NHRIs and NGOs. She has held visiting positions at academic institutions in Europe, Africa, the US and Australia. She is an Academic Expert member at Doughty Street Chambers where she co-leads the Children’s Rights Group.

Gerard Quinn - Active Citizenship & Social Rights: a 21st Century Agenda for the European Social Charter as it applies to Older Persons

Gerard Quinn was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Human Rights Council in October 2020. He holds two research chairs at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute on Human Rights in the University of Lund (Sweden) and Leeds University (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). He previously held a chair at the National University of Ireland where he founded and directed the Centre on Disability Law & Policy. In Ireland, he served as a member of the Irish Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities, Ireland Human Rights Commission, and on the Council of State. Prof. Quinn was the lead ‘focal point’ for the global network of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) during the negotiations leading to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was head of delegation for Rehabilitation International during the UN Working Group (2004).

Karin Lukas - The European Social Charter and Equality

Karin Lukas is President of the European Committee of Social Rights and Senior Researcher a the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights, Vienna. She has been a consultant for various national and international organisations, such as the UN Development Programme and the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. She has done research as well as project-related activities in the field of human rights, in particular women’s rights, development cooperation and business since 2001. Ms. Lukas holds an LL.M. in Gender and the Law (Washington College of Law), an E.MA. in Human Rights and Democratisation (University of Padova) and a PhD in Law (University of Vienna).

Michael O’Flaherty - The European Social Charter and Human Rights Protection in the European Union

Michael O’Flaherty is Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights since 2015. He is a former Professor of Human Rights at the University of Nottingham and the National University of Ireland, Galway. From 2004 to 2012 he was a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, latterly as Vice-Chair. Mr O’Flaherty has held a variety of other positions at the United Nations, both at headquarters and in the field, in which connection he witnessed, reported on, and sought to mitigate human rights abuses in such places as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sierra Leone. He has also served as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, as Chairperson of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, and as Vice-Chair of the Universal Rights Group. A solicitor of the Irish Courts, O’Flaherty received his Doctor of Laws from the National University of Ireland and holds degrees in international relations, philosophy, and theology.

Giuseppe Palmisano - Improving the functioning of the treaty system of the ESC: a work in progress

Giuseppe Palmisano (PhD in International Law, University of Milan), former President and currently General Rapporteur of the European Committee of Social Rights, is Professor of International Law and International Human Rights Law at the University of Roma Tre, where is also member of the Executive Board of the International Research Centre on “Law and Globalization”. He started his professional career as an assistant to the Special Rapporteur on State responsibility at the International Law Commission of the United Nations. From 2004 to 2008, he was the Director of the Department of legal and political studies at the University of Camerino (Italy), and from 2012 to 2018 the Director of the Institute for International Legal Studies of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR). In 2018-2019, he was the Vice-President of the Italian Society of International Law and EU Law. He is member of the Advisory Boards of the following legal journals: “Diritto pubblico comparato ed europeo”, “La Comunità internazionale”, Jura Gentium”, “Rivista di diritto dell'integrazione e unificazione del diritto in Eurasia e in America Latina”. His research activity, documented by more than 70 works, focuses on human rights, self-determination of peoples, State responsibility and dispute settlement in International Law.

Claire Lougarre - The interpretation of the right to health in the European Social Charter: 60 years on

Dr Claire Lougarre is a Lecturer in Human Rights Law at Southampton Law School and the Director of the research centre Health, Ethics and Law. Her primary research expertise lies at the intersection of human rights law and health, with a particular focus on the legal content of the right to health, including its interpretation in the Council of Europe. She has provided consultancy services to the Council of Europe, submitted evidence to UK Parliament, and is currently working on the role of the right to health in the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Harris - The Charter's Early Progress

Professor David Harris is founder and Co-Director of the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham. He taught Public International Law at The University of Nottingham for 40 years before becoming Professor Emeritus in 2003. Professor Harris has served as a member of the Committee of Independent Experts of the European Social Charter. He has also acted as a consultant for several Council of Europe projects advising accession states on implementing the European Convention on Human Rights. He has published numerous key works on the ECHR and international law, most recently the Fourth Edition of Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (with Michael O'Boyle, Ed Bates and Carla Buckley).

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