Dr Cooper presents at Waternet Symposium, Namibia

Nathan Oct

This week Dr Nathan Cooper is in Swakopmund, Namibia, speaking at the annual Waternet Symposium on sustainable water resources and water governance. Nathan’s paper, ‘Using SMART pumps to improve access to water in rural Gambia: Reflections on the importance of theory and fieldwork in achieving SDG 6’ draws on recent fieldwork in The Gambia, trialing ‘MANTIS’ telemetry technology to remotely monitor the performance of water pumps in rural areas.

There is significant potential for such technology to improve reliable access to water for rural communities. But the paper seeks to reflect not only on such potential, but also on the many challenges (including technological, financial, and relational) facing those involved in pioneering new water technologies, as we seek to upscale from proof of concept, towards resilient and sustainable solutions that are adequately embedded in the social, cultural, and legal context of communities, and which consequently, will assist in achieving ‘universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all’ by 2030 (Sustainable Development Goal 6).

The emergence of new telemetry technology that can remotely monitor water pumps constitutes a novel and cost-efficient alternative to undertaking regular site visits. Smart pump technology like MANTIS, has been developed specifically to monitor the performance of water pumps and to communicate this information swiftly and cheaply using SMS messages and dashboard display. Led by a UK-based company, MANTIS is being developed and applied with support from universities and NGOs, and in partnership with the Gambian government, Department of Water Resources. This represents an instructive example of the importance of partnerships in seeking to meet development objectives like improved access to water (as emphasized in Sustainable Development Goal 17) but it also illustrates some of the complexities related to working with a broad range of actors.

The paper reports on the technological progress of MANTIS to-date, as well as reflecting on what some of the partners have learned in the process of taking technology from the ‘lab’ to the ‘field’, in order to help direct and inspire similar projects in the future.

Catalan Independence: A Comment

Catalonia unilaterally declared independence without the permission of Spain. There is a long and historical debate as to when a region of a country can “secede” and become independent. I won’t enter into that history here but simply note that this situation is very different from the Scottish attempt to become independent through a referendum a few years ago. Then, the referendum was authorised by the UK Parliament and if it had been successful, the UK Parliament would have (likely) not stood in Scotland’s way to become independent.

In this case, everything Catalonia has done has been unilateral and against the express wishes of Spain; its sovereign.

In international law, the so-called principle of self-determination says all peoples have the right to self-determination but ordinarily in the case of a region within a country, that is limited to self-government. There is a debate whether if the country prevents self-government, especially through military force, it might have the right to claim independence. Despite some evidence of Spanish police force at the time of the referendum, there is nothing to substantiate this (yet).

The International Court has been very clear that declarations of independence – of themselves – are not prohibited by international law (Kosovo Advisory Opinion 2010). But whether they result in a successful independent State is another matter. That largely depends on recognition – and in this case, countries such as the US and the UK have been very quick to refuse it.

So is Catalonia a State? Well, in the absence of recognition by any other State and clearly still subject to Spanish control, it is quite difficult to see how the fourth Montevideo criteria of “capacity to enter into legal relations with other States” (ie political independence) has been met.

Could things change? Yes.

Spain might eventually agree to Catalan independence – this is highly unlikely. And once Spain does this, other States will follow.

Catalonia and Spain may enter into a civil war – let’s hope not. But eventually some States may as a result recognise Catalonia.

Spain may act so harshly towards Catalans now that international sympathy begins to emerge for Catalonia as a State – this is sometimes referred to as “remedial secession”; that the only way out for Catalonia is independence. Unlikely in this situation.

Ironically, the best way for Spain to keep Catalonia within Spain is to give it even more autonomy. But will it?

Duncan French

“Environmental Law at a Crossroads”

Professor Duncan French, Co-Director of Lincoln Centre for Environmental Law & Justice, has recently been involved in two events establishing a paradigmatic shift in environmental law. First, he attended the inaugural and founding event for the Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA) at the University of Siena, Italy. Secondly, he participated via video-link in a global conference based in Montreal between lawyers and economists on the governance challenges of the Anthropocene.

ELGA’s mission is premised on the 2016 “Oslo Manifesto” which recognises that current environmental law is at a crossroads and, on the whole, fails to regulate human activity sufficiently in light of the enormity of impending ecological crises. ELGA thus seeks to promote “ecological law” as a less anthropocentric approach to nature.

The Montreal conference took this idea further, recognising the geological agency of humanity in changing the Earth. Professor French participated in the event, with a particular focus on the role of international dispute settlement in holding States to account as we move towards increasingly seeing the impacts of our shift into he Anthropocene.

Duncan French commented: “it has been truly exciting to contribute to these two events, both of which have explored the limitations of current environmental rules. The Lincoln Centre for Environmental Law & Justice will continue to be involved in these activities, reflecting also its recently work on animal welfare with our Visiting Professor, Professor Werner Scholtz, as well as preparing for welcoming in the New Year of our Marie Curie international fellow, Professor of Environmental Law, Professor Louis Kotze.”

Siena Montreal

Diane Ryland, Animal Welfare Standards in Agriculture

Book - Agricultural Law_Current Issues from a Global Perspective (LITES Legal Series Springer)

Diane Ryland, Senior Lecturer at Lincoln Law School, was recently published in an excellent new book.

Diane Ryland, ‘Animal Welfare Standards in Agriculture: Drivers; Implications; Interface?’ Chapter 9. In Mariagrazia Alabrese et al (eds.) Agricultural Law – Current Issues from a Global Perspective (Springer Legal Issues in Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies Series, 2017) ISBN 978-3-319-64755-5

Dr Stephen Turner: Linkages between Science and Environmental Law

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Dr Stephen Turner recently gave a talk at Aveiro University in Portugal on the linkages between science and environmental law.

The talk explored some of the tensions that exist between the scientific understanding of issues such as deforestation, climate change, air pollution and water quality, and the way that the law itself responds to those challenges.

Thanks are extended to Prof. Teresa Fidelis and her colleagues at the Department of Environment and Planning for the invitation to speak, for the kind hospitality and the privilege of taking part in the anniversary of the doctoral programme.