Project Overview & Project Team

PROPERTY[IN]JUSTICE investigates the role of international law in creating spatial justice and injustice through its conception of property rights in land. In going beyond traditional legal analysis to include interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives, the project aims to push the boundaries of property and advocate more place-based understandings of land across international law. 


The past decade has witnessed a steady increase in land acquisitions for food production, resource extraction and development across the globe. International law plays a multifarious, sometimes contradictory, role in this regard. On the one hand, it facilitates the treatment of land as commodity through trade and investment, while on the other, it recognises the importance of land(scape) as the mainstay for peoples’ livelihood, culture, environment, and way of life. Despite the recognition of the collective right to property for indigenous peoples, access to justice remains a major challenge for many communities facing destruction of their local landscapes worldwide.

Law and geography have always been far more intertwined than is often suggested in the current international law scholarship. Property rights have defined global power relations since the period of European expansion, and the institution of property, and how it has changed over time, is itself a reflection of global and local people-place relations. This project argues that it is time to once again reconsider property in light of the global sustainability crisis, mass migration to cities (in part as a result of land insecurity and rural poverty), and the unsustainable way in which property has been utilized in large-scale land transactions. In addition, a study of property is also timely because of the normative developments taking place within human rights jurisprudence, which increasingly recognize the social, cultural and environmental dimensions to land. This provides momentum in international law scholarship and offers the possibility of asserting some equivalence within property regarding multiple dimensions of land.


In investigating how international law facilitates spatial justice and injustice through its conceptualisation of property rights, the project has three main objectives:

  1. Analyse the synergies and antagonisms between different spheres of international law affecting access to land and assess the impact of these areas on domestic practice.
  2. Assess the use and adaptation of international norms by local communities to access land, claim land or reject development affecting their land; and 
  3. Apply interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives to advocate for more socially-just interpretations of property in land.

It does this through 4 interrelated subprojects:

  1. Placing property 
  2. Complicating property 
  3. Engaging property
  4. Expanding property




Amanda Byer (Postdoctoral Researcher)


Placing Property

Amanda Byer is an environmental lawyer from Grenada. She holds a PhD in Cultural Heritage Law from Leiden University, the Netherlands and an LLM in Environmental Law from University College London.  Amanda’s research interests lie at the intersection of land, law and spatial justice, with particular reference to small island developing states. Her doctoral research (monograph forthcoming from Sidestone Press) involved a legal geographical analysis of heritage, planning and environmental laws in the English-speaking Lesser Antilles. It considered the importance of local relationships with heritage to community cohesion and livelihoods and looked to the protection of landscape via procedural environmental rights (PER) to protect these resources. Amanda was subsequently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at New York University School of Law, where she explored the role of PER in the Escazú Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean and its European counterpart the Aarhus Convention.

Within PROPERTY[IN]JUSTICE, Amanda is tracing the conceptual origins of land as property in international law, from its emergence in the common law to its crystallization during the post-1945 period in the UN and regional human rights treaties and their protocols (the European Convention on Human Rights, American Convention on Human Rights and its protocols and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights) as well as early bilateral investment treaties.


Sonya Cotton (PhD Candidate)


Complicating Property

Sonya is a South African socio-legal scholar with a Master of Laws from Peking University specializing in Chinese law and society, and a Master of Philosophy in Comparative Law in Africa from the University of Cape Town (UCT). Her approaches to legal subject matter are strongly shaped by her interdisciplinary background in sociolinguistics and Xhosa: she remains interested in the interplay of words, power, norms and social justice, with a strong Global South emphasis. Her research in PROPERTY [IN]JUSTICE examines the dynamics of international investments in Southern African jurisdictions that not only recognize non-codified customary laws, often on the basis of equality with state law, but to various extents are committed to policies of decolonisation and land restitution.

Sonya is a research fellow at the Centre for Legal Integration in Africa at the University of the Western Cape and was a Yenching Academy Fellow at Peking University (2017-2019). In 2018, she was selected to present at the 11th International Junior Faculty Forum at Stanford University on her research on comparative family law in sub-Saharan Africa. She has further worked as a research assistant at the Refugee Rights Unit, UCT, and a research assistant at the Centre for Comparative Law in Africa, UCT, where she also co-taught a graduate course on Chinese investments in Africa. Outside of academia, she likes studying Mandarin (which she speaks at an advanced level), dogs, hiking and speculative fiction. She recently published: Cotton, S., 2020. Do Equality and Non-discrimination Apply to Polygamous African Customary Marriages? A Constitutional and Statutory Analysis of 14 African Commonwealth States. Global Journal of Comparative Law9(1), pp.87-116.


Raphael Ng’etich (PhD Candidate)


Engaging Property

Raphael Ng’etich is a Kenyan legal scholar. His research interests are primarily in property law, alternative justice systems, and law and technology. His research within PROPERTY[IN]JUSTICE focuses on international investments, land, and community engagement initiatives in Kenya. Prior to commencing his doctoral studies, Raphael was an adjunct lecturer at Daystar University School of Law in Nairobi where he taught contract law, civil procedure, labour law, business law, and company law. He is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (MCIArb). He obtained a Master of Laws degree from Notre Dame Law School, a Postgraduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law, and a Bachelor of Laws (first class honours) degree from Strathmore Law School. Raphael’s publications include Property Law (with F. Kariuki and S. Ouma, Strathmore University Press, 2016); ‘The promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms by the Judiciary in Kenya and its impact on party autonomy’ with S. Kariuki, (2018) 6(2) Alternative Dispute Resolution 63; and ‘The current trend of costs in arbitration: Implications on access to justice and the attractiveness of arbitration’ (2017) 5(2) Alternative Dispute Resolution 111.


Amy Strecker (Principal Investigator)


Expanding Property

Amy Strecker is Associate Professor at the Sutherland School of Law and PI of PROPERTY[IN]JUSTICE. Her work focuses in particular on the interplay between landscape and law, including heritage, environment, property and human rights. Her monograph, Landscape Protection in International Law (Oxford University Press, 2018) provided the first comprehensive overview of the role of international law in landscape governance, combining legal analysis with interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives. Amy was previously based at Leiden University where she taught various courses on international cultural heritage law, human rights and international justice. She was also part of a transdisciplinary European Research Council project on the impact of colonial encounters on the Caribbean (Nexus1492), in which she dealt with the role of international law in confronting the colonial past.

Aside from directing the project, Amy’s research within PROPERTY[IN]JUSTICE focuses on the limits and potential of the substantive rights to property and culture in relation to land. In the regional human rights systems, to what extent does ‘property’ accommodate different cultural understandings of land? How does the jurisprudence from regional human rights courts differ in its recognition of the multiple dimensions of land in the context of property? Can the rights to property and/or culture be expanded to include the relationship between people and place beyond the context of indigenous peoples? Amy’s research also examines the implementation of progressive judgements interpreting property in broad, collective terms, to ascertain the impact of international law on the ground.  


Deirdre Norris (Project Manager)


Deirdre is the ERC Project Manager in the Sutherland School of Law, having previously held the position of Research and Innovation Manager. She is a graduate of UCD with a BA in Economics and MSc in Environmental Management. She spent over 10 years working in the financial services sector and has recently become a PhD candidate in the Sutherland School of Law, focusing on the impact of disruptive technologies in financial services regulations. Deirdre is the project manager for PROPERTY[IN]JUSTICE and two other ERC research projects hosted at the Sutherland School of Law: Effective Nature Laws, led by Prof Suzanne Kingston, and The Foundations of Institutional Authority, led by Prof Eoin Carolan. She previously worked on a number of other research projects including ‘A comparative analysis of transnational private regulation: legitimacy, quality, effectiveness and enforcement’ funded by the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law and ‘Listed Companies’ Engagement with Diversity: A Multi-Jurisdictional Study of Annual Report Disclosures’ with Trinity College Dublin.