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Aoife Nolan

Professor of International Human Rights Law and Co-Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Faculty of Social Sciences



Aoife Nolan, LL.B (Dublin), PhD (EUI) is Professor of International Human Rights Law and Director of the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre. Aoife is President of the Council of Europe's European Committee of Social Rights, the leading European monitoring mechanism on economic and social rights, having joined the Committee in 2017 and served as Vice-President in 2021-2. She is an Academic Expert at Doughty Street Chambers, where she is co-lead of the Children's Rights Group and on the Steering Group of Doughty Street International.

She has published extensively in the area of human rights, particularly in relation to economic and social rights and children's rights, as well as on constitutional law. Her 2011 monograph Children's Socio-economic Rights, Democracy and the Courts won the IALT Kevin Boyle Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Birks Book Prize. She was founding coordinator of the Economic and Social Rights Academic Network UKI (ESRAN-UKI) and has been a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Academic Network on the European Social Charter (ANESC-RACSE). She is a member of a number of Editorial Boards, including those of the Human Rights Law Review, the International Human Rights Law Review and the International Journal of Children's Rights. She was a member of the Steering Group of the British Academy's Childhood Policy Programme from 2020-2. In 2021, she was elected to the Executive Committee of the Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI). In 2021, she was shortlisted for 'Legal Academic of the Year' at the Inspirational Women in Law Awards.

From 2020-2023, Aoife led a major three-year research project focused on the theory and practice of child rights strategic litigation. Advancing Child Rights Strategic Litigation (ACRiSL) is an international research collaboration with a range of academic and advocacy partners in Europe, Africa and Asia (funded by the Global Campus of Human Rights-Right Livelihood Collaboration). This project developed a model of child rights-consistent strategic litigation practice, which has been embraced by a range of strategic litigators internationally (e.g., the Commission for Children and Young People, Scotland).

Aoife has worked with and acted as an expert advisor to a wide range of international and national organisations and bodies working on human rights issues, including UN Special Procedures, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 2022-3, she served as a member of the advisory committee on the UNCRC's General Comment No.26 on children's rights and the environment), while in 2022, she was the academic partner in a collaboration to provide the CESCR with support in terms of mainstreaming child rights and ensuring child participation in the development of its forthcoming General Comment on sustainable development and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This included leading on the production of a child-friendly version of the Covenant. She has also advised the Council of Europe, the World Bank and multiple national human rights institutions. Her research has been cited extensively by international human rights actors, including OHCHR, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, the UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on human rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health. In 2018, she was one of the drafters of the Abidjan Principles on the Right to Education. In December 2017, Aoife was appointed to the Scottish First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership, which was tasked with making recommendations on how Scotland can lead by example in human rights, including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (report here). From June 2019 to July 2020, she was a member of the Scottish Government's Child Rights Working Group, which was convened to inform the development of a model that incorporates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law in Scotland (report here).

In addition to previous full-time positions at Durham Law School and Queen's University Belfast (where she co-managed a ground-breaking project on human rights budget analysis), she has taught at a range of international institutions, including the Geneva Academy on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, the Global Campus for Human Rights (Venice), the University of Groningen and the Global School on Socio-economic Rights at Harvard University and the University of Oslo. She has had visiting positions in institutions in Europe, the USA and Africa, including Fordham University School of Law, Columbia University Law School, the University of Washington, the Faculty of Law of Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town Faculty of Law, the Centre for Children's Rights, School of Education, Queen's University Belfast, and Vthe Faculty of Law and Criminology at the Université Catholique de Louvain. In recent years, she has been a Visiting Professorial Fellow at UNSW Law and a Hauser Senior Global Research Fellow at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law. In spring 2022, she was appointed a Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster and Roma Tre University.

In 2017, Aoife was PI on an ESRC IAA-funded collaborative project, 'Making Economic and Social Rights Real', between the University of Nottingham and the Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain. This project generated a series of digital resources on economic and social rights, including videos, directed towards civil society, policymakers, academics and others with a background in human rights and an interest in learning more about economic and social rights. These are available here, while individual episodes can be linked to from here.

She has served as Senior Legal Officer with the ESC Rights Litigation Programme of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions. In 2007-8, she was Human Rights Adviser to the Working Group on Economic and Social Rights, including Relevant Equality Issues of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum. In early 2008, she provided legal advice to members of the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She was a long-time member of the Coordinating Committee of the ESCR-Net Case-Law Database. She is currently a Council member of Child Rights International Network (CRIN) and was a founding trustee of Just Fair.

Within the University, Aoife co-founded and directed the Rights and Justice Research Priority Area, the world's largest cluster of rights and justice scholars, involving over 700 members from 22 different University centres (2015-8). From 2013-15, she was Academic Lead of the interdisciplinary University of Nottingham Children and Childhood Network and the Nottingham Summer School on Child Rights. She is the long-time Director of the Human Rights Law Centre's Economic and Social Rights Unit. In July 2021, she was elected to the University of Nottingham Senate.

Aoife frequently writes for and is quoted in the media on human rights issues, including in the Guardian, Prospect, the LRB Blog, Al Jazeera, Sky News, Euronews, Reuters, the Irish Times and the BBC.

Teaching Summary

Economic and Social Rights

Regional Human Rights Law

International Human Rights Law

Children's Rights

Law, Development and the International Community

UK Public Law

Research Summary

For more information on Aoife's research, please see her SSRN Author page:

A selection of presentations and podcasts focused on Aoife's current research can be found below:

'Human Rights, the Cost of Living and the Polycrisis' (Harry Street Annual Lecture, University of Manchester, March 2024)

'Climate Change, the Courts and the Rights of Children & Future Generations' (Public lecture, Ulster University) (November 2022)

'Advancing Child Rights-consistent Child Rights Strategic Litigation practice' (Seminar organised by Supreme Court of Justice/University of Leiden) (February 2022) (4:37-39:10)

'Promoting and Preserving Children's Rights after COVID: What Needs to Happen?' (Rightstrack podcast) (May 2021)

'Constitutionalising Children's Rights: Lessons from Comparative Experience' at Childhood and the Constitution, Programa de Derecho Público, Diego Portales University (UDP), Chile (April 2021) (31:57-51:28)

'Human Rights and Economic Policy - A Global Challenge' (Instituto de Economia da Unicamp, Brazil) (April 2021) (17:52-25:48)

'Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: Children's Rights and COVID-19' (Swansea University Observatory on the Human Rights of Children Annual Lecture) (November 2020)'

Coronavirus and Human Rights, Parts 1, 2 and 3' (Better Human Podcast) (March 2020) (17:25-34:40)

'Protecting the Child from Poverty: Child Rights in the Council of Europe' (presentation for Council of Europe Conference on 'Redefining power: Strengthening the rights of the child' (November 2019))

'The Curious Case of Economic and Social Rights' (Better Human Podcast) (October 2019)

'A Clear and Present Danger? Child Rights and the SDGs' (presentation given at University of Liverpool (May 2019)

'Making Economic and Social Rights Real' (series of videos resulting from ESRC IAA-funded collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (December 2017)

Follow Aoife Nolan on Twitter @commentator01

Recent Publications

PhD supervision

I am interested in supervising students in the following areas:

  • children's rights
  • economic and social rights
  • international human rights
  • comparative constitutional human rights law

Current PhD Students include:

Information about the School of Law PhD programme and how to apply can be found here:

Information about scholarships can be found here:

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