School of Law

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Katarina Schwarz

Assistant Professor of Antislavery Law and Policy and Associate Director at the Rights Lab, Faculty of Social Sciences



Dr Katarina Schwarz is an Assistant Professor in Antislavery Law and Policy in the School of Law, and Associate Director of the Rights Lab, at the University of Nottingham. Her research explores the intersections between slavery and the law, from the historical to the contemporary. She holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham (considering the case for reparations for transatlantic enslavement in international law), as well as LLB and BA degrees from the University of Otago.

In her role leading the Rights Lab's Law and Policy Programme, Schwarz works at the interface of research and policy to deliver evidence-based guidance for contemporary antislavery action. Her Rights Lab research interrogates the law and policy frameworks operating at the global, regional, and domestic level to determine the elements of effective antislavery governance and map trends, successes, and failures.

In 2018, Schwarz was recognised as a Grand Dignitaire de la Cour Royale de Porto Novo of the Republic of Benin for her work on reparations, and in 2019 was the recipient of the Nottingham Institute for Policy and Engagement's Policy Impact Rising Star Award for her work on modern slavery law and policy. She sits on the Executive Committee, and is a member, of the Antislavery Early Research Association - an interdisciplinary, global network of early career and postgraduate researchers studying slavery and human trafficking.

Expertise Summary

Dr Schwarz's research traverses a range of approaches to consider the positioning of slavery in law from the foundations of the international legal order to today. Her study of legal frameworks governing modern slavery encompasses domestic, comparative, regional, and international law, and features doctrinal, socio-legal, and empirical analysis of domestic antislavery legislation around the world.

Her work on reparations for transatlantic enslavement and historical injustices likewise spans several distinct fields of inquiry, from public international law and State responsibility, to critical international legal history, transitional justice, and reparations theory and philosophy.

Research Summary

The Antislavery Legislation Database. Since 2016, Schwarz has been collaborating with Prof Jean Allain (Castan Centre for Human Rights, Monash University) to develop the world's first comprehensive… read more

Current Research

The Antislavery Legislation Database. Since 2016, Schwarz has been collaborating with Prof Jean Allain (Castan Centre for Human Rights, Monash University) to develop the world's first comprehensive global database of international obligations and domestic legislation governing slavery and related forms of exploitation. This database provides the platform for analysis of all 193 UN Member States' national antislavery governance frameworks, and a global assessment of the extent to which States have met their international commitments to combat slavery, exploitation, and trafficking. From this research, the project team are constructing new blueprints for anti-slavery law and policy enactment, reform, and implementation around the world, working with government, legislators, and practitioners to lay the legal foundations for a future free from slavery.

Modern Slavery and Sustainable Development. Schwarz is currently leading on a research consultancy for the United Nations University Center for Policy Research considering the intersections between modern slavery and sustainable development. This research maps the stat of evidence connecting antislavery programming with development outcomes.

Past Research

Reparations for Slavery in International Law. As part of an AHRC-funded Care for the Future grant, the Antislavery Usable Past, Schwarz expanded on her exploration of the Caribbean claim to reparations for slavery (concluded 2014) to consider the international legal claim to reparations for transatlantic enslavement more expansively. In this research project, Schwarz interrogated the development of international legal frameworks governing slavery, State responsibility, and reparations. Adopting a critical approach to international legal history, this research clarifies the status of the international legal elements of the reparations debate, and displaces prevailing presumptions that saturate reparations discourse.

Child slavery. In collaboration with Dr Andrea Nicholson and Dr PJ MacLeod, Schwarz contributed to research consultancy for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, including its Causes and Consequences, for her Thematic Report on Child Slavery. In this research project, Schwarz interrogated the boundaries and parameters of legal definitions in the context of child slavery, and the governing international legal frameworks.

Monitoring and Evaluation for Survivor Reintegration Programming. Schwarz led on a research consultancy for a major NGO that works to support survivors of modern slavery in their recovery and reintegration journeys. This project developed a new approach to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) for modern slavery programming, and delivered bespoke M&E tools for the NGO's six UK-based survivor support programmes.

Measurement, Action, Freedom: 2019 High Level Political Forum Government Tracking Report. From 2018-19, Schwarz contributed in the delivery of contract research mapping government responses to the issue of modern slavery around the world for the Minderoo Foundation.

The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill: A Cost-Benefit Analysis. This project delivered a cost-benefit analysis of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill for Lord McColl of Dulwich, assessing the financial implications of the proposed long-term support for all survivors of modern slavery in the UK.

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