School of Law

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Katarina Schwarz

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



Dr Katarina Schwarz is an Associate 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 in Law from the University of Nottingham, as well as first class LLB(Hons) 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.

Schwarz is the lead author of the Antislavery in Domestic Legislation Database, the world's first comprehensive database international obligations and domestic legislation on slavery and related practices. This project, initiated in 2015, maps the current state of domestic legislation prohibiting slavery, servitude, forced labour, institutions and practices similar to slavery, and human trafficking in all 193 UN Member States, providing new insights for the global antislavery movement.

Schwarz is currently the research lead on a major project to address child trafficking and slavery in Uganda funded by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, developing national Standards of Care for Survivors of Trafficking in Uganda in collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and PTIP Office, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons Uganda, Hope for Justice, and Platform for Labour Action.

Schwarz has been the Principal Investigator on a range of collaborative research projects, including an AHRC funded project examining the impacts of Covid-19 on modern slavery in Sudan, an MS-PEC funded project analysing the situation in the top source countries for trafficking to the UK, an ESRC IAA funded project developing new indicators to track legislative progress on SDG 8.7, and an FCO-funded project to develop a modern slavery strategic communications campaign for the LATAC region.

Schwarz is currently a Co-Investigator on the AHRC funded projects Harnessing UK Trade and Investment to Address Modern Slavery and Addressing the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Brazil. She was also a Co-Investigator in the ESRC funded project Assessing the Impact of Covid-19 on People Vulnerable to or Experiencing Forced Marriage, a GFEMS funded study on Commercial Sexual Exploitation Policy and Practices in Bangladesh and India, and an MS-PEC funded project on Access to Legal Advice for Survivors.

Schwarz has delivered contract research, consultancy, and expert advisory for a wide range of governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental actors, including the European Parliament, International Labour Organisation, International Organisation for Migration, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, and government departments in the UK, US, Namibia, Malawi, and Uganda. Her expert evidence has been cited extensively by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and contributed to the cases for the claimants in R (KTT) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and NN and LP v Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Schwarz sits on the Senior Management Board of the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre, created by the investment of £10m of UK Strategic Priorities Funding to enhance understanding of modern slavery and transform the effectiveness of law and policies designed to address it. She sits on the Technical Expert Group for the ILO's REFLECT (Research on Forced Labour Elimination Cost) project, was a member of the UNU-CPR Global Working Group on Justice, and lead the underpinning research for Delta 8.7 Policy Guides designed to help policymakers understand "effective measures" to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking, and child labour.

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.

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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