Spotlight on early-career researcher: Andrea Longo

Hi! My name is Andrea Longo, I am a Research Associate in Law based at the University of Strathclyde since April 2023. I defended my PhD in June this year at the crossroad between international human rights law and the law of the sea – specifically fisheries law – and addressed the protection of people on board fishing vessels at sea. Since joining the Hub, I started focusing on the nexus between the ocean, biodiversity and climate change law, while expanding my work on ocean governance and human rights protection.

1. What’s your greatest achievement since you started working for the One Ocean Hub?

The greatest achievement – and challenge – has so far been transitioning into new fields of research grounded upon different research methods or approaches and in an entirely different academic environment. In one word, facing the many novelties characterising this position was challenging, but definitely constitutes my greatest achievement so far. For instance, one of the first tasks I was assigned consisted in writing a section of a collaborative inter-disciplinary research paper (with Hub early-career researchers Sophie Shields and Mia Strand and Hub Director Elisa Morgera ) regarding children’s right to be heard in ocean governance decision-making processes for the special issue of the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law on the ocean-climate nexus (see this blogpost for a summary of its content). This was the first time I co-authored a collaborative and interdisciplinary piece of research, and my first publication on a topic other than human rights in fisheries (that is, strictly speaking related to my PhD research).

2. How does your work contribute to shaping the One Ocean Hub’s interdisciplinary endeavours?

Prior to studying Law I undertook undergraduate studies in Social Sciences with a focus on the Middle East and Arabic, which has prepared me to work across disciplines and integrated into the Hub. Since I joined the Hub quite recently, I can only hope to be able to contribute to shaping its interdisciplinary endeavours in the months ahead.

3. What opportunity has the Hub provided you to lead on innovative research? How has the Hub enhanced your leadership skills?

The Hub provided me the opportunity to engage in topical international law processes on the ocean-climate nexus from a human rights perspective. The One Ocean Hub was among the 19 organisations that made a written statement (see a summary of its content here) to the  International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which has been requested an Advisory Opinion on States’ obligations on climate change and the protection of the marine. I have been involved in the preparatory discussions leading to this submission, and I have now started an analysis of the content of all other submissions from States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations (see my recent blogpost with Mitchell Lennan). This analysis will support my further research leading to the publication of a collaborative legal research piece on the need to interpret States’ obligations under different regimes of international law in a mutually supportive manner, thereby reflecting the interconnectivities of marine ecosystems with biodiversity, climate change and ocean governance, as well as its interdependency with human rights protection. I will also contribute more directly to the Hub’s recommendations towards two other international tribunals that have been asked to clarify States’ obligations on climate change, namely the International Court of Justice and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the Hub has offered me the opportunity to lead on the proposal for a panel on the transformative role of children’s rights to a healthy ocean in the context of the winter-summer school co-organised by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment. I look forward to expanding my connections with other environmental and human rights specialists in the context of the winter/summer school.

4. What, in your view, have been the Hub’s most impactful activities?

There are so many and it wouldn’t be possible to summarise them in such a short space! But surely the Hub’s effort in mainstreaming the human rights-based approach at the ocean-climate nexus has so far been very precious (see two of the latest example, respectively on shipping and small-scale fisheries), as also evidenced by the United Nations Human Rights Prize 2023 awarded to the Global Coalition of civil society organisations for the universal recognition of everyone’s human right to a healthy environment of which the Hub is part (see our blogpost on this award). Also, it was great to see over 130 participants from around the world joining the webinar we co-organised with Greenpeace International, the Center of International Environmental Law (CIEL), Opportunity Green and ClientEarth  on the respective ITLOS submissions.

5. What are the aspects of working in a collaborative environment such as the One Ocean Hub that you value the most?

As I hinted above, the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone is definitely the Hub’s aspect that I value the most. I received my legal education in a context where you are fundamentally told to refrain from endorsing other approaches or schools of legal thought other than legal positivism, and to focus on your own single-authored papers. In this sense, co-authoring a publication – and doing that with colleagues from different disciplines – clearly took me away from my comfort zone. Likewise, while I have been used to read all existing materials on a given topic before even engaging with a written endeavour, when you work on a collaborative piece that is not necessarily the case: you learn that you are not expected to know everything about a given topic, for your colleagues are there to help and make up for your weaknesses; you learn that your draft must not always be the most accurate, for there are other people that will took up your work and improve it.

6. What are the challenges and new demands that early-career researchers face today?

I think the greatest challenge for early-career researchers today is precariousness. We face hard times: funds for research and academia are increasingly being cut around the world. In addition, we are offered more and more short-term opportunities and required to jump from one topic to another, from one institution to another, at times even from one country to another. This in turn means investing an incredible amount of time and energy in trying to make new personal and professional connections, which however are often part of a time-bound project. This applies to me as well, as I joined the Hub during the final year of funding. Yet, the Hub is giving an incredible boost to my curriculum, for it combines a lot of policy-oriented and creative work that straddles academia, civil society and international institutions, thereby opening up new professional pathways for me after this experience.

7. What is your advice to fellow early-career researchers working on a global development project?

My advice is two-fold. First and foremost, seek to contribute to projects that are built around beneficiaries’ nuanced understanding of the local context where the project intends to bring about a positive change. In this sense, the Hub’s horizontal structure whereby researchers from focus countries or regions, and not only from the funder country, take decisions on the project direction and approaches is essential to ensure meaningful research partnerships for sustainable development.

Second, remember that you are not alone. You are part of a community of researchers – whether senior or junior – and it is fundamental that you build your own circles of colleagues (and friends) whom you can count on. That requires time and energy, as it cannot be a one-way relationship – you must be ready to be there for them too. Yet, in the long-term this is what makes your project and your research – and, even more broadly, your life – richer!