SOAS to host two new British Academy Global Professors in Law and Development Studies

The British Academy has today announced the names of eight leading academics to be awarded the prestigious British Academy Global Professorship, two of whom will be hosted at SOAS University of London.  

Professor Arkebe Oqubay Metiku and Professor Irini Papanicolopulu have been awarded the prestigious British Academy Global Professorship and will be hosted at SOAS University of London for the four-year award (2023-26). 

The research of Professor Oqubay’s Global Professorship award focuses on The Greening of African Economic Development, a timely and pivotal issue for Africa’s economic transformation and global greening agenda. Professor Oqubay will join the Department of Development Studies.  

In reaction to receiving the British Academy Global Professorship, Professor Oqubay said:  

“I am thrilled and honoured to be awarded a British Academy Global Professorship, to be based in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS and to run a four-year project on The Greening of African Economic Development. I have a strong attachment to SOAS, since doing my PhD there, and greatly look forward to developing my collaboration with a number of scholars at SOAS. The values that SOAS upholds are of real importance in today's complex world and I very much hope to support through my work SOAS's contribution to global higher education, to African scholarship, and to the pursuit of equitable partnerships with institutions on the continent." 

The research of Professor Papanicolopulu’s Global Professorship award focuses on how freedom of the seas affects protection of human rights at sea. Professor Papanicolopulu will join the School of Law.  

In reaction to receiving the British Academy Global Professorship, Professor Papanicolopulu said:  

“I am delighted to have been awarded a British Academy Global Professorship and be able to work in the congenial research environment of SOAS. The project aims to understand how freedom of the seas may promote - or, the opposite, hinder - the human rights of all people who are at sea. At a time when modern slavery and other flagrant violations of human rights start to be exposed, the project will hopefully further draw the attention of the scholarly community and stakeholders on these issues." 

The Global Professorship programme aims to demonstrate and further enhance the UK’s commitment to international research, partnerships and collaboration and is intended to strengthen the UK’s research capacity and capability in the humanities and social sciences. The British Academy is the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. The Global Professorships programme is funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  

The British Academy mobilises these disciplines to understand the world and shape a brighter future. The British Academy achieves this through an independent fellowship of world-leading scholars and researchers, as a funding body that supports new research, nationally and internationally, and as a forum for debate and engagement championing the humanities and social sciences.  

It reinforces and builds on the UK’s globally renowned research reputation in the humanities and social sciences by providing funding to attract world-class, internationally recognised, established researchers to work in the United Kingdom. 

In reaction to the appointment of Professor Oqubay as a BA Global Professor in the Department of Development studies, Zoe Marriage, Head of the Department said:  

"It is a huge privilege for the department to host a British Academy Global Professor, and we are really excited that Arkebe Oqubay, who has been one of SOAS's Professors of Practice, to this role. Arkebe brings immense experience and expertise in policy and research and is ideally placed to head this timely work on Africa's greening of economic development." 

In reaction to the appointment of Professor Papanicolopulu as BA Global Professor at the School of Law, Gina Heathcote, Professor of Gender Studies and International Law said: 

"The School of Law looks forward to welcoming Professor Irini Papanicolopulu as a British Academy Global Professor. Prof Papanicolopulu's research is widely acknowledged as shaping contemporary debates on the human rights of people at sea. Prof Papanicolopulu is a highly respected scholar whose thinking influences international policy and thinking across a wide array of issues, including human rights of migrants and refugees, ocean governance, and gender issues at sea. Her forthcoming BA project joins SOAS research on international legal histories to examine the legacy and reality of the Freedom of the Seas through the lens of human rights. It is an immense pleasure to host Prof Papanicolopulu whose scholarship and leadership is as highly regarded as it is world changing."

More about Professor Arkebe Oqubay’s work  

The greening of African economic development is urgent, but there is no consensus on how best to promote this, and it is not at the centre of policy making. Nor is there remotely sufficient evidence of lower carbon industrialisation in Africa. This research explores what greening of industrialisation has actually started taking place in Africa: What can we learn from the comparative study of policies and firms in industrial hubs in Africa about the prospects for a ‘green industrial policy’ on the continent? What are the constraints on faster and more effective green productive transformation? How can they be overcome? What are the drivers of green change in Africa? What are the implications for feasible policy on the continent? This research will collect primary, comparative evidence from selected case studies of countries, sectors, industrial hubs, and firms through a mixed-method approach comprising interviews, surveys, document reviews, focus groups, and site observations. 

Professor Arkebe Oqubay  

Professor Arkebe Oqubay, has been at the centre of policymaking in Ethiopia’s economic transformation and industrialisation for over thirty years. He has served as board chair/vice chair of several leading public organisations, including Ethiopian Airlines, and on international advisory boards. He is a member of the Trade and Industrial Development Advisory Council of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), appointed by the African Union Commission.  

He is the recipient of various awards, including the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, presented by the Emperor of Japan for his contribution to Africa’s industrialisation. He champions Africa’s carbon-neutral industrialisation and green transformation in developing countries and beyond. He is the former mayor of Addis Ababa; during this time, he won the Best African Mayor of 2005 and was a finalist in the World Mayor Award 2005 for transforming the city. He was also Africa’s sole candidate for the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), unanimously endorsed by the African Union.   

Dr Arkebe is a British Academy Global Professor leading a pioneering research initiative on Africa’s greening of economic development. He is a Professor of Practice at SOAS University of London and the University of Johannesburg; an honorary Professor at Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, the University of Cape Town; an ODI Distinguished Fellow at the London-based think tank Overseas Development Institute; and a distinguished visiting professor at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and Fudan University (Shanghai).  

His publications focus on economic transformation, greening, industrial policy and economic catch-up. His authored, co-authored, and co-edited work published with Oxford University Press include Made in Africa (2015); How Nations Learn (2019); China-Africa and an Economic Transformation (2019); The Oxford Handbook of the Ethiopia Economy (2019); African Economic Development: Evidence, Theory, and Policy (2020); The Oxford Handbook of Industrial Hubs and Economic Development (2020); and The Oxford Handbook of Industrial Policy (2020); The Oxford Handbook of the South African Economy (2021). He holds a PhD in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London. 

More about Professor Irini Papanicolopulu’s work 

The project explores how freedom of the seas affects protection of human rights at sea. It has three goals: to trace and critically assess the interaction between the genesis and development of the principle of freedom of the seas and its impact on people, including legacy of colonial domination and the slave trade; to analyse the emancipatory potential of freedom of the seas for individuals, going beyond sectorial approach (e.g. migration or piracy) and adopting a holistic outlook on human activities at sea; and to offer a conceptual framework for reconstructing this principle to align with the modern aims of the international community concerning protection and fulfilment of human rights for all people, including those at sea. The project will produce a monograph, three journal articles, a database of legal practice and a Code of Practice on maritime businesses and human rights. 

Professor Irini Papanicolopulu 

Professor Irini Papanicolopulu is Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, with habilitation to Full Professor. She has a PhD in international law from the University of Milano, and previously worked at the University of Oxford and the University of Glasgow. Irini is a Visiting Professor at Catolica University (Lisbon, Portugal) and St. Gallen University (Switzerland) and has recently been appointed a Trustee of the UK-based NGO Human Rights at Sea.

Irini has ample teaching and research experience in International Law, the Law of the Sea, Human Rights Law and Refugee Law. She is the coordinator of the Jean Monnet Module on European and International Human Rights at Sea at the University of Milano-Bicocca (2022-2025). Irini is the author of two monographs, one of which is the first and for the time only monograph that conceptually engages with the topic of human rights at sea from a holistic perspective (Irini Papanicolopulu, International Law and the Protection of People at Sea, OUP 2018).

She has authored numerous articles and book chapters published in leading journals and edited collections on a wide range of issues relating to, among others, the Law of the Sea and oceans governance, human rights and refugee and migrant protection, marine environment protection and the due diligence duties of states. Irini has also edited several collective volumes, including the award-winning Gender and the Law of the Sea (Brill 2019).

Irini has been the founder and first coordinator of the Interest Group on the Law of the Sea of the Italian Society of International Law and currently serves in the Coordinating Committee of the Interest Group on the Law of the Sea of the European Society of International Law.

Irini has been a member of the Italian delegation in negotiations concerning the Law of the Sea and occasionally advises states, international organisations, civil society organisations and business actors on issues of International Law, the Law of the Sea, Human Rights Law and Environmental Law.