ICCS forge links with the newly established Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)

Posted on Friday 19th April 2013



On April 10th 2013, Professor Nicholas J. Wheeler, Professor Paul Jackson and Professor Heather Widdows, launch one of the key inaugural themes of the new Institute of Advanced Studies 


Saving Humans: Risk, Intervention, Survival

The intention to save and make secure human lives might seem to be a simple and obvious aim – and one which is wholly commendable – however it is not simple.  How and what ‘saving humans' involves raises complex ethical, political, and practical questions. Questions such as who is responsible for doing and financing the ‘saving’ and what ‘basic saving’ involves are not simple to answer, nor are questions of responsibility about intervention and its consequences. ‘Saving humans’ considers these questions in many contexts and across a broad spectrum of threats to human survival and flourishing as,  despite the great variety of threats, similar questions face those attempting to intervene and act to save and improve human lives.  

The Saving Humans theme will bring together researchers from across the university and beyond to investigate these and other pertinent questions. It will consider a number of possible threats:

Health threats, for instance, from infectious disease and pandemics or from failure to protect current health public goods (such as anti-biotic resistance) or from technological development.

Environmental threats, for instance, from climate change, from resource scarcity (such as food and clean water), from earthquakes and floods and from manmade environmental threats, such as industrial pollution and desertification.  

Security threats, for instance, from war, conflict and terrorism of all forms, including weapons of mass destruction (from nuclear to chemical to biological) and from all scales of conflict, as well as the consequences of conflict, including increased numbers of refugees and displaced persons, migration and trafficking and the increased risks to individual security, which make rape, violence and other forms of exploitation more likely.

Saving Humans will consider such threats and how life can be protected and flourishing promoted by a variety of actors. In particular it will consider:

  • Intervention by states
  • Intervention by the international community of states
  • Intervention by international organizations and/or non-governmental organisations
  • Intervention by individuals as individuals

Birmingham is exceptionally well placed to take this forward as it has international experts working across these themes and the success of the initial IAS workshop in June 2012 clearly showed University-wide and external interest in this theme. Work on this theme will commence in September 2013 with a team led by Professors Paul Jackson, Heather Widdows and Nicholas Wheeler . The cross-cutting goals of Saving Humans will enable the IAS to bring together a diverse and multidisciplinary community of researchers and visiting Fellows under a coherent and intellectually exciting programme.

If you’d like to get involved or for more information please contact Sue Gilligan (s.gilligan@bham.ac.uk)