Owning the Land: from Private Property to Commons

The Summer School Owing the land: from private property to commons was part of the PhD programmes in Human Rights and Legal Pluralisms, Department of Law, Università degli Studi di Palermo. It was organized by the PhD above-mentioned programmes with the external cooperation of Elisa Morgera and Giulia Sajeva, both members of the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, University of Strathclyde.

Themes and Objectives

The concept of property is often understood solely as concerning private forms of property, disqualifying as res nullius all the rest. The Summer School will provide participants the possibility to critically reflect on the diversity of the existing forms of property. It aims at exploring the tension between private property and commons, and looking at the critiques that have been raised towards different governance structures and their relevance for the conservation of the environment and the protection of human rights.
The Summer School will aim at widening the typical list of goods to be held under property rights, looking at the ownership of natural resources, including the genetic resources of plants and animals, international waters or trans-boundary waters and fisheries. It will also look at the difference between property and sovereignty.

The Summer School will also look at the theoretical relationship between human rights and property: is property a human right?; what are the foundation of property and intellectual property rights?; is there a human right to intellectual property?

Last but not least, the Summer School will analyze topics related to land grabbing and violations of human rights, and food sovereignty, looking at the recently adopted United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas.


Lectures will be held from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., from the 14th to the 18th of June 2021.

Two seminars are held each morning, both looking at the same theme from different perspectives. Seminars last about 45 minutes and are followed by a 30 minutes Q&A session.

The Summer School also features three afternoon workshops that will be run by experts of the chosen themes.

Students will receive the course material at least two weeks in advance.

Format and COVID-19

Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the summer school will have a blended format: some invited scholars will be present in Palermo, while others will give their lectures remotely.

The programme indicates whether each seminar will be held remotely or in present. It may, however, be subject to changes given the high variability of COVID-19 restrictions.

Similarly, some students will attend in presence while others will participate remotely. This preference will have to be communicated in advance through the application form.

The organizers reserve the right to move all activities to a remote online format if COVID-19 restrictions require to do so or if, for related reasons, they will consider it more appropriate to ensure the health and safety of all participants and invited scholars.

On line

The entire programme of the School will be streamed online, via Zoom.

Access details (link and password) will be shared with the registered participants in due time.

In presence

The School will be held in Palermo, Italy, at the Dipartimento di Giurisprudenza.

Students will have full and free access to the library of the Department of Law (subject to COVID-19 restrictions). The students who will attend at least 90% of the seminars will receive a certificate, corresponding to 6 ECTS.

Conditions for Admission

The Summer School is open to students holding or attending a Master or an LLM, as well as Ph.D students and researchers who are interested in the topics.

The Summer School is open also to undergraduate students who are working on their final dissertations. However, no more than 10 undergraduate students will be accepted to the Summer School and their selection will be based on their CV and motivation letter.

No more than 50 applications will be accepted.

Of these, no more than 20 applications for in presence participation will be accepted.


Students of the following courses are exempt from the payment of registration fees: 5 students (postgraduate and PhDs) affiliated with the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance and with the Strathclyde Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law (University of Strathclyde); students attending the Master in Legal Theory, European Academy of Legal theory (University of Frankfurt); PhD candidates based in the Department of Law of the Università degli Studi di Palermo attending the Programs in “Human Rights: Evolution, Protection and Limits” and Pluralismi Giuridici.


Candidates must submit the attached form – underlining whether they wish to attend in person or remotely – and attach their CV to their application.

The selection of candidates will be necessary if more than 50 applications (or 18 in presence) are received, and it will be based on the candidates’ CVs (and, for undergraduate students, letters of motivation). The scientific committee will prepare a waiting list. In case the admitted students withdraw, the students in the waiting list will be admitted in their place.

The application should be sent jointly with a CV and a copy of a valid ID (and, for undergraduates, a letter of motivation). The application, together with the supporting documents, must be received by 31/05/2021.

Prospective candidates should send their application to: andrea.fattorini@unipa.it

For all other information, contact: giulia.sajeva@strath.ac.uk 


Please bear in mind that attendance is allowed only to enrolled participants. All  seats in Palermo are fully booked.

Monday 14 June 2021 

Res nullius or Commons? Beyond Private Property

Chair: Elisa Morgera, University of Strathclyde

9:00 – Opening remarks

Isabel Trujillo, Elisa Morgera, Giulia Sajeva

9:30-10.15 – Title TBD

Ugo Mattei, Università degli Studi di Torino

10.15-11.00 – Q&A

11:00-11.30 – Coffee Break

11.30-12.15 Transitioning from biodiversity ownership – sovereignty to nature knowledge co-production

Elisa Morgera, University of Strathclyde

12.15-13.00 – Q&A


15.00-17.00 Workshop

Urban Commons?

Antonio Vercellone, Alessandra Quarta Università di Torino (in presence)

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Biodiversity, Genetic Resources and the Sea: ownership and sovereignty

Chair: Giulia Sajeva, University of Strathclyde

9:30-10.15 – From Property to Generosity: A Legal and Ethical Journey into a Phenomenological Understanding of Land “Ownership”

Saskia Vermeylen, University of Strathclyde 

10.15-11.00 – Q&A


11:00-11.30 – Coffee Break

11.30-12.15 – Enclosing the Ocean

Chris Armstrong, University of Southampton

12.15-13.00 – Q&A


15.00-1700 – Workshop

My Journey into Studying Property from the Kalahari to the Outer Space

Saskia Vermeylen, University of Strathclyde

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Taxes and Property

Chair: Daria Coppa, Università degli Studi di Palermo

9:30-10.15 – Fees and taxes for access to public goods

Lorenzo Del Federico, Università degli Studi G. d’Annunzio Chieti Pescara (in presence)

10.15-11.00 – Q&A

11:00-11.30 – Coffee Break

11.30-12.15 – Taxation and confiscation: the constitutional and European limits to the levying of taxes.

Pasquale Pistone, IBFD – Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien – Università degli Studi di Salerno

12.15-13.00 – Q&A


Thursday 17 June 2021

A Human Right to (Intellectual) Property? Foundations and Conflicts

Chair: Marco Brigaglia, Università degli Studi di Palermo


9:30-10.15 Property and the common good: why property’s moral foundations cast doubt on the idea of property as a right

Rowan Cruft, University of Stirling

10.15-11.00 – Q&A

11:00-11.30 – Coffee Break

11.30-12.15 The Tragedy of the Internet of Things (You Don’t Own). Intellectual Property, Private Power, and Digital Serfdom

Guido Noto La Diega, University of Stirling

12.15-13.00 – Q&A


15.00-17.00 – Workshop

The Cognitive Dimensions of Property

Adriano Zambon, Italian University Line, Firenze

 Friday 18 June 2021

Food Sovereignty and Land Grabbing

Chair: Isabel Trujillo, Università degli Studi di Palermo

9:30-10.15 – The Journey for a Right to Land: evolution of concepts, principles and standards

Margherita Brunori, Università di Trento (in presence)

10.15-11.00 – Q&A


11:00-11.30 – Coffee Break

11.30-12.15 – Human Rights Responses to Land Grabbing: A Right to Food Perspective 

Christophe Golay, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

12.15-13.00 – Q&A