Professor Sheldon Leader, a graduate of Yale and Oxford Universities, is the director of the Essex Business and Human Rights Project (EBHR) a longstanding member of the School of Law and Human Rights Centre and a leading voice in the areas of corporate social responsibility, business and human rights and labour law.
Born in the United States of America, Professor Leader has worked and taught in a number of countries. He credits his time in South Africa as being particularly particularly influential on the direction of his academic career.
He is renowned as an inspirational mentor for academics and students alike and for involving many of them in his ground-breaking research.
Professor Clara Sandoval, Director of the Essex Transitional Justice Network and a former PhD student of Professor Leader, said: "The academic and practical contributions that Professor Leader has made to legal and political theory, labour law, trade law and business and human rights are too many to be counted. He has not only helped us to advance knowledge, he has also taught us how to do it. He has helped us to breach theory and practice in unique ways and to infuse social justice in our work on human rights and advancing their protection. Equally important, his ability to work as part of a team and to learn from others has allowed him to nurture a new generation of scholars and practitioners that are fully committed to advancing human rights."
Speakers travelled from all over the globe to attend the conference and to pay tribute to Sheldon’s contribution to their respective academic fields.
Emeritus Professor Doug Cassel, from the University of Notre Dame in New York, said: "I could not have been more delighted than to participate in honouring Professor Leader. Not only are his contributions to the field of business and human rights pioneering and enduring, but his intellectual prodding and his human warmth, kindness and generosity make him one of my favourite people. The words of praise heard from many speakers at his celebratory event made clear that my respect and affection for Professor Leader are widely and justifiably shared."
During his career, Professor Leader has held a number of distinguished positions including membership to the Chatham House Advisory Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, as well as the Advisory Group to the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales. He is a legal adviser to Amnesty International and a member of their steering committee on economic relations and human rights issues, as well as the current HBK Savings Bank Chair at the European Academy of Legal Theory in Brussels.
The Essex Business and Human Rights Project is dedicated to using the inter-disciplinary knowledge of Essex academics and associates to advance the practice of business and human rights. The EBHR has produced its own reports, supported litigation and research by on-governmental organisations and provided advice to governments and inter-governmental organisations.
The conference, Balancing Competing Rights: a conference in honour of Professor Sheldon Leader, opened with short welcome messages from Professor Karen Hulme, Head of the School of Law, and Professor Lorna McGregor, Director of the Human Rights Centre. A series of panel discussions followed, focusing on aspects of Professor Leader’s work and featuring academic experts from across the UK, the European mainland, the United States, Hong Kong and South Africa. Professor Leader then responded with a closing address.