Ruth Kelly


Ruth Kelly holds a masters in public international law (LLM) from the University of Cambridge. Her first degree was in law and French (LLB) from Trinity College Dublin and Sciences-Po Paris.

In 2008-9 Ruth was a research fellow at the MacMillan Center for international and area studies at Yale University, working on international trade law and development.


Ruth has more than 10 years' experience working on human rights, development, and international economic law and policy. She is currently deputy chair of the Electoral Reform Society's governing Council (since January 2018) and was a board member of the Trade Justice Movement from March 2015 to March 2018.

Before starting her PhD, she worked as programme policy manager with ActionAid UK, leading a small team to carry out research and advocacy on alternatives to mainstream development models, and to challenge global and OECD policies that limit the space for such alternatives to emerge. As part of an ongoing project on job creation and industrial policy, she worked closely with colleagues in Bangladesh, Uganda and Vietnam. Her PhD project emerged out of broader discussions with colleagues across the ActionAid federation about developing a programme of work on development alternatives that would be responsive to the organisation's new focus on supporting social movements.

Before joining ActionAid, Ruth worked with Oxfam, UNDP and the European Commission. She has also worked with the Irish Refugee Council and La Cimade in France, supporting undocumented migrants and refugees with applications for regularisation and family reunification. Ruth speaks fluent French and good Spanish.


Ruth is based at the Centre for Applied Human Rights and at the Centre for Women's Studies at the University of York. Her doctoral research, carried out in collaboration with ActionAid, explores the potential for art and narrative to help communities and activists articulate alternative approaches to development. Her initial research explores how retelling familiar tales - including traditional genres like folktales and hybrid genres like sci-fi - can help activists to articulate goals and to develop strategy. Her studentship is funded by the ESRC.

In 2016-18, she is contributing to an AHRC-funded networking project on creative activism and development alternatives, working with artist Emilie Flower to carry out workshops with artists and activists in Bangladesh and Uganda.

Ruth is supervised by Professor Paul Gready, Professor Maggie O'Neill and Dr Jon Ensor.


Kelly, R. (2017). Translating rights and articulating alternatives: rights-based approaches in ActionAid’s work on unpaid care. The International Journal of Human Rights. Published online: 24 April 2017.

Kelly, R. (2016). What a way to make a living: policies to catalyse industrialisation and the creation of decent and dignified jobs. ActionAid International.

Kelly, R. (2012). The hunger grains. Oxfam International Briefing Paper.

Herman, M., Kelly, R. and Nash, R. (2011). Not a game: regulating financial markets to grow a better future. Oxfam International.

Kelly, R. and Gustavo, L. (2011). Translation of Mercosur ad hoc tribunal decision in the paper mills case. Society for International Economic Law.

Kelly, R. (2010). EU and US Non-Reciprocal Preferences: Maintaining the Acquis. Law and Development Review 3(1). *Shortlisted for the 2009 SIEL/CUP Essay Prize.

Kelly R (2007). Baby Ann's Constitutional Rights. Irish Journal of Family Law 10(3).

Ruth Kelly

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