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Friday, September 30, 2016

Human Rights Faculty awarded Grand Challenges Research Grant

An interdisciplinary group of faculty working collaboratively on international human rights issues has received one of the highly competitive Grand Challenges grants to support a Human Rights Research Lab focused on reducing inequalities through applied research. The two-year award of $110,000 will support a space in which faculty and graduate students will investigate and model ways in which cutting edge research can be utilized more effectively with NGOs, communities, and policy makers toward the specific goal of reducing inequality and enhancing human rights.

The grant enhances the University of Minnesota’s global reputation as the “Human Rights University,” a leading site of scholarship, teaching and outreach. With human rights faculty in several colleges and degree programs offered at both the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels, the University is well-placed to affect developments in the field. The University’s Master of Human Rights, a professional degree offered jointly by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the College of Liberal Arts, is the first of its kind in the United States. An initial cohort of Master’s students began the two-year in September 2016. The Human Rights Center, founded in 1988 and housed at the Law School, works at the nexus of scholarship and advocacy, supporting a concentration in human rights for law students. The Law School also hosts clinics that provide human rights legal representation to victims and groups.

The Human Rights Research lab will build upon the work of the existing interdisciplinary initiatives of the Human Rights Center and the Human Rights Program (based in the College of Liberal Arts), supporting faculty research, engaging students, and collaborating with civil society organizations at the local, national, and international levels.

The Human Rights Research Lab will serve as an incubator for a set of human rights projects with the ultimate goal of enabling knowledge transfer to policy or advocacy settings. The range of research projects represents the broad spectrum of expertise across the faculty. The topics, with a central focus on inequality and discrimination, include: 

  • unequal political and legal access after mass violence and human rights violations
  • racial and gender discrimination in gun violence 
  • inequities in access and funding within the global human rights movement 
  • imbalances in symbolic representation of victims of atrocity 
  • gender inequality, focusing on the human rights of women or girls in low- and middle-income countries 
  • perceived inequalities in judicial treatment 
  • discriminatory impacts of tobacco marketing 
  • equal access to justice for refugees 
  • impunity for disappearances in Mexico, and 
  • legal duty-based solutions to human rights problems.
Professor Joachim Savelsberg noted, “This grant will allow us to create the institutional infrastructure to incentivize and sustain existing collaborative relationships between faculties. This will help with the recruitment of students, and it will be a catalyst for further external funding.”

According to Human Rights Program Director, Barbara Frey, “the Human Rights Lab is a great way to leverage the human rights faculty’s expertise, allowing us to address in a more direct way the serious inequities that face us locally, nationally and globally.”

The Principal Investigators on the grant are Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (Law, Director of Human Rights Center); Senior Lecturer, Barbara Frey (Global Studies, Director of Human Rights Program); Professor James Ron (Political Science and Humphrey); Professor Joachim Savelsberg (Sociology and Ohanessian Chair). Additional collaborators include: Professors Alejandro Baer (Sociology, Director of Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies); Elizabeth Heger Boyle (Sociology); Greta Friedemann-Sánchez (Humphrey); Jennifer Green (Law); Catherine Guisan (Political Science); Lisa Hilbink (Political Science); Harry Lando (Public Health); Steven Miles (Medicine); Stephen Meili (Law); Leigh Payne (Senior Research Fellow, Human Rights Program); Christopher Roberts (Law); and Cheryl Robertson (Nursing).

For more information about this initial round of Grand Challenges Research grants, visit the Driving Tomorrow website