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Human Rights: an area of ever-growing importance

Together with leading centres of human rights research from Baden-Württemberg and Connecticut, FRIAS established a Human Rights Research Consortium.

The US state Connecticut and the state of Baden-Württemberg have been partners for almost 30 years. Both states harbour centres of human rights research that are among the leading institutions worldwide, such as the Yale University in Connecticut, the Human Rights Institute of the University of Connecticut, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg and the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies. Now, a transatlantic consortium has been successfully evaluated that aims at strengthening the already-existing links between American and German researchers and at raising awareness for the international human rights research. Together with the Human Rights Institute of the University of Connecticut, FRIAS will serve as an  centre for all scientific activities and the administrative hub for the consortium. On the German side Professor Silja Vöneky and FRIAS director Professor Bernd Kortmann perform as co-directors, in Connecticut, this task has been taken up by Professor Katharina von Hammerstein and Professor Sebastian Wogenstein, both from the University of Connecticut.

Research on human rights is an emerging field of study that brings together various disciplines. What was originally a key question for law studies and philosophy, attracts more and more researchers from disciplines such as anthropology, philology. and history as well as economics, politics, and natural and life sciences. Due to these numerous approaches, the collaboration of researchers beyond the borders of both disciplines and nations is of growing importance.

Starting in late 2019 and continuing their work in 2020, four working groups will tackle different aspects and areas of research:

  1. The group “Human Rights, Science and Technology”, led by Molly Land from the University of Connecticut, and Silja Vöneky, Professor for Public and Comparative Law at the University of Freiburg and FRIAS fellow, addresses questions concerning the governance of scientific and technological innovations and human rights law, especially in the field of biotechnology and artificial intelligence. This working group seamlessly follows research interests already present at FRIAS, for instance in the form of last year’s research focus on “responsible artificial intelligence” that has been transformed into the new format of SALTUS! Group.
  2. A second group focuses on the “Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights” and is led by Niels Weidtmann from the University Tübingen and Christopher Gohl from the Weltethos Institute in Tübungen. The group focuses on the claim of universality and human dignity that has is often linked with the discussion of human rights.
  3. Under the guidance of Achilles Skordas and Lucas Sanchez, both from the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, a third group “Human Rights and International Relations” will address questions concerning recent and past events of violations of human rights. Next to that, the group works on a critical theory of human rights and develops different approaches for specific regions in Latin America and Africa.
  4. A fourth group “Human Rights Education and Solidarity”, led by Kathryn Libal from the Human Rights Institute of the University of Connecticut, Dorothee Weitbrecht from the Elisabeth-Käsemann-Stiftung and Karin Amos from the University of Tübingen, aims at developing new ways of increasing democratic awareness for human rights in societies.  Additionally, the group plans to initiate exchange with teachers and students.

For May 2020, a first conference will be held at FRIAS in which all HRRC working groups from the US and Germany come together and present preliminary results to a broader academic public.