Research Program: Research Themes & Suggested Topics

Research Program
Pressures and impacts on Human Rights

The research focus is on three identified contexts featuring human rights under pressure in the contemporary world. Innovative ways of responding to these situations have to be sought in the context of crises and emergencies; in the context of diversity; and in the context of globalisation and its consequences. These contexts not only pose challenges for existing human rights norms, but also give rise to new understandings and ways of implementation of human rights. Each area will profit from insights from the other fields of research and vice versa.

Doctoral students will be expected to conduct their research within one of the following three broadly identified areas of research:

  1. Human Rights and Crises and Emergencies
  2. Human Rights and Diversity
  3. Human Rights and Globalisation


1. Human Rights and Crises and Emergencies

The first field of research addresses the challenges, but also opportunities, posed by emergencies and crises on human rights. Emergencies and crises are linked to the concept of ‘normalcy’, but what is considered as normal or abnormal may vary according to different cultural contexts. By taking a comparative approach, HR-UP examines the different experiences of crises and emergencies and how they impact on human rights at the level of concepts, justification and implementation. Areas of particular interest are human rights under states of emergency; the experience of terrorism and human rights, including the legitimacy of targeted killings and other security and counter-terrorism policies; the relationship between human rights and international humanitarian law and the justification of humanitarian intervention; and the impact of current crises such as the global financial crisis, climate change, AIDS, poverty, and migration, on the human rights discourse.

Examples of topics for doctoral research:

  • The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Human Rights
  • The Crisis of Climate Change: A Risk or Opportunity for Human Rights?
  • The Concept of Security in the 21st Century: International Terrorism and Human Rights
  • Questions of Proportionality/Preventive Action/Humanitarian Intervention
  • Human Rights and Counter-insurgency operations
  • Derogations and Long-Term Emergencies
  • The Challenge presented by Failed States
  • Human Rights Law Norms applicable in Non-International Armed Conflicts
  • Addressing Widespread Disease and Hunger from a Human Rights Perspective
  • Security technology and Human Rights
  • International Humanitarian Law and Cyber-Warfare
  • The Rights-based Approach to Development and Emergencies/Crises
  • The human rights of migrants in humanitarian crisis


2. Human Rights and Diversity

The second field of research examines how the reality of diversity poses challenges to the realisation of human rights. Two debates are central to this field of research: first, the universalism versus cultural relativism debate; second, the individual versus group rights debate. This second field of research also addresses questions concerning specific issues that are inherent to diversity and human rights. These are, among others, legal pluralism, language rights, and an emerging right to self-governance and autonomy. As immigration adds to the multicultural set-up of states, and at the same time (illegal) immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations, this field of research looks at the way migration presents a pressure for the realization of human rights.

Examples of topics for doctoral research:

  • Legal Pluralism and Human Rights
  • Religious Diversity and Human Rights
  • Relationship between Individuals and Communities
  • The Intersections of Human Rights and Intercultural Education
  • Diversity and the Right to Autonomy
  • Rights of Sub-groups (Minorities within Minorities)
  • Human Rights and Meta-Societal Norms
  • Human Rights Protections afforded to Economic Refugees
  • Immigrants' Rights to Maintain their own Culture
  • Human Rights and "The Other"
  • Freedom of Speech and Religious Freedoms
  • Rights to Life and Health and Religious Freedom
  • Should "Cultural Defences" be Recognized under Criminal Law
  • Freedom of Conscience and Particular Conscientious Dictates
  • The Relationship between Human Rights and Majority Rule


3. Human Rights and Globalization

The third field of research looks at the impact of globalisation on human rights. Understanding globalisation as an economic, social, and political phenomenon, research in this field examines the economic, social, and political impacts of globalisation on human rights. These includes questions regarding international justice and human rights; the role and responsibilities of non-state actors such as international organisations, international financial institutions and transnational corporations in the realisation of human rights; the universality of human rights and the way in which globalisation facilitates the diffusion of human rights; and the relationship between globalisation, migration, and globalisation and new media and how they facilitate or hinder the realisation of human rights.

Examples of topics for doctoral research:

  • Impact of Economic Globalisation on Human Rights
  • Global Governance, International Justice and Human Rights
  • Changing Role of the State-Centered System and Human Rights
  • Implementing Human Rights Education in a Globalized World
  • Privatization as a Global Challenge for Human Rights
  • Cross-boundary Human Rights Obligations of States
  • The Universality of Social-Economic Rights
  • Human Rights as a Tool to Defend Economically Marginalized Groups
  • Corporations as Duty Holders
  • International Organizations as Human Rights Agents/Abusers
  • The Implementation of Human Rights Law by Multi-National Corporations
  • Human Rights and the Internet
  • New Media as Facilitator of Human Rights Globally