Call for Papers - International Conference “The Role of Human Rights Research: Current Challenges and Future Opportunities”



Event Date: 

11/27/17 to 11/28/17

Location name: 

Padua, Italy


University of Padova Human Rights Centre

Within the Conference's challenging conceptual and empirical framework, the University of Padova Human Rights Centre has launched, in cooperation with other 5 human rights research institutes a call for papers open to human rights scholars, researchers as well as Ph.D candidates.

Preference will be given to sound proposals which contribute addressing, from different disciplinary perspectives, one of the following topics.

Each topic will correspond to a research panel, which will be managed by one of the human rights research institutes that has cooperated with the University of Padova Human Rights Centre in organising the Conference. The panels will take place in the afternoon of Monday 27th November at the premises of the University of Padova Human Rights Centre.

Panels topics

1 . 'Genocide, Ecocide and Minority and Indigenous rights' (panel proposed and managed by Damien Short and Corinne Lennox, Human Rights Consortium, University of London)

This panel will explore the nexus between the fields of genocide and ecocide studies and indigenous and minority rights. The panel will include an introduction that focusses on the work in these fields of Damien Short and Corinne Lennox. The discussion will be framed around the connections made in Short’s recent book, Redefining Genocide, Zed Books, 2016 (which draws on the work of Raphael Lemkin and his desire to protect the ‘future contributions’ to the world of culturally distinct minority groups) and Short and Lennox’s new project which examines the relationship between genocide, ecocide and minority rights protections. For this panel we welcome submissions that engage with genocide or ecocide or both, and the destruction and/or protection of indigenous and/or minority cultures.

2 . ‘Social Justice, Equity, Human Rights and Public Health’ (panel proposed and managed by Roberto De Vogli, University of Padova)

Although the fields of health equity and human rights have different languages, perspectives and methodologies, they share a number of fundamental concepts and tools for study and action. Social justice and equity lie at the heart of both human rights and public health. The social and economic circumstances in which we are born, live and work play a key role in the protection and advancement of human rights and health. Evidence from social epidemiology showing that socioeconomic conditions (e.g. poverty, unemployment, homelessness, education) are among the strongest determinants of health overlap with the human rights literature that focuses on the role of both socioeconomic rights (e.g. access to a decent standard of living, housing, education, healthcare, housing, water and sanitation) as well as civil and political rights (e.g. the right to collective bargaining, political participation and non-discrimination). A growing body of evidence also indicates that human rights are plausible mechanisms to explain why more egalitarian societies have better health and psychosocial outcomes than more unequal ones. By emphasizing a trans-disciplinary approach, this panel aims at quantitative and qualitative analyses of the impact of public policies, social conditions, and social justice on health, equity and human rights as well as theoretical contributions on the interrelationships between public health and human rights.

3. ‘Applying a Human Rights Based Approach to Human Rights Research’ (panel proposed and managed by Peter Johansson, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg)

Since the UN Statement of Common Understanding on Human Rights-Based Approaches to Development Cooperation and Programming in 2003, HRBA has been in focus for UN agencies, national development agencies and HR organisations. Substantial amounts of research have been made on the effectiveness of and lessons learned from HRBA. However, little attention has been paid to how HRBA can inform research methodologies. This panel invites papers that critically reflect on what a human rights based approach to human rights research may be. What gains can be made from applying HRBA to HR research and what methodological issues will arise from such application? Empirical cases where a HRBA to HR research has been used are particularly welcome, as are papers critically reflecting on methods, methodologies and approaches with big potential to include a HRBA to HR research, e.g. transdisciplinarity, participatory research, action research, etc.

4. ‘Bringing home human rights – research on human rights protection from a local perspective’ (panel proposed and managed by Lisa Heschl and Bernadette Knauder, European Training Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, and by Gerd Oberleitner, UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Human Security, University of Graz)

Human rights and their protection often take a rather abstract form with the state as principle agent for protecting and implementing them. However, human rights are exercised at a daily basis in a very practical way. Local and regional authorities play a key role in their implementation, namely as service providers facilitating the access to rights related to education, housing, health and social care, public order just to name a few. Human rights take effect at the local level, and it is the local level where constraints on human rights materialize most. Homelessness, hate crimes as results of exclusion, fear and intolerance, poverty and social negligence are most visible and can be most effectively addressed at the local level. 

This panel seeks to explore local power dynamics, contents of local policies and local discourses related to protecting human rights. How can human rights be best protected at the local level? How to ensure that human rights are not annihilated between different groups of interests or local and national authorities? How can human rights research contribute to critically re-think human rights protection at the local level We are looking forward to original and innovative research conducted in the field of human rights at the local level whether empirical or conceptual. Contributions from all academic disciplines and multidisciplinary contributions are welcomed. Topics to be dealt by panelists might refer to the new urban agenda, human rights cities, refugee initiatives, or sub-state entities as duty bearers, to name but a few.

‘Interculturality and Human Rights’ (panel proposed and managed by André Dizdarevic, Institut des Droits de l’Homme, Lyon Catholic University)

A systematic research work is needed to translate European and international human rights standards into practice at local and national level. The question for actors who must benefit and do benefit from research on human rights, such as international NGOS, the national human rights institutions and the international institutions, is the management of diversity and the main challenges posed in the field of human rights. This is particularly true in Europe in the light of societal and political developments in recent years (migration, refugees, populism, etc.). Diversity in general, and cultural diversity in particular, cannot be denied as the diversity of life cannot be denied. In research, and particularly in the field of human rights, "the critical spirit establishes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernity. In modern culture, the scientific community understands disagreement as an instrument for advancing knowledge. Disagreement is also a sign of diversity" (Umberto Eco). Among the factors undermining the human rights challenge is the cultural element (such as in the form of communitarianism). Thus, in the name of a claimed cultural particularism, varied and variable limits are laid for the recognition of human rights and their implementation, which may, to some extent, hamper the development and the strengthening of global and multi-level governance. The concept of interculturality was developed by scholars who designate a process of cultural interaction as power of exchange and dialogue in order to inscribe cultural diversity within the framework of universality. This notion of interculturality is at the heart of many human rights issues and it perfectly illustrates the gap that can exist between the conceptual framework elaborated by the researchers and the reality that the "practitioners" face. The issues raised above all concern the operationalization of human rights and the dissemination of a culture of human rights. Taking into consideration the challenges posed by interculturality, both from a theoretical and a practical point of view, IDHL proposes the above mentioned theme for a research panel. While clarifying the various aspects of the debate on this theme, it will be necessary to reflect on the challenges of cultural diversity in the implementation of Human Rights and to highlight the contribution of research in this field. Moreover, this theme implies an interdisciplinary approach which, from a methodological point of view, is nowadays inescapable. In this perspective, the IDHL will be able to contribute its expertise, in particular by drawing on the academic and research activities of the UNESCO Chair that is domiciled in at the Institute and whose activities are concerned with the theme: 'Memory, Cultures and Interculturality'.

6. 'Women's rights and scientific research: continuities, shifts and challenges for the future' (panel managed by Fouzia Rhousissi, UNESCO Chair Women and her Rights, Ibn -Tofail University, Kenitra)

The panel seeks to analytically discuss the correlation between women’s rights and scientific research with a particular focus on interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. It will reflect on the theoretical context, key concepts and tools of scientific  research in order to articulate a critical perspective on women’s rights. Women's Studies through its teaching, training, research, scholarship and advocacy has had a far-reaching impact on modern universities which have come a long way from the 1970 s where there hardly any mention of women in development policy statements. Nowadays, women’s studies departments and research centres are solid institutions and have an impressive record. The proliferation of courses and programmes, the development and dissemination of feminist scholarship; its gradual but sure encompassing of the field of differences among women have been well documented. Furthermore, the United Nations international conferences on women have brought a wealth of international data and cross cultural contacts and marked” the official birth “of global women’s rights movements. Put another way, so many scholars powerfully advocate new rights by introducing international perspectives on the status of women.

For a long time, work on gender, across the globe, has focused on women. While men frequently were portrayed as ‘the problem’ within this field, this rarely functioned as an incentive to engage directly with them. In the past decades, however, a partial shift in Gender and Development thinking has occurred. Increasing attention is currently drawn to men and masculinities, in the academy as well as among non-governmental organizations. To what extent has men’s commitment to this cause contributed to the promotion of women’s rights,

Human rights researchers, women and men, are the academic arm of the United Nations human rights system and one of the important keys in steering courses to the human rights policies and strategies of the future. How, might one ask, are women’s rights teachers and scholars contributing through their research and insights to the promotion of women’s rights  and to better implementation of the human rights treaties? How did  fields related to women’s rights help combat all forms of discrimination against women?

While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality under the UN Millennium Development Goals, women continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world. Gender equality is not only a vital human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful and sustainable world.

The women’s rights-based approach is not without its critics. Should we, therefore, continue to endorse an approach that is called into question by some of the very communities it is intended to benefit?

Like a tightrope walker, women’s rights researchers must maintain balance while moving steadfastly along a wire, with the constant danger of falling into the abyss below. This is precisely the nature of the challenge facing women’s rights movements in several societies today: how to balance the work of teaching, researching and defending human rights in the face of multiple demands, tensions and contradictions.

Dates and instructions

To participate in the call for papers, please send a pdf file including the following information:

a) name, affiliation and contact of author/authors (in case of more authors, please indicate the name of the corresponding author);

b) a title and an abstract of 250 words maximum and 4-6 key-words; 

c) an indication of the panel (title and number) for which the paper should be considered.

to by 21st September 2017 (midnight) 

Notification of acceptance will be sent by 10th October.

For accepted abstracts, the submission of a working paper before the Conference is strongly encouraged. This will also help the opportunities of publication.