Posts Tagged ‘research’

WEBINAR addressing mental health support for human rights defenders

September 20, 2019

Recent research has shown that many human rights defenders are suffering PTSD, depression, and burnout as a result of the risks and stress of their work. Without adequate mental health support for activists, it could be difficult to sustain the human rights movement at a time when threats and risks of activism are increasing. How can funders take the wellbeing of activists into account through their funding? What are good practices to ensure that funders are doing no harm, and what are the options for actively supporting the resilience of activists to continue their work? Join the Human Rights Funders Network and Ariadne for a webinar on 20 September 2019 10:00am EST to learn more about the findings of the research and hear from peer donors about their efforts to integrate an awareness of wellbeing into their work.

Speakers:

  • Adam Brown, Associate Professor of Psychology, New School for Social Research
  • Marianne Mollmann, Director of Regional Programs, Fund for Global Human Rights
  • Magda Adamowicz, Senior Program Specialist, Open Society Foundations

The webinar is co-sponsored by Human Rights Funders Network Ariadne and will be moderated by Julie Broome, Ariadne Director.

Please register here.

Messages of positive behavior instead of accounts of abuse could have better long term impact

September 16, 2019

Brain research suggests emphasizing human rights abuses may perpetuate them

Laura Ligouri in Open Global Rights of 18 June 2019 writes about an aspect of campaiging that few human rights defenders and NGOs will be familiar with: “Capitalizing on the brain’s capacity to simulate events, messages of positive behavior – instead of repeated exposure to accounts of abuse – could better lead to the changes we wish to see in the world“. Laura Ligouri is the founder and director of Mindbridge, a not-for-profit organization connecting psychological and neurobiological insight to non-profit and government-sponsored humanitarian efforts. Here the piece in full:

Throughout the last few decades, much human rights work has necessarily sought to bring human rights abuses to light. But focusing only on abusive behaviour—without paying attention to its opposite—comes with a cost.

According to psychological and neurobiological research, repeated exposure to accounts of human rights abuses may inadvertently prime individuals to engage in the very acts we hope to eliminate; for example, repeated negative actions by some in a particular group come to be seen as normal behaviour for the group as a whole. As a result, activists must strike a balance between exposing abuses and demonstrating positive human rights-oriented behavior. By capitalizing on the brain’s capacity to mentalize and simulate events, messages of positive behavior could lead to the changes we wish to see in the world.

Some of the darkest moments in human history have their roots in the dehumanization of groups and people. If human rights activists can see what lies behind these trends, they can work to tackle the root causes and not just the symptoms of dehumanization. Research shows that many processes involved in dehumanization aren’t necessarily grounded in a lack of empathy for the victimized group. Instead, they are based in neurobiological mechanisms oriented around maintaining one’s own group at all costs. In fact, failures to promote positive, pro-social behavior might not rest in our ability to empathize with the “Other” but in the degree to which we identify and align with our own group.

Extreme human rights abuses often have their roots in powerful neurobiological mechanisms that lead humans to mirror or simulate what they see others in their group doing. Very recent research  shows how repeated exposure to hate speech, such as repeatedly reading it on local media, could prime your brain to engage in hateful speech or even hateful actions.

For human rights defenders, this can become dangerous: every time an organization, news source or media outlet emphasizes and repeatedly highlights a form of human rights abuse, even to condemn it, we are simultaneously engaging a very specific component of the social brain that emphasises compliance with the norms of our own group. Over time, the social brain will justify these acts and will find ways to divest our group of responsibility.

Moreover, a landmark study in 2012 showed that feeling connected to a group not only creates disconnection from more distant “others”, but could directly lead to dehumanization of those communities. The experiments indicated that the more people feel socially connected to closely-knit groups, the less likely they are to attribute human mental states to distant others. They are also more likely to recommend harsh treatment for those distant others.

But is empathy the whole story? A great multitude of non-profit organizations worldwide have worked tirelessly to increase empathy between groups, albeit largely by raising awareness about the suffering of marginalized groups or asking people to walk in other people’s shoes. Yet failures to empathize with others happens all the time.

Research has shown that when presented with images of people in pain, activation of the parts of the brain where empathy resides was significantly less for strangers than for loved ones or people of the same race. Other tests show that it is easier to promote aggressive behavior in interactions between groups than between individuals. When social relations shift from “me versus you” to “us versus them”, human interactions tend to become substantially more aggressive.

For example, in one experiment researchers examined whether acting as a member of a competitive group, versus acting alone, would ultimately lead to increases in one’s willingness to harm competitors. Using functional magnetic resonant imaging, or fMRI, participants were asked to perform a competitive task, once alone and once within a group. These same participants were later asked to engage in an activity where they had an option to harm competitors from another group. Results showed reduced brain activation related to empathy and moral decision-making among participants acting within the group, compared to participants acting alone. This reduced activation was later linked to their willingness to harm a person in another group.

The warning for human rights activists is that suspending our sense of individualized morality in favor of group-based norms is among a series of influential factors leading to dehumanization. But how do we reverse concepts of dehumanization once they have already occurred? And if these processes are deeply embedded within unconscious, psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, is it even possible to defuse and/or rewire them?

The answer is: we don’t have to. What would happen if we used our brain’s ability to mentally simulate an event where, instead of picturing or simulating hurting an individual, we imagined helping them? Researchers examined whether the same mechanisms that underlie processes related to empathy might also work to support the way in which our brain envisions the world, called episodic simulation. Their results showed that not only did the act of imagining helping increase participants’ actual intentions to help others, but also that the more vividly people could imagine a scenario, the more likely they were to help another.

These results have been replicated within the Mindbridge Implicit Bias Project, a series of trainings that capitalizes on the brain’s neuroplasticity in order change an individual’s relationship to bias and discrimination towards social groups over time.

Other research showed concretely the way in which positive episodic simulation coupled with capitalizing on the social brain can result in re-humanization of another group. Held in Israel, the researchers through a series of experiments asked Israeli-Jews to read about members of their group helping Palestinians. They found that Israeli-Jews who became aware about their group helping Palestinians showed greater humanization towards Palestinians.

The challenge for the human rights movement is to counter dehumanization that is seeded by group influence and images of human rights abuses with something different. By modelling the sort of behavior we want to see—kindness, caring and empathy—we can begin to re-humanize vulnerable groups.

If inhumanity can be learned, so can greater humanity. Understanding the brain may help us do just that.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/brain-research-suggests-emphasizing-human-rights-abuses-may-perpetuate-them/

 

 

 

Azeem Ibrahim wins the 2019 Engaged Scholar Prize for his writing on Rohingya

August 20, 2019

web-Dr.-Azeem-Ibrahim--GLOBAL-SCHOLAR-PRIZE

File photo of Dr Azeem Ibrahim Courtesy

The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) has awarded academic Dr Azeem Ibrahim its 2019 Engaged Scholar Prize. Founded in 1994, the IAGS is a global, interdisciplinary, non-partisan organization that seeks to further research and teaching about the nature, causes, and consequences of genocide, and advance policy studies on genocide prevention.

Glasgow born Ibrahim has been recognized principally for his work on the genocide committed by the Myanmar state against the country’s Rohingya minority in his book “Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Genocide (Hurst: 2016).”  Ibrahim has also researched and written extensively on the impact of displaced populations including the Syrians, Uyghur Muslims and others. His publications have appeared in prominent media outlets like New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, CNN, Daily Telegraph, Yale Global, Dhaka Tribune and many others.

Dr Ibrahim is currently a Director at the Centre for Global Policy in Washington DC and is working on creating the Rohingya Genocide Archives which aims to investigate and document the crimes committed against the Rohingyas by Myanmar and create a databank that can then be used by scholars, historians, researchers and any possible future tribunals. Dr Ibrahim was one of a handful of scholars to foresee and warn of the impending genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in 2016, when the Myanmar military undertook a policy of ethnically cleansing over 700,000 Rohingyas, forcing them into Bangladesh which now houses the largest refugee camp in the world.

IAGS has since its formation presented awards to honor both innovations in and the engaged practice of genocide scholarship. In 2017, these awards were consolidated into four categories: the Emerging Scholar Prize; the Engaged Scholar Prize; the Prize for the Arts; and the IAGS Lifetime Achievement Award. These awards are presented at the IAGS biennial conference and celebrate individuals who make exemplary contributions to the field of genocide studies.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2019/08/19/bangladeshi-academic-wins-prestigious-global-scholar-prize

About Us

InSPIREurope: new EU-Funded Initiative to Support Researchers at Risk to be launched in September

July 11, 2019

Ten European partner organizations announce an ambitious new initiative to be launched this September to support researchers at risk. The initiative – InSPIREurope – is a ten-partner project funded under the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and coordinated by Scholars at Risk Europe at Maynooth University, Ireland.

InSPIREurope will forge a coordinated, cross-sectoral, Europe-wide alliance for researchers at risk. InSPIREurope project partners include: Scholars at Risk Europe, hosted at Maynooth University, Ireland (Project Coordinator) • Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Germany • European University Association • Jagiellonian University, Poland • University of Oslo, Norway • University of Gothenburg, Sweden • PAUSE program, hosted by the Collège de France • Stichting voor Vluchteling-Studenten UAF, Netherlands • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece • Scholz CTC GmbH, Germany.

InSPIREurope begins from the view that excellence in research depends upon open scientific debate, and is driven by a multiplicity of ideas, cultures, people, and perspectives. When researchers are at risk and excluded from participating in the global research circuit, whether due to discrimination, persecution, suffering, or violence, not only are individual lives and careers at risk; the quality, the very future of research is also at stake. With record numbers of researchers at risk reaching out, there is no one country, government, NGO, or enterprise that can meet the scope of the challenge alone; an ambitious and concerted approach is required. Toward this goal, and in recognition of a shared commitment to excellence in research and to the principles of freedom of inquiry and academic freedom that are essential pre-conditions for world-class research, the InSPIREurope project will facilitate transnational cooperation between European and national initiatives and programs in support of researchers at risk. Further information, including project webpages, will be available when the project begins in September.

More about the Geneva Human Rights Platform (Geneva HRP)

June 22, 2018

Expert meeting at the Geneva Academy

The Geneva Human Rights Platform (Geneva HRP), hosted by the Geneva Academy and supported by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, provides a dynamic forum in Geneva for all stakeholders in the field of human rights – experts, practitioners, diplomats and civil society – to discuss and debate topical issues and challenges. Relying on academic research and findings, the Geneva HRP aims at enabling various actors to become better connected, break down silos and, hence, advance human rights.

The objective is to foster interactions and discussions on topical issues and challenges through regular events, conferences, expert roundtables and private meetings’ stresses Felix Kirchmeier, Director of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy. ‘The Geneva HRP aims to increase sharing, exchange and collaboration among different actors by means of its independent, neutral and academic status’ adds Robert Roth, Director of the Geneva Academy.

Specifically, the Geneva HRP concentrates on the current challenges to human rights and the way the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) and other Geneva-based mechanisms address or should address them, as well as on the work of UN treaty bodies. ‘We currently focus on two human rights challenges: use of force and the specific use of less lethal weapons for law enforcement purposes, and human rights and freedoms in the digital age’ underlines Kamelia Kemileva, Executive Manager at the Geneva Academy. ‘We accompany the work of UN treaty bodies via two projects, or sub-platforms, our Academic Platform on Treaty Body Review 2020 which just released its final report, and the Treaty Body Members Platform which connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/09/academic-want-un-treaty-bodies-to-become-fit-for-purpose/]

The Geneva HRP is up and running since the beginning of the year, but now has a dedicated online presence, on the Geneva Academy website, which provides information about activities, events and related research.

https://www.geneva-academy.ch/news/detail/134-the-geneva-human-rights-platform-a-dynamic-forum-to-discuss-and-debate-topical-human-rights-issues-and-challenges

Moshe Kantor launches €1 million European award to combat extremism with Albert II as first laureate

April 13, 2018

Image: Moshe Kantor Launches €1 MN Prize to Combat Extremism
Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor launched in early March 2018 a new award – the European Medal of Tolerance – aimed at fighting extremism and promoting peace in Europe. The European Jewish leader announced the prize at the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) round-table event at the Salon Bellevue in Monaco.The €1 million prize also referred to as the “Kantor Prize for Secure Tolerance” is awarded by ECTR’s panel of academic advisers to those who achieve exceptional research that advance the idea of “secure tolerance.” Candidates for the award need to present original and creative research on the ways the practice of tolerance can address the challenges of a globalized world and societies that exhibit rich diversity. The award is intended to foster progressive thinking that will be helpful for Europeans as they deal with security and human rights threats.

See also: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/european-medal-of-tolerance

Monaco’s Prince Albert II was the first laureate of the 2018 European Medal of Tolerance. Moshe Kantor expressed his admiration over the commitment of HSH Prince Albert II in advancing a true account of the Holocaust. He praised the Monaco prince’s focus on historical accuracy as it supports “the best traditions of the Principality in tackling challenges of coexistence, respect, and compassion.

http://www.moshekantor.com/en/press/20180306-2844/

Moshe Kantor Launches €1 MN Prize to Combat Extremism | Newsmax.com

Publication “Sur 26: Reclaiming Civic Space” focuses on local human rights defenders

February 2, 2018

This weekend I would like to share some new research on issues of civic space and human rights defenders (HRDs). The Fund for Global Human Rights has collaborated with Conectas to produce Sur 26: Reclaiming Civic Space, the 26th edition of Sur – International Journal on Human Rights. This is a special edition of the journal, authored predominantly by activists for activists. It documents the resistance of human rights groups during a time of increasing repression and restrictions on civil society, and offers key insights on the strategies frontline activists are using to reclaim civic space.

As you know, research about the global crackdown on civil society often focuses on how the crisis has manifested and its impacts. Little has been documented about the ways national-level civil society groups are responding to closing civic space, or the effectiveness of these responses. Moreover, international actors conduct much of the current research, and when frontline activists do produce analysis, it is often to inform the work of larger groups or to feature as case studies. Sur 26: Reclaiming Civic Space  helps change this. The research documents the learning of activists from 15 countries, how they have evolved their strategies to reclaim civic space, and the challenges they experienced along the way.

A letter to readers http://sur.conectas.org/en/sur-26-letter-to-the-readers/, authored by Juana Kweitel (Executive Director, Conectas Human Rights), Oliver Hudson (Editor, Sur Journal) and James Savage Program Officer of the Fund for Global Human Rights, provides insight into the special issue.

This collaboration with Conectas is a component of the Fund’s Enabling Environment for Human Rights Defenders Program <http://globalhumanrights.org/issues/activism-under-threat/> , a global initiative that supports human rights activists to resist the crackdown on civic space. A cornerstone of the program is to support documentation by and learning between activists.

Prior to the publication of Sur 26, with support from the Fund, Conectas brought together a dozen of the Sur 26 author-activists at a writers’ retreat in Sao Paulo. This opportunity helped the author-activists examine global and regional trends in closing space, discuss and share their strategies, review and provide feedback on each other’s texts, and reflect together on the importance of writing and documentation. The retreat enhanced and helped shape the final texts of Sur 26 while also providing a valuable space for frontline human rights defenders to collaborate on their work.

A video essay <https://youtu.be/fou-M3tb7WQ> , which was produced at the writers’ retreat, and offers a glimpse into the work explored throughout the 26th edition of Sur. Sur 26 is published in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/04/the-new-normal-rising-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders/]

http://sur.conectas.org/en/strategies-to-resist/

http://globalhumanrights.org/sur-international-journal-human-rights-issue-26/

First quantitative analysis of 16 years outgoing ‘communications’ by Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders

January 26, 2018

On 24 January 2018 an important study was made public about the work of the UN Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders. It concerns the study “Chasing Shadows: A Quantitative Analysis of the Scope and Impact of UN Communications on Human Rights Defenders (2000–2016)” by Janika Spannagel and published by the Global Public Policy Institute. At the bottom of this post there is link to downloading the full report. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/good-introduction-to-the-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-hrds-in-2018/].

Each year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders receives a large number of submissions regarding individual cases of concern. Only a fraction of these cases are addressed by the rapporteur’s communications procedure. Unlike outgoing communications, incoming cases are not publicly reported or even systematically registered by the UN. Furthermore, the criteria for the selection of cases (beyond basic eligibility) remain largely undefined. The consequences of case selection, whether according to explicitly stated rules or implicitly applied criteria, are quite significant. Currently, only 550 individual cases can be addressed by the mandate each year. [there are tremendous constraints in terms of staff.] Given this reality, the case selection process defines which types of defenders under pressure receive the UN’s attention and legitimization – and which do not. Nobody can determine with certainty how many cases have fallen through the cracks over the 17 years the mandate has been in existence, or who tends to benefit from the UN’s attention and who is often overlooked.

Based on extensive empirical research, this policy paper provides the first systematic analysis of all communications sent out to date. It finds credible indications that outgoing communications have a positive impact, but also demonstrates that there is room for improvement. In particular, a more deliberate prioritization of cases is required to ensure that the mandate can serve its protective purpose more effectively under the constraints of very limited resources.

The policy paper advocates an approach that aims to maximize the potential impact on the individual defender while systematically striving for a balanced documentation of cases. It makes an evidence-based argument for a number of adjustments and offers actionable recommendations to the mandate as well as to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to states, and to civil society actors regarding how to enhance the effectiveness of UN efforts to protect threatened human rights defenders around the world.

Among others, the paper recommends that the use of joint special procedures communications should be the exception rather than the rule, that states’ replies to cases should be systematically monitored and the respective data publicly released, and that more concerted international action should be taken with regards to ‘softer’ forms of repression.

preview

Download PDF (679.81 KB)

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/08/news-from-the-hrc34-mandate-of-the-special-rapporteur-on-human-rights-defenders-extended/

http://www.gppi.net/publications/human-rights/article/chasing-shadows/

University of New South Wales adds to its human rights institute

December 8, 2017

UNSW’s new centre of innovation on human rights is taking shape as the world marks Human Rights Day on 10 December.

eleanor_roosevelt.jpg

Former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Announced by UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs earlier this year, the Australian Human Rights Institute will further the interdisciplinary aims of the University’s 2025 Strategy  UNSW’s investment in the institute of $13 million to 2025 will allow research to be applied to real-world human rights violations, making an impact on communities in Australia and around the world when they are most in need of innovative responses.

Research will be focused on three areas: human rights and business, human rights and health, and gender justice. Australian Human Rights Institute Director Professor Louise Chappell says the new work will build on the strong foundations of the Australian Human Rights Centre, established in the Faculty of Law in 1986 and led for the past 13 years by Professor Andrea Durbach.

A cross-cutting theme emerging for the institute is the rapid advancement in technology, which has some negative human rights implications but also offers interesting new solutions. “It’s really clear that AI could create further frightening aspects of violence such as remotely controlling what’s happening in someone’s house,” Professor Chappell says. “But that same technology could also be turned around by victims of domestic violence, in this case, so that they’re able to protect themselves and link to support networks faster than ever before.”

Another aim of the Institute is to mentor the next cohort of rights defenders, linking emerging scholars with senior experts and UNSW’s deep networks in the human rights field.

The Institute will launch in early 2018 and is planning a program of lectures and other events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If you like to get updates about the Australian Human Rights Institute, sign up for emails here.

https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/business-law/new-unsw-institute-takes-shape-world-marks-human-rights-day

DatNav: New Guide to Navigate and Integrate Digital Data in Human Rights Research

August 25, 2016

DatNav, a guide designed to help human rights defenders navigate and integrate digital data into your human rights research, was launched today.

DatNav is the result of a collaboration between Amnesty InternationalBenetech, and The Engine Room which began in late 2015 culminating in an intense four-day writing sprint facilitated by Chris Michael and Collaborations for Change in May 2016. Based on interviews, community consultations, and surveys the researchers found that in the vast majority of cases, human rights defenders were not using the tools. Why? Mainly, human rights researchers appeared to be overwhelmed by the possibilities.

DatNav - Digital Data in Human Rights Research

Still, integrating and using digital data in a responsible way can make a huge and important difference to human rights research. Acquiring, disseminating and storing digital data is also more in reach. DatNav is about navigating these new possibilities.

In May 2016, the 3 NGOs gathered a group of experts to create a guide to help address this problem, and created the foundations of DatNav. Nearly 70 key members of the human rights tech and data community, representing nearly 40 different organisations from around the world, played key roles in the creation of DatNav.

This is just the beginning. If you’re interested in taking the guide forward, whether to inform strategy in your work, to train others, or through translations, or adaptations of the content, the organizers would like to hear from you. The content is all CC-BY-SA licensed and remixes of the content are more than welcome. We’re in initial talks to release an Arabic translation of DatNav, and we’d like to carry out others, too.

Download the DatNav pdf

You can sign up for The Engine Room’s newsletter to be notified of new updates and releases.

To find out more about the project or give feedback, you can send an email. You can also reach out on Twitter @zararah and The Engine Room @EngnRoom.

 

Source: DatNav: New Guide to Navigate and Integrate Digital Data in Human Rights Research | The Engine Room