Human Rights Movement

Human rights methodology and institutions are undergoing a transformation, as the international human rights regime founded in the post-WWII era adapts to a changed and changing world. Advocates and scholars are reaching beyond the silos shaped by the field’s historical roots in law and journalism. As a result, methods of human rights investigation, research, and persuasion are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, influenced by fields as diverse as forensics, anthropology, environmental science, public health, economics, data science, statistics, communications, and the arts.

Rapid growth in communication and information technologies have opened up new frontiers for data collection, analysis, and exchange that have the potential to revolutionize approaches to human rights work. International human rights institutions have rarely been at the vanguard of these changes; their operations and procedures are evolving at a far slower pace. Increasing public scrutiny and questions regarding the legitimacy of human rights bodies historically dominated by the Global North, however, have prompted efforts to diversify and decentralize the human rights work performed by both intergovernmental and civil society institutions.  .

Thanks to its unique blend of in-house expertise, CHRGJ has been on the cutting edge of this methodological and institutional renaissance. Most faculty and senior staff at the Center have degrees or prior experience in fields beyond the law, including sociology, anthropology, political science, international development, philosophy, literature, and journalism. Their commitment to cross-disciplinary approaches to their research, scholarship, and advocacy has been applied in a wide range of contexts. These include: sociological analysis of how international law influences states; anthropological studies of the vernacularization of human rights; critical and constructive examination of fact-finding methods; theorizing and pioneering of techniques for applying social science methodologies to human rights research; investigation of the use of data visualization in human rights advocacy; and exploration of how new technologies, such as satellite imagery, crowd-sourced eyewitness accounts, and algorithms may strengthen the credibility and capacity of human rights reporting and advocacy, or conversely pose new threats to rights-holders.

The Center has trained this same creative and critical eye onto international human rights institutions. Using their platforms as United Nations independent experts, academics, and advocates, Center faculty and staff have challenged the structure and procedures of various human rights institutions, in efforts to enhance their accessibility and accountability to the people whose rights they aim to protect, and to encourage their adaptation to a modernizing world.

Current Projects

The Human Rights Resilience Project is an interdisciplinary research initiative co-led by Professor Margaret Satterthwaite, CHRGJ Faculty Director and Co-Chair, in collaboration with Professor Sarah Knuckey of Columbia Law School and Professor Adam Brown of Sarah Lawrence University and NYU School of Medicine. Since 2015, a research team of human rights lawyers and psychologists have been working to document, raise awareness, and develop culturally-sensitive training programs to promote well-being and resilience among human rights workers. The project is grounded in the belief that the well-being of human rights activists is essential for sustainable movements.

The Human Rights Methodology Lab is a joint initiative of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice with Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Watch, brings together leading human rights practitioners with experts from diverse disciplines to discuss concrete human rights research problems in order to build knowledge about, and encourage discussion of, innovation in human rights research methodologies.

César Rodríguez-Garavito
CHRGJ Director
Margaret L. Satterthwaite
CHRGJ Director
Director, Global Justice Clinic
Professor of Clinical Law
May 15, 2019
CTRL+HALT+Defeat: State-Sponsored Surveillance and the Suppression of Dissent
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Reports and Briefing Papers
March 1, 2019
Attempted Digital Surveillance as a Completed Human Rights Violation: Why Targeting Human Rights Defenders Infringes on Rights
View Document
Articles and Chapters
July 20, 2018
Trauma, Depression, and Burnout in the Human Rights Field: Identifying Barriers and Pathways to Resilient Advocacy
View Document

Related Pages

Human Rights Methodology Lab
Human Rights Resilience Project

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