Human Rights Methodology and Institutions

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.

Our Experts
Margaret L. Satterthwaite
CHRGJ Faculty Director
Director, Global Justice Clinic
Professor of Clinical Law
Philip Alston
CHRGJ Faculty Director
John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law
Ryan Goodman
CHRGJ Faculty Director
Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law
Pablo de Greiff
Transitional Justice Program Director
Prevention Project Director
Senior Fellow

For a complete record of CHRGJ faculty and staff work relating to human rights methodology and institutions, visit our searchable Document Center and News and Events archives.

Recent Documents
Articles and Chapters
July 30, 2019
Much Ado About Poverty: The Role of a UN Special Rapporteur
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August 20, 2018
The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal (2d ed.)
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 Events
April 30, 2020
COVID-19 and Mental Health: Wellbeing and Resilience During the Pandemic
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November 1, 2019
Mental Health and Human Rights: Future Challenges and Opportunities
View Event
February 15, 2019
Using Open-Source Intelligence for Human Rights: A Half-Day Workshop with Christoph Koettl
View Event

Related Pages

Initiative on Human Rights Fact-Finding, Methods, and Evidence
Human Rights Methodology Lab
Human Rights Resilience Project

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