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New interdisciplinary human rights network at Ghent University aims for societal impact

The Research Council at Ghent University recently selected for funding 6 ‘interdisciplinary research consortia aimed at realizing societal impact’. One of these is the UGent Human Rights Research Network. Professor Eva Brems is the initiator and spokesperson of the network, that brings together 61 Ghent University professors from 10 faculties, and within these, 22 departments.

What are the network’s objectives?

With this line of funding, Ghent University wants to achieve two objectives: the first is to increase interdisciplinary research collaboration, and the second is to increase the societal impact of research.

The network aims to tune into the new trend towards interdisciplinarity in human rights research, and to gradually build up capacity to become a major player in that field. This will include the organization of a medium-sized international conference in a few years’ time. The network has its strongest bases in the faculty of law and criminology and in the arts faculty, in addition to many committed members in other faculties who are experts in fields such as social work, healthcare, political science, economics, and even engineering!

The network wants to realize societal impact in co-creation with societal actors. These include civil society actors working in the broad field of human rights, as well as numerous cultural actors.

When will the network start its activities?

The bulk of the university funding will go into the salary of a full-time co-ordinator for the network. Hence, the first step will be the recruitment of that person. This is scheduled for early Spring. It is expected that the network will be able to kick off before the summer, and to be fully operational by the start of the next academic year.

How does the new network relate to the Human Rights Centre?

The Human Rights Centre (HRC) is based in the Faculty of Law and Criminology only. It will continue to function separately. While most of its members will also join the new network, the latter extends much beyond the HRC and the Faculty. Over the years, the HRC has become increasingly multi- and interdisciplinary in some of its research. The new network will further encourage this trend and will open up many new opportunities with new partners within Ghent University. Likewise, the HRC has always been trying to realize societal impact, for example through third party interventions before the European Court of Human Rights. The new network will valorize this kind of work, and will encourage HRC members to develop even more such activities in an interdisciplinary context.


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