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Job description

We are seeking a researcher for a fully-funded postdoctoral fellowship as part of the iBOF project “Future-proofing human rights. Developing thicker forms of accountability”.

We are looking for a mature postdoctoral researcher, with a PhD in human rights or other relevant fields and have a proven track record of working on related topics.

The selected candidate will have an interdisciplinary profile, covering at least social & legal studies related to human rights and accountability, various relevant research methods, and will have good working knowledge of the various topics studied as part of this research project (see below).

The postdoc will be based at the Human Rights Centre at the Faculty of Law and Criminology of Ghent University, but will (remotely) collaborate with colleagues at other Flemish Universities.

The selected candidate will be offered a contract of limited duration. Minimum duration is 18 months based on full-time employment, with a possible extension of up to 6 months. Employment percentage is open to negotiation. A longer duration can be accommodated in case the applicant prefers part-time employment.

We encourage candidates who self-identify as belonging to a minority group to apply and have a recruitment process aimed at ensuring inclusion and diversity.

Description of the broader research project

The position is created as part of a broader research project on accountability for human rights.

The overall research project is a multi-disciplinary and multi-method study that seeks to identify a variety of avenues for achieving better human rights protection that can provide the basis for a thicker conceptualization of the notion of (human rights) accountability.

It seeks to strengthen human rights law by identifying means or mechanisms that ensure a thicker form of accountability. This project proposes to further develop the concept of accountability so that it can face up to current social challenges, such as COVID-19, corporate abuse or surveillance dilemmas. Our particular concern is with the disconnect between the formal legal system and the lived experiences of those who suffer harms that could logically be – but are not yet – understood as a human rights violation.

Our overarching research question is: How can thicker accountability for human rights violations be achieved, so as to ensure better human rights protection in line with the everyday experience of rights holders? This question breaks down into three sub-questions:

  1. What counts/should count, as a human rights violation, i.e. what types of substantive wrongs (do not) trigger accountability in practice?
  2. Who can/should be held accountable (i.e. who is a duty-bearer), but now slips through the net?
  3. How can the human rights framework be altered to accommodate this, i.e. what are good practices?

Description of your specific research

The work of the postdoc forms the capstone of the iBOF project and contributes to our aim of strengthening human rights law by reconstructing the concept of accountability so that it can face up to current social challenges.

As such, there is a set research agenda and pre-established research focus and deliverables for this postdoctoral position.

The candidate will engage in a conceptual analysis of the notion of human rights accountability based on a wide range of previously collected empirical materials produced as part of the broader iBOF project. This conceptual analysis should adopt a user perspective as an analytical lens to integrate these insights and to formulate an overarching answer the project’s main research question: How can thicker accountability for human rights violations be achieved, so as to ensure better human rights protection?

In terms of academic and scientific focus, the postdoc will open up the black box of accountability and revisit the notion by integrating state of the art insights as they have been developed in various disciplines and subprojects of the iBOF project, to offer a thicker, more encompassing, and more actor-oriented understanding of accountability that facilitates better human rights protection for those most in need. This entails a substantive recasting of the discussion, across disciplinary confines, and requires the integration of legal and extra-legal perspectives. This includes a focus on methodological innovation, as well as academic and professional/societal valorization, including the coordination of a joint publication that integrates findings, and outreach to policy-makers and practitioners.

The selected candidate will be primarily supervised by prof. dr. Tine Destrooper, but will work in close collaboration with all PI’s and researchers to make both the academic objectives of the project, as well as its valorization goals materialize.

For more information, see this document.

Profile of the candidate

In order to be eligible, applicants must

  • hold a PhD degree in social and political sciences, law, anthropology or a related discipline;
  • have obtained their degree at the time of application or demonstrate convincingly that they will have that degree in hand by August 1, 2023;
  • have a proven track record (including through publications) and demonstrable expertise in the domain of human rights and accountability, and the interdisciplinary study thereof;
  • be fluent in English as their primary working language and as their primary publication language.

Furthermore, applicants who meet multiple of the following conditions will be ranked higher during the assessment procedure

  • have multidisciplinary training (e.g. as demonstrated through multiple degrees) and/or a proven track record in multidisciplinary research, as relevant to the iBOF research project;
  • have in-depth knowledge of the case studies comprising the iBOF project proposed;
  • have demonstrable expertise in or familiarity with actor-oriented perspectives and/or users’ perspectives on human rights;
  • have experience with taking on a proactive and coordinating role within a collaborative research project and to take up a supportive role towards junior team members;
  • have experience in (co-)editing collective publications (i.e. edited volumes or special issues of journals)
  • have experience with qualitative socio-legal research methods (such as participant-observation, interpretive research design);
  • knowledge of and experience with legal research and/or quantitative research is an added value;
  • pre-existing networks relevant to the research.

In addition to these project specific elements, we expect candidates to

  • have the ability to work independently and in a multi-disciplinary and international team;
  • have experience in working in and ideally managing complex research projects that require collaboration;
  • have excellent academic writing/presentation skills;
  • contribute towards the general well-functioning of the team and project;
  • have some social media experience, or interest therein;
  • work in a meticulous way and be able to manage deadlines.

How to apply

Apply online through the e-recruitment system before the application deadline. We do not accept late applications or applications that are not submitted through the online system.

Your application must include the following documents:

  • In the field ‘CV’: a detailed CV (including publication list, presentations and other relevant experience if available);
  • In the field ‘Cover letter’: your application letter in pdf format outlining how your professional and/or research experience is relevant for this project and your motivation (max 500 words);
  • In the field ‘Diploma’: a transcript of the required degree (if already in your possession). If you have a foreign diploma in a language other than our national languages (Dutch, French or German) or English, please add a translation in one of the mentioned languages. You will be required to present a certificate of equivalence if you have a degree from outside the European Union
  • In the field “other documents”:
    • a plan for your postdoc period (maximum 500 words), in terms of intended academic output and outreach to policy-makers and practitioners
    • Two academic letters of recommendation (e.g. from your PhD supervisor); and
    • A writing sample on a related topic (10.000 words maximum, in English, ideally an academic paper).

Note that the maximum file size for each field is 10 MB.

As Ghent University maintains an equal opportunities and diversity policy, everyone is encouraged to apply for this position.

The deadline for submission is April 9, 2023, 23:59 CET.

The foreseen starting date is November 1, 2023.

For inquiries, please contact prof. Destrooper at

Evaluation procedure

A longlist of applicants selected on the basis of the submitted dossier will be invited for a home-based written assignment.

Longlisted candidates will be informed by April 23. The written assignment will take place between 24 April and 5 May, 2023. Candidates who need special facilities can indicate this, and we will try to accommodate their request.

On the basis of this assignment, shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview in Ghent or through video conference. Shortlisted candidates will be invited by May 16, for an interview  which will most likely take place on May 26. Video conferencing will be available for international applicants or those who prefer to use this option. During this interview, we will assess the relevance of your experience for this project, and gauge whether you meet all the requirements.

The evaluation will be carried out by the principal investigator, in collaboration with the project’s steering group and/or senior researchers. If a suitable candidate is identified, we aim to extend an offer in the first week of June 2023 for an envisioned start in November 2023 (negotiable).

What we offer

A vibrant, inter-university and multidisciplinary research environment, stretching across four Flemish universities, in which you conduct your research as part of a broader cutting-edge research project. The selected candidate will be based in Ghent, where they will be part of a small research team working on related topics. Beyond Ghent, you will be part of a larger research team working on related topics. At Ghent University, this team is embedded in the Human Rights Center of the Faculty of Law and Criminology of Ghent University (see below).

A competitive salary following the official salary scales of UGhent based on a full-time position based on four years of academic experience (ie. starting immediately after PhD). Several elements are factored into the calculation of the exact salary, including other relevant prior experience and family situation.

The University also offers several social benefits to which the candidate has access, such as commuter allowances, access to university restaurants. More information can be found here.

All Ghent University staff members enjoy a number of benefits, such as a wide range of training and education opportunities, 36 days of holiday leave (on an annual basis for a full-time job) supplemented by annual fixed bridge days, a bicycle allowance and eco vouchers. Click here for a complete overview of all the staff benefits (in Dutch).

The selected candidate can enroll in relevant courses at the University of Ghent and beyond.


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