human rights centre

Research and practice

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Cutting-edge academic and policy research

The Human Rights Centre is internationally recognised for the breadth and depth of its research projects.

The projects hosted by the centre operate at the interface between the theory and practice of human rights, bringing together experts from different disciplines and making concrete differences at the international, national, and local level.

Our research addresses a comprehensive range of pressing and important human rights challenges, including the right to health; freedom of religion; armed conflict and humanitarian issues; business and human rights; transitional justice; digital verifications and big data; local human rights challenges; issues surrounding mental health and autonomy.

Director of the Human Rights Centre, Andrew Fagan, has emphasized how crucial human rights are in the global challenges our world is facing and stresses how vital our role in research, practice and education is going to be in the coming years.


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"This is a very famous university that has been involved in the fight for human rights around the world"
Nelson Mandela on campus, 1997

Interdisciplinary research clusters

These interdisciplinary research clusters enable academic research staff with shared research interests, but working across different departments and faculties, to come together to share and receive feedback on research, as well as to develop shared research activities.

The clusters aim to support:

  • inter-disciplinary research collaborations, including funding proposals
  • inter-disciplinary research exchange activities, e.g. workshops to receive/provide feedback on work

Learn more about our interdisciplinary research clusters

Research clusters provide new opportunities for a greater number of Human Rights Centre members to come together and benefit from engagements. The clusters will engage members from across the University. Currently, the Human Rights Centre has 128 members across 15 departments at the University of Essex.

Research themes

The clusters focus on selected themes which a significant number of our members have research interests in, but where we do not have existing extensive collaborative networks, such as the projects and units.

How will they be run?

Each cluster will be run by coordinating committees. This will be composed of academics with expertise in the cluster theme, as well as Human Rights Centre core team members. The coordinating committees will determine the activities of the clusters around their broad purposes. Each cluster will hold 1-2 open research exchange and activity/coordination meetings per term; engage in ongoing coordination around sharing information about other events and opportunities, and develop inter-disciplinary funding applications.

Establishing research

The clusters, including through funding applications, may lead to the establishment of new projects within the Human Rights Centre, focused on more specific research questions than the broad focus of each cluster, but the clusters would continue to operate if projects are established. The clusters can also provide opportunities to coordinate and share expertise in terms of teaching on the relevant theme.

Research projects

The Human Rights Centre is proud to be home to a variety of incredible research projects. Our inspiring and dedicated academics cover a breadth of human rights issues from investigating in situations of armed conflict, to the role of national human rights institutions.

Explore our current research projects and past research projects below, including those within our Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub and Human Rights Clinic.

Current research projects

Positions held by our members and fellows

Human Rights Centre Members also conduct country- and region-specific human rights work, and possess particular expertise with respect to the United Nations mechanisms, including the UN Special Procedures.

Some of the prominent human rights-related positions held by our members include: Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, member of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, member of UN’s Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, Legal Advisor to the UK House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, Rapporteur to the International Law Association’s Committee on the Use of Force, Law Commissioner in Jersey, and Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law.

Our members are also involved in the work of various NGOs and international organisations including Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam, REDRESS, the Euro-Med Human Rights Network, Child Soldiers International, the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, and the AIRE Centre.

Essex is also one of only four universities with a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a development that recognises the breadth of education that Essex provides in relation to the protection of refugees.

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Bringing together diverse voices from all over the world, the Human Rights Centre podcast, 'RightsCast' applies a human rights lens to better understand current events, to discuss key and emerging issues, and to explore how to achieve social change.

Listen to our podcast

Litigation work

Our members are also extensively involved in litigation, particularly before the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and actively engage with the major UN human rights institutions.

Past activities undertaken by our members include litigating the case of Garcia Lucero and others v Chile before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, submitting comments to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in relation to the draft general comment on Article 12 of the Covenant, and submitting an amicus curae brief to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hassan v United Kingdom and Georgia v Russia cases.


Human Rights Centre consultancy

As the leading centre for the interdisciplinary study of human rights, we have extensive experience providing advice and consultancy services to national and international governmental agencies including:

We have also provided similar consultancy services to numerous non-governmental organisations such as the International Committee of the Red CrossAmnesty InternationalHuman Rights WatchArticle 19Minority Rights Group, the Consortium for Street Children, and Interights.

“We’re finding ourselves shaping the global discussion on mental health reform. There is an international debate happening about law reform and how to achieve compliance with the UN Convention and we’re helping people chart a course through the issues  they are facing.”
Professor Wayne Martin Director of eap
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General enquiries Human Rights Centre Team