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New HORIZON EUROPE project: Human Rights Justifications

20.4.2023 13:27

A new HORIZON-EUROPE-funded project led by the University of Gothenburg has started its work with a kick-off meeting in Sweden. The Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, is a key member of this research consortium which examines human rights justifications.

The project called “States’ Practices of Human Rights Justification: a study in civil society engagement and human rights through the lens of gender and intersectionality” (HRJust) explores how states use human rights concepts and the language of human rights to justify decisions. Specifically, it will focus on decisions regarding COVID-19, migration, and climate change.

States claims to human rights are not regulated by international law, meaning that there are gaps in international human rights law. The HRJust project seeks to address these regulatory gaps and work out proposals for how they could be closed. Thematic working groups include researchers from fifteen institutions in Sweden, Finland, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Italy, Israel, the Czech Republic, India, and Switzerland.

– Our team cooperates closely with the Taiwanese partners, says Katri-Maaria Kyllönen, a junior researcher in the research team at the Arctic Centre, led by Prof. Dr. Stefan Kirchner. Their goal is to map COVID-19-related policies in Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan to compare the measures and restrictions that were implemented.

– During the pandemic, many states justified restrictions to freedom of movement and the collection of people’s data by using human rights narratives. Those restrictions looked very different in different parts of the world, so a comparison between the Nordic countries and Taiwan will provide fruitful insights, Kyllönen adds. To understand the real impacts of COVID-19 measures, they plan to organize meetings with key groups which were significantly affected by them.

Other human rights-related challenges that will be investigated in the context of HRJust concern climate change and migration. Together with colleagues from the Institute of International Relations in Prague, Czech Republic, researchers from the Arctic Centre will turn the research results that will be created during the project into practically relevant knowledge for the future.

The HRJust project aims to develop a theory of human rights justifications and a process for civil society engagement that is truly inclusive. Furthermore, their data could help the European Union to work out a multinational human rights system and the promotion of transnational democratic governance.

– Our findings will help public authorities, NGOs, and the public to recognize and understand how policy, regulations, and law can be adapted to better protect individuals in future crises, says Kyllönen.

The project is truly diverse as it includes research regarding three different topics in overall five countries: Finland, Sweden, Ukraine, Taiwan, and India. But gender equality and intersectionality play an important role in each of the working groups.

– In all our research topics, gender and intersectionality are central as human rights justifications affect some groups more than others. With a focus on current state practices, the recommendations and materials provided in this project strongly promote gender inclusion and intersectionality in society, Kyllönen explains.

Project has received funding by the European Commission's Horizon Europe.