Re-negotiating human rights: 10 million euros for a new Human Rights Research Center at FAU

FAU doctoral student Aneth Lwakatare-Thumm talking at the street of Human Rights in Nuremberg
FAU doctoral student Aneth Lwakatare-Thumm explains science minister Markus Blume, Nuremberg's Lord Mayor Marcus König and FAU President Joachim Hornegger (from left) explain Article 25 "Right to an Adequate Standard of Living" of human rights. (Image: FAU/Uwe Niklas)

Free State of Bavaria establishes a Center for Human Rights Research at FAU for 10 million euros

The rise of autocracy, environmental crises facing the planet, global migration and forced displacement,  globalization (and de-globalization) of production networks or digital transformation: these are just some of the factors contributing to the need to re-negotiate human rights in the 21st century. Bearing this in mind, it is vital that we dedicate more time and effort into research into human rights. The Free State of Bavaria has now dedicated 10 million euros in funding to setting up a new Human Rights Research Center at FAU. It will be based in Nuremberg. This investment is intended to drive research forward in Nuremberg, the city of human rights, and to further increase international awareness of this area of research. Research into human rights is already one of the FAU’s key research priorities.

FAU is Germany’s leading university for interdisciplinary research into human rights, and it is no coincidence that it is based in Nuremberg: one of the most important and symbolic locations in Germany when it comes to the topic of human rights, the location of the Nuremberg Rallies and the Nuremberg trials and known today as the City of Peace and Human Rights. The establishment of the Human Rights Research Center reflects the significance of this location. It will be managed by a board of directors consisting of three members, Prof. Dr. Markus Krajewski as spokesperson, Prof. Dr. Anuscheh Farahat as co-spokesperson and Prof. Dr. Michael Krennerich as academic director.

Science minister Markus Blume emphasizes the importance of research into human rights especially in these times: “Persecution of minorities, violence in Iran, Russia’s war of aggression: Human rights are currently constantly under fire. In Germany, we have a special historical responsibility that we must live up to, that we want to live up to. That is another reason why Nuremberg is the ideal location for the Human Rights Research Center – not in spite of, but because of its historical connotations. We are sending out an important signal with the Center. It makes us aware of the fact that while human rights are essential, they cannot always be taken for granted. Research into human rights is already one of the key research priorities at FAU. The University is well aware of its social responsibility. Progress must be based on values. FAU provides the perfect combination of ethics and progress, enhancing research as a whole within Bavaria.”

“As a university which offers the entire spectrum of academic disciplines, FAU offers excellent conditions for strong interdisciplinary research into human rights. As one of our research priorities, the topic is already well established in both the humanities and law at our university. Thanks to the large sum of funding, our current Center for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg – CHREN for short – will be able to form the nucleus of a major research center. In this way, we can make research into human rights a permanent fixture at FAU and make more concentrated efforts to expand it into a beacon of excellence,” explains Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger, FAU President.

Nuremberg’s city mayor Marcus König believes that the Center will make a major contribution to work on human rights in Nuremberg. “Nuremberg is the City of Peace and Human Rights. We have been intensively involved in work in human rights in politics, society and on the international stage for nearly 30 years now. The Nuremberg International Human rights Award is a prestigious and prominent aspect of our work. However, ongoing encouragement of local human rights activities and close connections to stakeholders in society are no less important. The Human Rights Research Center is the ideal addition to our efforts to strengthen local and international human rights in Nuremberg, which is also home to the International Nuremberg Principles Academy. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Free State of Bavaria for their decision to invest in a further building block to add to Nuremberg’s reputation as a City of Peace and Human Rights.”

Consistent development of research into human rights

Research into human rights has a long tradition at FAU. The Chair of Human Rights and Human Rights Policy was established in 2009, led by none other than Prof. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief. Since then, FAU has consistently made an effort to expand the discipline. The Center for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg (CHREN) established interdisciplinary research into human rights at FAU, involving not only law and political science but also education, history and the ethics of medicine. A strategic recruitment plan led to the appointment of Prof. Dr. Anuscheh Farahat, Prof. Dr. Dr. Patricia Wiater, Chair of Public Law, Public International Law and Human Rights, and Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach, Professorship for International Politics of Human Rights The topic has also migrated from research into teaching, finally culminating in the international Master’s program in Human Rights. Doctoral degree programs such as “Business and Human Rights”, funded by the Elite Network of Bavaria, make the FAU Research Center CHREN a meeting place for young and experienced researchers from Germany and abroad, where they can come together to exchange views and learn from each other. Finally, the FAU Human Rights Award was awarded for the first time in 2022, to the Indian human rights researcher and activist Dr. Harsh Mander.

“The interdisciplinary approach to research pursued at CHREN is unique in research into human rights in Germany,” according to Prof. Dr. Markus Krajewski, spokesperson for CHREN. “The generous funding we have been granted will firmly establish this interdisciplinary research and make the region a leading international location for the research field. Our vision is to make Nuremberg into a central location for regional and international dialog between young researchers, experienced human rights experts, institutions and other stakeholders and to encourage joint research.

The researchers link their topics to urgent international and socio-political issues and present their findings to the public at a variety of different occasions, in Nuremberg, in Bavaria, in Germany or internationally. CHREN has organized an international conference on “Human Rights and Business” to accompany the prize-giving ceremony for the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award on September 24. This will be followed in November by a conference on “Human Rights in the Face of the Climate Crisis,” funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Especially in times when the political debate and the debate surrounding human rights policies becomes emotional and ideologized, it is important to contribute well-founded and well-considered research to the discussion in order to keep discussions objective and focused on human rights,” explains Prof. Krajewski. An opinion shared by FAU President Prof. Hornegger: “I am strongly in favor of establishing practically relevant, institutionalized and diverse research into human rights with a sound theoretical base at our FAU in our CHREN Research Center.”

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