Humphrey School Researchers Among Recipients of Human Rights Initiative Grants

February 5, 2019
Women holding signs at a protest in Mexico
Women in Mexico protesting arrests and forced disappearances. Photo: Creative Commons

Global policy experts Deborah Levison and Jessica Stanton of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs will receive grants from the University’s Human Rights Initiative (HRI) to support their projects addressing global human rights issues.

The HRI Research Fund grants are awarded each year to faculty at the University of Minnesota who study and respond to current human rights issues in innovative, interdisciplinary ways. This year, four projects have been selected for funding.

The Observatory for Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico: Media Reporting and Human Rights Accountability 
This project asks how media reporting can advance a culture of accountability for human rights violations in Mexico. Led by Barbara Frey, director of the Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts, this research looks at how Mexican media reporting on enforced disappearances may impact public engagement with human rights. Key activities will include training student researchers in data collection and analysis, creating a database of 5,000 press articles covering disappearances from six Mexican states and analyzing that coverage, interviewing journalists and other key informants. The database and findings will be publicly available for both scholars and policymakers. 

Animating Children’s Views: Implementing the UNHCR’s Article 12 Using Innovative Survey Methods
Led by Humphrey School Professor Deborah Levison  and Professor Frances Vavrus in the College of Education and Human Development. The project is predicated on the premise that children should be consulted on human rights issues that impact them, but they are frequently overlooked during research and policy discussions. This innovative project is developing a new survey methodology that addresses this gap by using simple animations to ask survey questions of children ages 12-17. The project is in its second year, and will build upon results gathered during their first phase of testing in Tanzania by testing the methodology in Brazil and Nepal. Ultimately, such a tool could be used by researchers to collect children’s views that could inform human rights policy decisions. 

The Global Diffusion of Anti-Terrorism and Law and its Impact on Human Rights
This project, headed by Jessica Stanton, associate professor at the Humphrey School, looks at how new anti-terrorism laws around the world are affecting human rights. The project focuses specifically on the UN Security Council’s unanimous resolution passed in reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which urged countries to strengthen their anti-terrorism laws. Many of these new laws have been used by states to undermine domestic political opposition and threaten civil liberties and human rights. The full extent of the consequences for human rights is still being uncovered, and this project seeks to inform this conversation. The research will focus specifically on non-Western countries and strive to understand the impact that anti-terrorism law has had in these countries. 

Transparency and Engagement in U.S. Immigration Court by Ensuring the Quality and Utility of Data Collected by Volunteer Observers 
This project is led by Assistant Professor of Sociology Jack DeWaard and Professor Linus Chan of the Law School. Their research supports work done by the Human Rights Defender Project, which recruits and trains volunteers to observe immigration court hearings. This project seeks to validate the data collected from the volunteer observers’ notes against external sources about immigration court trends, ensuring the data is accurate and robust. Researchers will also interview the volunteers and collect their responses to use as qualitative data, which will contribute to researchers’ eventual conclusions about trends across immigration court hearings and decisions.

About the Human Rights Initiative 

The Human Rights Initiative is a joint effort of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA). The HRI Research Fund receives recurring funds from the University's Provost Office to support faculty-led interdisciplinary human rights research through grants of up to $50,000. The HRI’s goal is to support interdisciplinary engaged research and teaching in the human rights field in order to strengthen human rights practice and the human rights profession. The HRI is  the culmination of years of collaboration between faculty who research and teach on topics related to human rights.