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Our Work in Human Rights: Our Partnerships

A series highlighting the real-world accomplishments of the Human Rights Initiative Projects
February 1, 2021

The Human Rights Initiative (HRI) supports interdisciplinary human rights-based research by providing direct funding to University of Minnesota faculty engaged in this work. The effort, which is a collaboration between the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs (HHH), seeks to strengthen the human rights practice and profession by championing groundbreaking engaged research. This 5-part series will showcase a handful of the accomplishments of these projects.

Partnerships are at the core of effective human rights research. Working alongside grassroots NGOs, on-the-ground human rights defenders, and parallel academic institutions allows researchers to coordinate efforts and maximize resources. The Human Rights Initiative projects celebrate a wide variety of partnerships ranging from hyper-local alliances to vast global networks.

One HRI project that entertained a multitude of partnerships is Barbara Frey’s Project “Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico: Media Reporting and Human Rights Accountability.” This project helps explain how the press can advance a culture of truth and accountability around enforced disappearances in Mexico. From its inception, this project has been rooted in strong partnerships between the University’s Human Rights Program, alongside Oxford University, and Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO-México). Through this academic collaboration, involving teams of student researchers at each academic institution, they are analyzing available sources of information, such as press articles and legal files, to understand the brutal wave of disappearances in Mexico – acknowledged by the government to be more than 70,000 in the past decade. 

Recently, additional collaborations have strengthened this work. These new alliances include Prof. Frey’s Fulbright placement from August 2019 through January 2020 with the Institute for Legal Research (IIJ) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) – the most prestigious center of legal studies in Latin America.  The inclusion of IIJ as a partner in the Observatory has substantially increased the prestige and visibility of the work. The IIJ website will link with the Human Rights Program website to promote research findings in Spanish and English, for use by researchers, journalists, human rights organizations and domestic and international policymakers.

The Observatory also enjoys important relationships with non-governmental and family collective organizations in Mexico, as well as the country’s United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In Nuevo Leon, Frey represented the Observatory at a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the family group, known as AMORES (“loves”) for its Spanish acronym, where she heard the moving testimony of wives and mothers who, out of necessity, have evolved into detectives, lobbyists, legislative experts and public speakers. In Coahuila, Professor Karine Ansolabehere of FLACSO and Frey met with families associated with two organizations, the Fray Juan de Larios human rights center (located in the Catholic Archdiocese) and FUNDEC (Forces United for our Disappeared in Coahuila). They presented them with findings from our research, including what the data tells us regarding: who did what to whom. 

The Observatory has also collaborated with students at the ITESM (“TEC de Monterrey”) in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, where economics students used the press database to produce publishable articles on the phenomenon of disappearances in their own community.

To learn more about the Human Rights Initiative and its results, visit this page and tune in for the next installment of this series.

 

FLASCO Conference
Human Rights Program Director Barbara Frey (middle right) speaking on a panel at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO-México) Conference (2019).