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Our Work in Human Rights: Scholarly Outputs

A series highlighting the real-world accomplishments of the Human Rights Initiative Projects
December 14, 2020

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.

Perhaps the most fundamental culmination of academic research comes in the form of published articles and scholarly lectures. The Human Rights Initiative projects have produced and continue to produce in this regard. To date, HRI projects have generated 22 academic papers, 39 formal presentations, and have contributed to six book manuscripts. 

An example of an HRI project with notable scholarly results is Prof. Lisa Hilbink (Political Science) and Valentina Salas’ Project : Equal Rights & Unequal Remedies: Understanding Citizen Perceptions of and Engagement with the Judicial System. This project explored how citizens in Colombia and Chile perceive the legal options available to them when they experience human rights violations. The project team conducted a series of focus groups in Chile and Colombia to understand participants’ reasons for their views of the justice system, as well as whether and under what circumstances participants’ beliefs translate into choices about engagement with state judicial institutions. 

Hilbink and Salas found that people felt the judicial process was too slow and bureaucratic, unresponsive to people with few resources, or that focus group participants simply didn’t know how to engage with the justice system. Ultimately, they call for mechanisms of legal empowerment that build all citizens’ capacity to identify, claim, and enforce legal rights. 

With funding from the Human Rights Initiative, the Institute for Multi-Disciplinary Research Teams at Rutgers University-Newark, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Hilbink and Salas have used their findings to write and promote a series of academic articles, papers and online posts that have widened the reach of their conclusions. These include publications in journals such as The Latin American Legal Studies, The Research Handbook on Human Rights and Poverty, and The Open Global Rights Online Publication; with a “Revise and Resubmit” request from The Comparative Political Studies Journal. Prof. Hilbink and Ms. Salas have also given numerous presentations on their work; In 2019 alone they presented at the Latin American Studies Association, The Law and Society Association, and The American Political Science Association conferences.

In addition to publications and presentations, they have also used their findings for informed discussion with foundations, policymakers, and activists. This advocacy work includes ongoing collaborations within the Chilean judiciary, and with scholarly and community partners around access to justice and legal empowerment. Hilbink and Salas have also consulted with Stanford University students on a project to design an online access to justice platform.

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

Prof. Lisa Hilbink and Valentina Salas pose with former Provost Karen Hanson
Prof. Lisa Hilbink and Valentina Salas pose with former Provost Karen Hanson after presenting at the Law School (Nov. 2019)