Human Rights Initiative
2017-2018 Human Rights Initiative Report (PDF)
2020 Human Rights Initiative 5th-Year Report (PDF)
Supplementary Index to the 2020 Human Rights Initiative 5th-Year Report (PDF)
The Human Rights Initiative is a joint effort of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to support interdisciplinary engaged research and teaching in the field of human rights with a goal of strengthening practice and the profession overall. The initiative arises out of years of collaborative and engaged research by faculty who work and teach on topics related to human rights.
The Human Rights Initiative receives recurring funds from the Provost's office to support grants of up to $50,000 for faculty-led interdisciplinary human rights research. Led by a group of senior faculty, the Human Rights Initiative Research Fund provides direct research funding to University of Minnesota faculty to carry out human rights projects. Learn more about future funding cycles.
Current Human Rights Initiative Projects
Audrey Dorélien (Humphrey School of Public Affairs)
All racial-ethnic groups have the right to health during the pandemic, but we are currently falling far short of providing for that right. COVID-19 has devastated Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities in the United States. These disparities are driven by unequal infection risk. Since COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through close person-to-person contact, it is important to study how and why inter-personal contacts vary by race and ethnicity.
Using data funded by and from an ongoing collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health, the MN Social Contact Study, I will study whether there are meaningful racial and ethnic differences in the number and types of interpersonal contacts. I will then explore whether the differences are driven by variation in household, transportation, community, or workplace contacts. Social contact age-mixing patterns are an important input into COVID-19 transmission models, however, disease modelers are working with data that erases BIPOC individuals, and cannot possibly capture racial and ethnic variations in contact patterns. Therefore I hope to produce matrices that summarize age-mixing patterns by race and ethnicity, which would allow infectious disease modelers to explicitly take into account the different patterns in BIPOC and white communities in their models and allow for more just and equitable public health policies.
Experiences and Family Impact of US Indian Boarding Schools Adoption/Foster Care in Native Communities
Carolyn Liebler (Sociology)
“Kill the Indian. Save the Man.” was the informal policy and mantra that inspired perpetrators of cultural genocide—including the US federal government, churches, and social workers—for over a century. This project examines the intertwined impacts and experiences of Native survivors (and their descendants) of mandatory boarding schools and Native people who were separated from their families and communities through adoption and foster care. These destructive periods of forced child removal mirror one another in terms of deep community impact, intergenerational trauma, and need for culturally-centered healing. This community-based participatory research examines how experiences of child removal have impacted behavioral and mental health in individuals and their descendants and aims to learn how individuals are healing. A team of partners from two Native-led community organizations (National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and First Nations Repatriation Institute) and two University of Minnesota departments have developed a trauma-informed, decolonized anonymous survey that is currently in the field. Qualitative and quantitative analysis and the resulting reports will highlight the ongoing struggle for human rights and healing and cultivate equity and justice for Native communities.
The Political Sources of RIghts Consciousness and Rights Claiming: Analyzing Access to Justice in a Changing Chile
Lisa Hilbink (Political Science)
Access to justice is a fundamental right in and of itself and is crucial to the protection of all other rights. Yet even in places where justice institutions function well and are reasonably well distributed geographically, many people cannot or do not claim rights or seek legal redress when faced with harms and abuses because they lack the knowledge and capacities to access the justice system.
Some scholarship has found that the willingness and ability of individuals to claim rights are, in part, structurally determined, such that those with higher socioeconomic status, education, and/or racial and gender privilege will know what their legal rights are and how to navigate the justice system, while marginalized people will lack these capabilities. While structural factors certainly matter, our previous focus group research in Chile and Colombia suggested that the political context shapes people’s identity and capacity as legal agents, especially among those in marginalized populations. In this project, we will conduct a national-level survey of medium-low and low-income people in Chile to test the findings generated by our focus groups and to explore the effects of specific political factors, at the level of the individual or at the societal level, that promote or inhibit people’s decisions to engage justice institutions and claim rights. Our findings will inform efforts at legal empowerment to advance the human rights of such populations in Chile and beyond.
Past Human Rights Initiative Projects