Human Rights and Active Citizenship


Group of people with arms raised

Human Rights and Active Citizenship

The Project
In the 21st century, rights are generally and universally recognized as inherently and equally belonging to all human beings. These rights form the foundations of our ability to live in freedom, justice and peace and are inviolable, inalienable and protected by the rule of law in the majority of states and by the international community.

Although the recognition of human rights is deemed to be universal for all peoples and all nations, not all states recognize or respect human rights. The history of their birth and the struggle behind their emergence is often one of protest, struggle, opposition and resistance, whether conducted peacefully or through conflict and bloodshed.

The role of activism has been and continues to be essential in establishing the cradle of human rights along with the courage, determination and sacrifice of activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Malala Yousafzai and others. These individuals would not have been able to fulfil their mission without the support and assiduous work of countless organizations and individuals who shared the same ideals of a world where all humans can enjoy the same fundamental rights and benefit from equal opportunities. Active and informed citizenship plays a vital role in their recognition and defence.

The continuing existence and in some cases proliferation of practices such as slavery, female genital mutilation, trafficking, child marriages, ethnic cleansing, severe racial or religious discrimination, criminalization and cruel punishment of non-heterosexual orientation etc. make it clear that the fight for achieving equal rights and opportunities is still a long way from being won. Some countries struggle with recurring problems in ensuring respect for all their citizens’ liberties. Recent movements and campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, He for She and many more are the contemporary face of the ongoing struggle for equality in fact as well as on paper.

Often in a precarious balance with the need for national and international security, human rights are an exceptionally high stake of ideological and political battles, their extent and interpretation can draw unseen borders between cultures and civilizations, they are at the very foundation of our lifestyles and when threatened, they can act as a powerful catalyst for all kinds of civic unrest, ranging from full-blown revolutions to peaceful protesting and heated public debates. Civil rights and liberties have become a fundamental part of citizens’ identities, paradigms and lifestyles. They stem from our core values, they closely reflect our society and they are at the top of the list of ideals people would kill or die to defend.

The matter of human rights and active citizenship is an inherently interdisciplinary one, crossing disciplines, boundaries and interfaces. Scholars, activists, ngo and voluntary sector workers, lawyers and people from numerous fields of activity have been working together and separately for decades, trying to provide answers to some of the most relevant questions concerning equality and human rights. This project will be attempting to find answers to some of these questions, such as:

  • What are the rights and liberties all human beings are entitled to?
  • How did the current configuration of recognized human rights come to be?
  • Under what conditions and by whom can these rights and liberties be extended or limited?
  • What are the main categories of people at risk of having their civil rights infringed upon and what is their plight?
  • In what ways are human rights breached and to what consequences for individuals, groups and societies?
  • What should be the extent of state involvement in matters of human rights?
  • What is the role that human rights activists need to play in a democratic society?
  • What are the most efficient ways to obtain recognition and protection for human rights and to fight against discrimination and oppression?
  • What are the main human rights challenges that the multicultural 21st century poses to society?

Issues and Research Streams
Given the vast number of issues that fall under the Human Rights and Active Citizenship field of study and practice, this project proposes great variety of issues and research streams to be explored, the main themes being such as (but not limited to):

  • Definitions and theoretical approaches to human rights
  • Human rights across time and space
  • Feminism and Women’s Issues:
  • LGBTQ rights and struggle for equality
  • Racial, ethnic and religious equality and non-discrimination
  • Freedom – ideal, struggle, benefits and consequences
  • Freedom of speech and of the press
  • Freedom of conscience and religious expression
  • Oppression and oppressors
  • Discrimination, prejudice and stereotypy
  • The State as guardian of human rights
  • Freedom of movement vs international safety
  • Equal opportunities – between myth and reality
  • Human rights breaches in developed countries
  • Human rights breaches in developing countries
  • The fight for rights: protests, campaigns, revolutions
  • Active citizenship and upholding human rights
  • Discrimination and its profound micro and macro implications
  • Respecting civil rights in a multicultural world
  • Political correctness vs Hate Speech
  • Fair labour and fair trade
  • Human rights in the 21st century – changes and challenges
  • The relationship between human and non-human rights
  • Access to education and health care as basic human rights
  • Civil liberties vs cultural and religious norms
  • Artistic performance as a form of activism

Who Should Get Involved?
The issue of human rights has are traditionally connected to the work of activists, politicians, policy makers, union leaders, NGO members, philosophers, sociologists and lawyers. However, many more categories of professionals are actively involved in or affected by issues surrounding civil liberties, such as: academic researchers, educators, social workers, psychologists, physicians and medical staff, professionals in the field of religion and spirituality, anthropologists, historians, human resource specialists, communication professionals, economists and business owners, artists and performers etc. We invite all professionals involved or interested in the field of human rights and activism, but also all volunteers and active citizens who have a relevant contribution to bring to this project and are passionate about equality and human rights to become involved with thoughts, ideas, suggestions for research streams, workshops or continuous professional development courses. We are looking forward to receiving your input and to exploring this crucially important field together.

Outcomes, Events and Activities

  • Conferences based on the main research streams
  • Workshops for activists and members of NGOs and watch-dog organizations
  • Workshops dedicated to active citizenship
  • Online debates on human rights and activism issues
  • Continuous professional development courses for professionals confronted with human rights issues.
  • Human rights related performances and exhibitions
  • Publications