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SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell

Human Rights and Dignity in the Global Refugee Crisis

Awarded: NOK 0.30 mill.

The international, interdisciplinary network HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY IN THE GLOBAL REFUGEE CRISIS: POLICIES AND TECHNOLOGIES TRANSFORMING THE HUMAN RIGHTS DISCOURSE ON REFUGEES (HUMDIG) was conceived by the need to better understand how the responses by Western democracies to the ongoing global refugee crisis exerts a transformative force on the human rights discourse on refugees. A cornerstone of Western liberal democracies, the human rights regime has come under pressure by the enactment of stricter immigration policies and the massive construction of physical barriers along the US and EU's external borders. The increasing array of impediments placed upon refugees' opportunities to seek refuge, however, are not limited to stricter immigration policies and physical barriers. Increasingly, Western states have employed advanced information and surveillance technology to guard their borders. Drones, reconnaissance aircrafts, offshore sensors, heat sensors, and satellite remote sensing are now all part of a multi-million-dollar industry operating at the U.S.-Mexico border and constitutes the backbone of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) designed, both to save lives at sea, and deter undocumented border crossings. While paying lip service to universal human rights, and especially article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that 'everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution' (UDHR 1948), Western states are thus making it harder for refugees to assert that right - often with catastrophic results, as refugees are forced to take greater risks to reach their destinations. The network, coordinated at NTNU in conjunction with the Falstad Centre, consists of 28 members from seven different countries (Greece, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK, and the US), representing a range of different disciplines (archaeology, forensic anthropology, heritage studies, history, information technology, journalism and media studies, linguistics, medicine, philosophy, , political science, political theory, and psychology). During the project period (Aug. 2018 - Dec. 2019) the network has; organised two workshops at the Falstad Centre, organised two public lectures on topics related to the status of refugees and human rights, and submitted an application for a research project to the Research Council of Norway by the deadline 10 April 2019. Members of the network hope to continue the work and intend to apply to the European Cooperation on Science and Technology (COST) in April 2020 for funding to prolong and strengthen the network with relevant European partners. The First Workshop on Human Rights and Dignity took place at the Falstad Centre on 10-11 September 2018. During the first workshop the participants got to know each other, discussed some core concepts and issues in the network proposal - facilitated and stimulated by a series of invited talks by a select number of participants - and discussed the best ways to achieve the network's objectives. A portion of the workshop was set aside to discuss the way ahead and the drafting of potential research applications. The project manager and the coordinator were tasked with leading the drafting of a proposal to the Research Council of Norway, and one of the partners was given the task to start exploring possible avenues for applying to Horizon 2020. The Second Workshop on Human Rights and Dignity took place at the Falstad Centre on 28-29 March 2019. During the second workshop, the participants' perspectives on the topic were once more broadened by a select number of invited talks addressing the topic. The draft proposal to the Research Council of Norway was discussed and subjected to criticism, and a session was devoted to discussing the prospects of applying to Horizon 2020. In conjunction with each of the workshops, a lecture open to the general audience was given by network participants. During the first workshop, prof. Ian Hancock gave an address at the Falstad Centre on Roma: The Eternal Migrants and Prof. Kate Spradley described her work on exhuming and identifying deceased migrants in the desert in Southern Texas. During the second workshop, a tri-part lecture under the title A Nation of Immigrants was given by Dr. Penne Restad, Prof. Kate Spradley, and Prof. Robert Abzug at NTNU. As a consequence of the network activities, researchers at NTNU and the Falstad Centre were invited to participate in the research proposal 'Reducing Tensions through Sentiment Prediction, Socio-Economic Modelling and Matching', led by NTNU Gjøvik and submitted to the Horizon 2020 call Human factors, and social, societal, and organisational aspects of border and external security (ID: SU-BES01-2018-2019-2020).

Ved å samle forskere fra et bredt spekter av disipliner til en diskusjon om den gjensidige vekselvirkningen mellom de kulturelle forutsetningene for måten vi løser samfunnsmessige utfordringer på, og den påvirkningen våre handlinger utøver på det kulturelle grunnlaget eller basis for menneskerettighetene, retter vi søkelyset mot et forhold som ofte blir oversett i så vel empirisk som teoretisk forskning om menneskerettighetene. For forskere og akademikere vil derfor en økt bevissthet om dette forholdet kunne bidra til en mer reflektert forskning på menneskerettighetene; både teoretiske og empiriske tilnærminger til menneskerettighetene vil kunne dra stor nytte av å erkjenne og ta stilling til hvordan ideen om universelle menneskerettigheter legger føringer på politikkutforming på området og, visa versa, hvordan politikkutformingen er med på å endre tanken om universelle menneskerettigheter. Denne innsikten vil videre kunne åpne for mer tverrfaglige og originale forskningsprosjekter.

Human Rights and Dignity in the Global Refugee Crisis (HumDig) seeks to investigate how restrictive immigration policies and new technologies aimed at dissuading and preventing refugees from asserting their human rights to apply for asylum affect the current human rights discourse. Technological advancements in information technology has afforded national governments and police authorities with hitherto unprecedented quality and quantity of information about arriving refugees, while stricter immigration policies, enforced through border patrols, physical barriers, and extensive use of state-of-the-art surveillance technology, have efficiently reduced the number of refugees that arrive at Western borders. In limiting refugees’ opportunity to assert their human rights, however, these policies and technologies exert pressure on the notion of dignity upon which the human rights are founded and, hence, have a detrimental effect upon the concept of universal and inalienable human rights. Consisting of leading researchers from anthropology, archeology, cultural studies, history, genetics, medicine, philosophy, and political science this radically interdisciplinary network is well equipped to investigate how the adoption of new border surveillance technologies and the changing material environments, through the erection of walls and fences, may be said to exert a transformative force on the discourse on the human rights of refugees.

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SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell