[Consolidation] ‘The Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research now incorporates all Dutch law schools’

Published 5 February 2021

The Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research (NNHRR), one of the inter-university platforms coordinated by the Asser Institute, recently welcomed three Dutch universities to its membership and saw its mandate renewed for three more years. ‘The NNHRR has firmly consolidated its position in the Dutch academic landscape’, says Prof Yvonne Donders, chair of the network’s steering committee.

The NNHRR was founded in 2017 by eight Dutch universities (see below) to strengthen their academic cooperation. The network facilitates academic exchange among human rights experts, provides training to its PhD members, and actively supports the organisation of human rights research activities across the Netherlands. With the accession of three universities this academic year, all Dutch law schools are now institutional members of the network.

Recently, the NNHRR’s mandate was renewed for an additional three years. ‘The NNHRR has firmly consolidated its position in the Dutch academic landscape’, says Prof Yvonne Donders, chair of the network’s steering committee. ‘In just over two years, the financial, material and knowledge resources of our member institutions have been significantly consolidated, streamlined and optimised’.

Asked about the network’s achievements, Prof Donders says: ‘The complex and multifaceted nature of contemporary social problems calls for coordination among academic experts, institutions and disciplines. We have succeeded in providing this direction while reinforcing inter-university research cooperation, facilitating cutting-edge output, and offering continuous valorisation of its members’ work on human rights’.

Learning & exchange
create spaces for learning and exchange, the NNHRR facilitates the organisation of annual PhD trainings and hosts the Toogdag, an annual conference dedicated to promoting interaction between the members and showcasing their work. It further maintains a number of collaborative initiatives, such as the Research Workshops on Human Rights, which are aimed at enhancing academic cooperation across disciplines and research fields.

Dr León Castellanos-Jankiewicz, Asser researcher and academic coordinator of the NNHRR, notes the importance of designing activities that provide an accessible environment for both junior and senior scholars. Castellanos-Jankiewicz: ‘We aim at building a genuine research community that is mutually supportive across institutions and generations.

Supporting PhD research
The network supports PhD researchers in human rights from the beginning of the process, until their eventual defense and publication of their theses. ‘Membership to the NNHRR gives PhDs access to experts and peers in their field across the Netherlands, alongside trainings on methodology and career development, and the potential for publication in the network’s book series,’ explains Jackson Oldfield, PhD representative.

The network further provides the setting to obtain theoretical and practical expertise, such as thematic working groups for its PhD researchers. According to PhD representative Daniela Heerdt: ‘Organising and hosting events in the NNHRR Business and Human Rights Working Group has been a great learning experience, as well as an excellent way to stay up to date on recent developments in the field. Moreover, many of our events allowed me to connect with high-level practitioners, such as members from the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights’.

Increasing visibility
recently launched a set of initiatives, such as the blog Human Rights Here and the Twitter account @NNHRResearch to increase the network’s online visibility. Apart from this, the network co-organises the Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award together with Tilburg University, to reward the best Human Rights theses at the master’s and doctoral level. Furthermore, the NNHRR maintains a publication agreement with Intersentia for the Human Rights Research Series, which has so far produced eighty-five books based on NNHRR members’ PhD dissertations.

*The network's eight founding members are: Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden University, Maastricht University, Tilburg University, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Groningen, Utrecht University and the T.M.C. Asser Instituut. VU Amsterdam, Radboud University Nijmegen and Open University have recently joined the NNHRR.