Call for application21

Human Rights Go Local: What Works

Academy and Conference on Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels 2021 on

“Field-proven research methods on human rights”

1 – 9 February 2021

Call for Applications

(version: 10 November 2020)

The 2021 Academy “Human Rights Go Local: What Works” is dedicated to field-proven human rights research methods as well as their relevance and application for evidence-based policy making on the local level. The International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels under the auspices of UNESCO and the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Human Security in Graz, Austria, together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) invite international and local researchers, practitioners, civil society organisations, and international organisations to share their knowledge and experiences in respect to the following three thematic strands.

Thematic strand 1: Human rights data at the local level

Available and reliable human rights information supports the application of a human rights-based approach by local governments. When implementing human rights principles, local level governments depend on the availability of relevant and reliable human rights indicators and data. Qualitative and quantitative data may give account of the human rights needs at the local level and, thus, inform the planning, implementation, and evaluation of local policies and programmes. However, practice shows that the availability of relevant data constitutes a practical challenge for research on human rights at the local level. Existing information or data sets might often be insufficient as they might not match the requirements of the research interest or are not sufficiently related to an envisaged policy objective. Efforts to generate new relevant data, however, might require significant financial resources and can be difficult to implement at the local level. Furthermore, data on human rights is often disaggregated by gender, age, economic wealth, socioeconomic status, administrative unit, or ethnicity in order to capture the enjoyment or violation of human rights across particular population groups. From a human rights perspective, the practical relevance of disaggregation needs to be addressed and should not be based on stereotypical definitions of vulnerable or marginalised population groups. Traditional approaches to disaggregation could easily lead to essentialist views homogenising heterogeneous groups or overlook intersections at the local level.

Therefore, strand 1 of the Academy on Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels 2021 deals with topical questions concerning the access to data relevant for human rights at the local level. Contributors are invited to present examples of what data collection mechanisms are already in place at the local level, including informing budgeting processes, and how these data can be used for human rights research. The presentation of good practices on accessing and collecting data at the local level are welcome. Questions of reliability of existing data shall be addressed as well.

At the Academy, we also intend to discuss the perspectives of local level decision makers: What data are needed by the local level authorities? What are their requirements for adequate human rights data? Inputs on existing incentives for local authorities to facilitate (new) data gathering mechanisms in their city are very welcome.

Moreover, the organisational and ethical preconditions for the implementation of new data gathering mechanisms at the local level could be discussed. Data on marginalised groups and persons in vulnerable situations play a particular role in this regard. Practical challenges, such as data protection issues, costs, and resources, may therefore be addressed.

Thematic strand 2: The future of indicators

Human rights research based on human rights indicators is a sophisticated method for providing information for evidence-based policy-making. Extensive efforts to develop meaningful human rights indicators have been made by international organisations, governmental and intergovernmental organisations, academia, and civil society organisations. The model provided by the OHCHR, for instance, is able to provide a comprehensive account of the duty bearer’s human rights commitments, the efforts, as well as the results in implementing policies. While this methodology is adaptable to the local context, no universally applicable set of human rights indicators is available for the local level so far. This constitutes a gap, in particular because human rights indicators need to take into consideration the specific local contexts and the information needs of the local level authorities in order to yield results that can inform evidence-based policy-making.

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, local level entities have increasingly taken responsibility for both, the implementation of human rights and the international development agenda. As the SDGs are grounded in human rights and should be a vehicle for the protection and promotion of human rights, operational opportunities seem to unfold for local level entities around the world to concurrently track progress in the achievement of the development goals and in the protection and fulfilment of human rights at the local level. However, there might be limits in this respect: While the ‘leave no one behind’ imperative introduced by the 2030 Agenda certainly brought the development agenda closer to human rights principles, the SDG indicators measure development mainly by way of statistical data, which do not give information on respect, protection, or fulfilment of human rights. In addition, the use of maximum available resources and prioritisation of groups in situations of vulnerability are obligations at all governance levels.

Therefore, strand 2 of the Academy on Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels 2021 deals with pertinent questions on human rights indicators and the relevance of SDG indicators for measuring human rights at the local level.

Contributors to this Strand could present successful applications of human rights indicator schemes at the local level, or provide inputs on the proper adjustment or fine-tuning of indicators to match local needs. What has been learned from such efforts and what experiences can be transferred to other settings?

Moreover, inputs on the relation between human rights indicators and the SDG indicators are very welcome. Are human rights indicators and SDG indicators just two sides of the same coin? What are the experiences in tracking the progress of integrated approaches at the local level?

Finally, what are the expectations and needs of local authorities in this respect? What indicator systems can best inform local policy-makers on status and progress of human rights in their cities? How are these indicators used by local policy-makers in their budgeting processes?

Thematic strand 3: Qualitative methods of human rights research: what works

The central objective of research on human rights at the local level is to provide local level authorities with a sound basis for evidence-based policy-making. Measuring the impact and monitoring progress of policies implemented at the local level is important to understand and explain successes and failures of policies, and to hold local authorities accountable. Yet, research on human rights at the local level is by no means a straightforward task. There are various research approaches and corresponding methods available to collect information that is relevant from a human rights perspective. In practice local level governments have applied numerous approaches and various instruments for accessing human rights information with varying degrees of success.

A quantitative approach, focusing on large datasets and statistics is observable when it comes to accessing information about the human rights situation on the ground. This focus is driven by the availability of large datasets and by the implicit assumption that only quantitative data is meaningful data. However, the quantitative approach has its limits and challenges; thus, it needs to be complemented with qualitative data. Moreover, certain human rights issues can be better dealt with by ways of a qualitative approach – this is either due to the limited number of persons concerned at the local level or due to little knowledge on certain issues, which calls for explorative studies. Alternative and complementary sources, such as information from National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organisations, need to be accessed to address data gaps and limitations.

Therefore, strand 3 of the Academy on Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels 2021 deals with practical examples of human rights research. What practical examples for equality data gathering, human rights monitoring and evaluation, including through participatory approaches, can be found at the local level? Contributors are invited to present successful methods and to discuss them in terms of transferability, relevant context factors, but also in terms of limitations and challenges.

Please note that COVID-19 is not the central theme of the Academy 2021. However, human rights research dealing with COVID-19 is welcome and shall be a discussion point in each session (mainstream topic).

Application procedure

Selection of contributions among anonymised applications.

Submit your application by filling in the form at including:

– type of expertise (research, local authority);

– the thematic strand to which your expertise relates;

– years of professional experience with the topic of the strand;

– region;

– an abstract of max. 500 words outlining the main arguments of your contribution;

– an email address for reply (will be stored separately)

Selection criteria

Contributions will be accepted based on their relevance to the academy’s objectives, to one of the thematic strands and their innovative character. The contributor’s level of expertise is another selection criterion. The selection committee will pay particular attention to achieve a geographical and gender balance among contributors.

Important dates

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 16 December 2020

Decisions of acceptance will be notified by the end of 2020

Draft contributions shall be submitted by 15 January 2021.

Additional information

– In order to protect the health of all participants, the Academy will be held online using BigBlueButton.

– The Academy will be held in English without translation.

– Selected contributions will be published in the Academy Proceedings.


– Email: