The Institute for the Study of Human Rights promotes research that has the potential to broaden understandings of human rights and the practices and policies that they inform. The research program rests on three pillars:
- Faculty scholarship
- Thematic programs
- Ad hoc conferences, symposia and workshops
The Institute promotes conversations among scholars, advocates and policy-makers and interdisciplinary dialogues between them. Peace-building and human rights, for example, has partnered with academic institutions as well as NGOs to inform post-conflict initiatives in Darfur and Sri Lanka, among others. The Alliance for Historical Accountability and Dialogue works with research and documentation centers to address the political ramifications of the historical legacy of conflicts, as well as the role and impact of the memory of past violence on contemporary politics, society and culture.
In addition to research promoted through thematic programs, the Institute organizes ad hoc conferences, symposia and workshops, most recently a workshop on the regulation of motherhood. In May, 2010 the Institute convened an international symposium on Human Rights Impact: General Issues and Sectoral Perspectives to examine the ways in which the impact of human rights policies and programs is defined and assessed. Sessions focused on several sectors — development (in particular in a rights-based perspective), women's rights, international courts, and press freedom — and on two cross-cutting themes — the measurement of "human rights" and the development of appropriate indicators, and the ethical issues that arise when impact analyses are structured into human rights interventions. The Proceedings of the Conference are available here.
In May, 2011, the Institute convened a symposium on Remembering Guantánamo, which brought together historians, advocates, museum professionals, and others to explore Guantánamo Bay as a “state of exception” in American politics and political culture and imagine strategies for building public awareness of Guantánamo’s century-long history – its exceptional and commonplace uses and re-uses – to inspire citizen engagement in what happens there next. Other initiatives have included “Sharing Sacred Space: Religion and Conflict Resolution” and “Historical Commisions: Comparative Perspectives.”
The Institute also supports research on human rights through a Human Rights Essay Contest for graduate and undergraduate students. Additionally, ISHR’s Working Papers Series provides an opportunity for faculty and graduate students to distribute their work widely and to receive initial reactions from a broad community of scholars working in areas related to human rights. The Visiting Scholars Program provides access to Columbia’s intellectual community as well as libraries and other resources. Columbia's University Seminars, including those related to human rights, bring cutting-edge research and analysis to Columbia and public audiences.