Human Rights & Democracy

An array of international treaties and institutions exists to protect human rights. Yet, for millions around the world, they remain a faint promise. Without democracy, human rights can never be fully realized. But democracies, too, are not immune to dismantling human rights achievements. Today, illiberal politicians as well as increasingly self-assertive authoritarian powers attack both democracy and human rights. They experiment with new forms of repression – online and offline. Authoritarian influence can be traced across borders. At GPPi, we seek to understand and help counter threats to democracy, political participation, and physical integrity. 


The Nobel Peace Prize Should Honor Hopeful Tactics, Not Heroic Persistence

The heroification of charismatic protest leaders often entails a misreading of local political dynamics. Unless such individuals open up new and safe opportunities for political action, their power to mobilize is usually short-lived.


The State of Human Rights in Brazil

Maria Laura Canineu talks to Thorsten Benner about police violence, the prison system and human rights in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. 


Forbidden Knowledge: Measuring Academic Freedom

Academic freedom and political repression in the university sector can be measured. This is how.

Working paper

Do UN Communications Make a Difference for Human Rights Defenders?

UN attention can protect defenders at risk, but that is less likely for high profile activists or when transnational businesses are involved.


Thorsten Benner


Julian Lehmann

Project Manager

Janika Spannagel

Research Fellow

Katrin Kinzelbach

Non-Resident Fellow

Ilyas Saliba

Research Associate

Marie Wagner

Research Associate

Funding & Contact

For longer-term research projects, we benefited from funding by the Volkswagen Foundation and the German Academic Scholarship Foundation. Other funders and clients include the Stiftung Mercator, Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

For inquiries, please contact Katrin Kinzelbach.

Assessing Academic Freedom Worldwide

Academic freedom infringements range from indirect incentives to brutal force against scholars and academic institutions. Such violations undermine academic values and integrity, yet systematic knowledge about the issue is scarce. GPPi is developing a global database and case study methodology to compare academic freedom across the world.

More about this project