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.


It’s Time for Think Tanks and Universities to Take the Democracy Pledge

Leading scholarly institutions should stop taking authoritarian money.


Forbidden Knowledge: Measuring Academic Freedom

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

Policy brief

Chasing Shadows: UN Communications on Human Rights Defenders

The UN’s casework on human rights defenders can be effective, but it is neither balanced nor efficient.


New Ways to Address an Old Problem: Political Repression

Instead of quibbling about whether or not things are getting worse for human rights activists, we should ask: What to do?


Thorsten Benner


Katrin Kinzelbach

Associate Director

Janika Spannagel

Research Associate

Jonas Bull

Research Assistant

Julian Lehmann

Project Manager

Marie Wagner

Research Assistant

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.

Teaching for Human Rights

In partnership with the Open Society Foundations, GPPi hosts a two-week-long clinical seminar on rights and governance. The goal is to foster a more strategic, impact-oriented human rights practice through skills-oriented teaching and hands-on learning. This annual seminar draws students and faculty from around the world, including from Birzeit University, Central European University, Harvard University, Makerere University, Sciences Po, University of the Andes and University of Hong Kong. Until 2018, the seminar took place in Hungary at CEU’s School of Public Policy.

For more information, please see here or contact Katrin Kinzelbach.