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 Associate

Katrin Kinzelbach

Associate Director

Ilyas Saliba

Research Associate

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.