Within most universities, internationalization has become the rule rather than the exception and academic institutions take on an important social role. Respect for human rights is inherent to this universities’ social role. The Human Rights policy of the University of Antwerp focuses on the positive impact that universities can have on their partners, partner countries and society at large.

Within the University of Antwerp, we strongly urge researchers and staff to reflect on the potential Human Rights impact in case you are:

  1. Considering, initiating or renewing a formal educational, research or services partnership, i.e. where documents need to be signed by the university as an institution. These partnerships can be both national or international AND
  2. Where one or more external partners are involved, both from within academia as well as from outside. 

Reflect carefully on:

  • Who are the partner(s) in the cooperation? Assess whether the partner(s) involved in the partnership has/have been guilty of serious and/or systematic human rights violations in the past.
    • Serious violations relate to the nature of the violations (e.g. serious attacks on the physical and psychological integrity of individuals and groups); 
    • Systematic violations are those that occur repeatedly, which means that they can no longer be regarded as occasional, but can reasonably be assumed to be inherent in a partner's established practice or policy.
  • Which activities will be performed in the framework of the cooperation? Could the intended activities give rise to human rights violations?

Human Rights Assessment 

Within the university, the Human Rights assessment consists of three phases: the screening, the scoping and the follow-up. The first step of the process, the screening, can be performed by university researchers or staff themselves. If necessary, you can contact the human rights contact point of Research, Innovation & Valorisation Antwerp (RIVA) for more information. 

As a starting point, all researchers and staff need to think consciously and critically when starting a project, study or collaboration with one or more partners, both from within academia as well as outside and where there is a suspicion of a risk of human rights violations.

Make use of the indicator diagram which was developed specifically to assess potential risks for human rights infractions.

If after this screening you believe there might be a potential issue or if doubt remains after performing an online search and checking the indicators, please contact the Human Rights contact point of Research, Innovation & Valorisation Antwerp (RIVA). They can perform a more thorough examination or scoping of the partner and/or the activities, assess which concrete risks might arise and help you develop a procedure for remediation of these issues.