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Rift Valley Institute Field Courses 2014 - Sudan & South Sudan Course preview from Director of Studies, Dr Sharath Srinivasan

last modified May 01, 2014 12:14 PM
17th March 2014


Writing in the institute's newsletter, the Directors of Studies for the three 2014 RVI Field Courses have given a preview of the new themes—and new teachers—on this year's courses. Writing about the Sudan & South Sudan Course, of which he is Director of Studies, Dr Sharath Srinivasan provided an overview of the academics and practitioners who will be contributing to the course and the themes that it will examine, ranging from an examination of the underlying drivers of the renewed conflict; the economic dimensions of state stability and development and relations between Sudan and South Sudan; practices of authority and allegiance at local levels in South Sudan; and the influence of civil society and women.

Dr Srinivasan writes:

'This year's RVI Sudan and South Sudan Course takes place during resurgent violence and political instability in both countries that demands a rethink on political forecasts. Both the dominant NCP in Sudan and the SPLM/A in South Sudan face crises from within and without. Elections slated for 2015 in both countries have been pre-empted by political contestation and maneuvering, with incumbent leaders tightening their grip on control. The rapid descent into violent conflict and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan was perhaps more a shock than a surprise, and the prospects for a rapid solution are hindered by regional jockeying, inter-group enmities and splits in the SPLM that cut multiple ways. In Sudan, rebellion, political opposition and popular protest spiked during the past year but hardly threatened the government, and despite an internal split, the NCP continues to deftly play off one group against another while at the same time promising reform.

To make sense of current dynamics, the course roots salient themes in their near and distant past. Justin Willis (Durham University) will challenge our assumptions on the state's paradoxical role as both cause and solution to the woes of both countries. Jok Madut Jok(Loyola Marymount University) and Douglas Johnson (Independent Scholar) will interrogate the underlying drivers of South Sudan's crisis. Magdi el-Gizouli (Freiburg University) will sharpen our assessments of political fluctuations in Sudan, giving us a long view of the NCP's 25 years in power and the regime's many reincarnations. Guma Komey(University of Bahri) and Jérôme Tubiana (International Crisis Group) will evaluate the state of rebellions in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile, including their growing interconnections. Laura James (former economic adviser, AUHIP) will give clarity to the economic dimensions, including oil, of state stability and development and relations between both countries.

However gripping current events are, crises, crossroads and elite contestations have been commonplace in the Sudans. A fuller picture of how everyday politics works emerges when viewed at a closer range. Cherry Leonardi (Durham University) will examine practices of authority and allegiance at local levels in South Sudan, Youssif El Tayeb El Nour (Darfur Development and Reconstruction Agency) will probe shifting patterns of resource conflict in Darfur, and Joanna Oyediran (Open Society Institute for East Africa) and Nada Mustafa Ali (Clark University) will examine the influence of civil society and women. Appreciating lives lived—cultures, beliefs, social identities, livelihoods, geographies—grounds our understanding in places and amongst peoples, often revealing a great deal about deeper influences on politics and economics. Our interactive sessions will draw upon contributions from many of our teachers, including John Ryle (Rift Valley InstituteBard College).

A historical reflection on external intervention in both countries under all its guises will ground our discussion of the state of current initiatives. The era of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is over, and intervention frameworks have lurched back again from democratic openings and peacebuilding to stabilization, large-scale humanitarian assistance and conflict mediation. Dan Large (Central European University) will lead our discussions, tackling a number of key questions. These include: What are the prospects for UNMISS mandate and scope? Is the Doha Agreement still operative in Darfur? Four years on, how do we assess the AUHIP? Can IGAD effectively play the role of mediator given conflicting regional interests? What lessons can be drawn from previous international interventions in the Sudans?

With renewed urgency to understand, analyze and debate, the week promises to be lively. We hope you will join what many of us consider to be a highlight of our year's work.'

The full newsletter is available to read here.


Africa's Voices social enterprise spin-off: Team from Judge Business School start work on business case development

last modified Jul 25, 2014 04:28 PM
18th March 2014


CGHR is pleased to be working with students from the Cambridge Judge Business School to research and develop a business case for a social enterprise spin-off to the Africa's Voices project. The Centre's pilot project is seeking to move to a more sustainable footing, as an independent organisation. A team of MBA students will be working towards the development of a potential social enterprise business model to ensure longevity of operational, technological and research development.

The team will be travelling to Nairobi in March where they will meet with radio and media partners, potential users of a newly developed platform and those already operating in the field. Read more about this, the next stage of the Africa's Voices project, here.

African Journalists to visit POLIS, as part of Biosciences for Farming in Africa programme

last modified May 01, 2014 11:25 AM
14th March 2014


Twenty African, journalists from Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya, will be visiting Cambridge in April and will taking the chance to meet with researchers to discuss their work on Africa and share ideas. The visit will provide CGHR research associates with a valuable opportunity to engage in discussion with and find out the journalists' views on the Centre's Africa's Voices and PiMA projects.

The journalists' visit to Cambridge is taking place as part of the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA) programme, which is run from Cambridge and educates African journalists about how bioscience can impact farming in Africa. As part of the programme, the journalists pass the knowledge they gain onto local communities in Africa via radio programmes.

CGHR at Rift Valley Institute conference on 'Stabilization in Eastern and Central Africa' in Nairobi

last modified May 01, 2014 12:15 PM
13th March 2014


Centre Director Sharath Srinivasan has taken part in a two-day conference organized by the Rift Valley Institute in Kenya on 'Stabilization in Eastern and Central Africa - History, theory, policy and practice under scrutiny.' The event, which brought to together academics, practitioners and policymakers, created in space in which attendees were encouraged to question, review, evaluate, and exchange lessons on the impact of stabilization policies and practices in Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the aim of informing policies to enhance peace and security in Eastern and Central Africa.

Forming part of a panel on Stabilization and Peace & Security Frameworks, Dr Srinivasan spoke on the subject of Sudan's CPA and its aftermath. The full programme and overview of the event is available to read here.

PiMA Roundtable: CGHR researchers meet with academics and practitioners to discuss preliminary findings project

last modified Aug 11, 2014 02:54 PM
14th February 2014


On February 14, PiMA researchers convened a group of experts for a roundtable discussion on Researching Public Opinion and Political Accountability: Broadcasting and New Media in Contemporary African Context. The event, which was chaired by former CGHR Research Associate Dr Iginio Gagliardone (University of Oxford), included presentations by Dr Wendy Willems (LSE); Professor Hugh Chignell (Bournemouth University); Dr Mary Myers (Development Communication Consultant); Anna Godfrey and Dr Zoe Fortune (BBC Media Action). 

Attendees presented on a range of topics, including understanding audiences, media and accountability; historical and contemporary trends in political broadcast talk and current affairs trends in Britain and beyond; contrasting interactive broadcasting with other kinds of interactivity; and theorising media change and political change in Zambia.

CGHR Associates Alastair Fraser, Claudia Abreu Lopes and Fred Mudhai also presented initial findings and insights from the Centre's PiMA project.

'South Sudan’s Unfinished Business' by Peter Biar Ajak (PhD candidate, POLIS), The New York Times

last modified Apr 22, 2014 04:06 PM
6th February 2014

Peter Biar Ajak (PhD candidate, POLIS, University of Cambridge) shared his view of the conflict in South Sudan and the events leading up to it in an opinion piece in The New York Times. The article, 'South Sudan’s Unfinished Business', is available to read online here.

Peter Biar Ajak also joined the CGHR roundtable discussion on the conflict and crisis in South Sudan. You can view a recording of the event here.

Dr Sharath Srinivasan interview on South Sudan for BBC Radio 4

last modified Apr 22, 2014 04:06 PM
1st February 2014

Dr Sharath Srinivasan joined Evan Davis on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme to dicuss the background to conflict in South Sudan. Listen to the interview with Dr Srinivasan here.

The Rift Valley Institute's 2014 Sudan/South Sudan field course now open

last modified Apr 22, 2014 04:05 PM
27th January 2014


CGHR Director Dr Srinivasan will be the Director of Studies for the Rift Valley Institute's (RVI) 2014 Sudan/South Sudan field course. The RVI is an independent, non-profit organization, founded in Sudan in 2001. It is currently working in seven countries in Eastern and Central Africa. Dr Srinivasan featured as an invited lecturer on the week-long field course in 2011-12, where he delivered teaching on Sudan and South Sudan.

Interventions to Support Peacebuilding or Statebuilding - discussion at Emmanuel College, College

last modified Apr 22, 2014 04:12 PM
8th January 2014
Interventions to Support Peacebuilding or Statebuilding - discussion at Emmanuel College, College

Marcus Lenzen

On the 8th January, a group of academics and practitioners with shared research interests met at Emmanuel College for an informal meeing to discuss how the most difficult decisions are made during interventions to support peacebuilding or statebuilding. 

The event was co-organized by CGHR Associate, Dr Devon Curtis, Centre Director Dr Sharath Srinivasan and Marcus Lenzen (pictured), who in his role as a Conflict Advisor to DFID most recently led on the organization's peacebuilding work in Nigeria. Marcus is also the current Derek Brewer Visiting Fellow at Emmanuel College. Starting with a reflection upon participants own experiences or observations, the discussion sought to unravel the drivers of action of 'when push comes to shove' situations. 

Using cognitive computer systems to interpret "big data": CGHR works with IBM Research Lab Africa

last modified May 01, 2014 11:29 AM
15th December 2013

The intersection of IBM's research interests and those of CGHR have been demonstrated by the proposed cooperation between the Centre and the newly launched IBM Research Africa laboratory in Nairobi. The Centre's Director Dr Srinivasan visited the lab to discuss with the team there the role of cognitive computing in Africa's development.

IBM Research has been developing their study of cognitive computing: systems that learn and interact naturally with people to extend what either man or machine could do on their own. They help human experts make better decisions by penetrating the complexity of "big data."

Dr Srinivasan will bring to the collaboration an emphasis on how contextual social science research must accompany the use of cognitive computer systems when attempting to gain a deeper understanding of "big data."

Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood (Dr Sharath Srinivasan, Oxford University Press)

last modified Apr 28, 2014 07:03 PM
January 2014

This volume, published in December 2013 by Oxford University Press, includes Dr. Sharath Srinivasan's piece, 'FrontlineSMS, Mobile-for-Development and the 'long tail' of governance', which sets out a typology of dominant use cases of the innovative and highly popular open source software FrontlineSMS and argues that the software, albeit idealising the grassroots user, is less a tool for community 'self-governance' than for institutionalised actors who 'co-govern' with or substitute state governance. The book is available to buy online here.

Dr Srinivasan and Dr Claudia Abreu Lopes present on Africa's Voices at King's/Cambridge-Africa Seminar Series

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:31 PM
21st November 2013


Centre Director Dr Sharath Srinivasan and CGHR Research Associate Claudia Abreu Lopes presented on CGHR's pilot study, Africa's Voices, at a November meeting of the King's/Cambridge-Africa Seminar Series. The Cambridge-Africa Programme providing a forum for Africa-focused Cambridge researchers across a range of subject areas to share their work with colleagues researching similar interests.

Speaking on the subject of Africa's digital communications revolution, Dr Srinivasan and Dr Abreu Lopes drew on insights from the pilot to outline how the Centre is exploring ways to innovate technologically and methodologically to reconceptualise and analyse ‘public opinion’ in ways that value voices in their natural forms of expression. With industry collaborations (IBM Research Lab Africa, FrontlineSMS, Internews), CGHR is developing an innovative new social research platform that can be used by practitioners, policymakers and researchers.

Africa’s Voices is an applied research project at CGHR, and part of a wider research programme on ‘African politics and the digitally-mediated public sphere’. During its pilot year, Africa’s Voices worked with 9 radio stations in eight African countries, gathering and analysing SMS texts on interactive shows on agreed topics. You can read more about the project here.

Online Journalism in Africa (Co-edited by Dr Fred Mudhai, Routledge)

last modified May 01, 2014 11:34 AM
December 2013


Routledge have just published the volume of essays, Online Journalism in Africa:Trends, Practices and Emerging Cultures - co-edited by PiMA Associate Dr Fred Mudhai. The collection also features the article 'Immediacy and Openness in a Digital Africa: Networked-Convergent Journalisms in Kenya' by Dr Mudhai, which originally appeared in Journalism, available here.

CGHR's Annual Report 2012-13 now available

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:29 PM
1st November 2013


A copy of CGHR's Annual Report 2012-2013 is now available to read online. In the report you will find an update on the progress of our research projects, including PiMA and the applied pilot Africa Voices, and also information about the new phase of our collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the Right to Life in Africa.

The report gives details of how our existing research partnerships with external organizations have developed, as well as the new links that have been formed over the last year. Finally, you can read more about CGHR's engagement with the community in Cambridge, through both teaching and the series of events and seminars held over 2012-2013.

“Developing a new method for opinion polling in Africa”: Applied collaboration with YouGov-Cambridge programme

last modified May 20, 2014 12:26 PM
24th October 2013


As part of their Cambridge Programme, YouGov is collaborating with CGHR on the Africa’s Voices applied pilot. In her piece “Developing a new method for opinion polling in Africa”, written for the YouGov-Cambridge Programme website, Dr Claudia Abreu Lopes details how the project works, the methodology involved and the challenges that the team has encountered.

PiMA Associate Dr Fred Mudhai speaks to Al Jazeera's 'Listening Post' about media coverage of al-Shabab's attack on the Westgate Mall, Nairobi

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:31 PM
29th September 2013


One week on from the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, PiMA Research Associate Dr Fred Mudhai joined Al Jazeera's 'Listening Post' to discuss the media's reaction to the unfolding events and the argument put forward by some that their coverage provided the kind of publicity that al-Shabab, the Somali-based group responsible for the attacks, were looking for. Watch the broadcast here.

‘Listening to the Listeners’ at BreezeFM

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:33 PM
27th September 2013


CGHR Associate Dr  Alastair Fraser explains more about how we’re working closely with our partner organisations to collect data, in his article ‘Listening to the Listeners’ for the BreezeFM (Zambia) website.

Cambridge-Africa Alborada Research Fund Award for PiMA researchers

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:33 PM
6th September 2013


Dr Sharath Srinivasan and Dr Alastair Fraser have been awarded £10,000 and £5,000 respectively by the Cambridge-Africa Alborada Research Fund for research collaborations with colleagues in Kenya and Zambia. News of the award was announced in the September edition of the Politics Studies Association’s PSA newsletter. The awards given to Dr Sharath Srinivasan and Dr Alastair Fraser will allow them to expand their current work on PiMA and the Africa’s Voices pilot project.

Dr Mudhai chairs Experts Consultation on negative and undesirable aspects of online interactivity.

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:40 PM
6th August 2013


PiMA Associate Dr Fred Mudhai chaired the event, which was hosted by the Kenyan Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies, Nairobi, and the University of Nairobi's Centre for Human Rights and Peace.

Professor Winnie Mitullah presents at Nordmedia Media – Defending Democracy 2013

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:36 PM
6th August 2013


In August 2013, Professor Mitullah presented on ‘Mobile Phones and Women’s Advancement in Mathere Settlement in Nairobi’ in Oslo, Norway at the Nordmedia Media Conference to an audience of media and communication researchers. Her presentation drew on research conducted through the collaborative project, ‘Media, Empowerment and Democracy in East Africa’ (MEDIeA).

Political change and social media in Trinity Hall Cambridge’s Front Court

last modified Mar 31, 2014 02:12 PM
31st July 2013


PiMA Associate Dr Alastair Fraser has reported on his research on political change and social media in the Summer 2013 edition of Trinity Hall Cambridge’s Front Court, which can be read here.

'Role of Public Service Media in Kenya' roundtable at the University of Nairobi

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:46 PM
6th July 2013


Dr Fred Mudhai took part in a roundtable forum on the 'Role of Public Service Media in Kenya' at the University of Nairobi (UoN). The July event was hosted by the UoN School of Journalism and Ford Foundation.

PiMA Research Associate Fred Mudhai participates in Broadcast, Film and Music in Africa Conference and Exhibition.

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:49 PM
27th June 2013


PiMA Research Associate Dr Fred Mudhai moderated a session at the Broadcast, Film and Music in Africa Conference and Exhibition, which took place in Nairobi Kenya.

In June 2013, Dr Mudhai moderated a session on new production opportunities in Africa. The conference included a diverse group of speakers and exhibitors from across research, policy and media, including Koch FM, InterMedia, Ipsos Synovate Kenya, TBWA, A24 Media: Africa’s Voice, and Africa Interactive.

ICTs and radio in Africa: How the uptake of ICT has influenced the newsroom culture among community radio journalists (Dr Claudia Abreu Lopes, Telematics and Informatics)

last modified Apr 22, 2014 03:28 PM
August 2013


CGHR associate Claudia Abreu Lopes has co-authored an article with Goretti Linda Nassanga of the Makere University, Uganda and Linje Manyozo of London School of Economics and Political Science, England, which is now published in the Journal of Telematics and Informatics.

This article highlights the influence that new ICTs and Computer Mediated Communication is having on the newsroom cultures among community radio journalists in Africa, especially the use of mobile phones and the internet. The discussion is based on findings from a research study that investigated the impact of ICTs on community radio using regional case studies from three African countries – Mozambique, Uganda, and Mali. Article access (gated) here.

PiMA researchers present on political change, media and ICT in Africa at ECAS 2013.

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:50 PM
29th June 2013


PiMA researchers, Alastair Fraser, Claudia Apres Lopes and Sharath Srinivasan presented on political change, media and ICT in Africa at the 2013 ECAS conference.

PiMA PI Sharath Srinivasan convened a panel on methodological innovations and ethical challenges in researching political change and ICT in Africa, with research associate Claudia Apres Lopes sharing findings from a pilot project using mobile phones and radio to survey public opinion. Alastair Fraser shared his previous research on “Selection, rejection, defection, election: debates over the appropriate behaviour of candidates for election in Zambia.”

News on PiMA in the University of Nairobi's Institute for Development Studies newsletter.

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:50 PM
6th June 2013

The June 2013 issue of the University of Nairobi's Institute for Development Studies newsletter featured news about the PiMA Roundtable event that took place at the Institute in June. The full issue is available to read here

5th and 6th rounds of polls now live for Africa's Voices project

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:46 PM
7th June 2013


We are now in the process of running round 5 and 6 of Africa's Voices with partnering radio stations.

Round 5 question: "Which one of these two diseases do you fear most? AIDS or malaria? Why?"

Round 6 question: "Do you think a 16-year old girl [local fictional name] should interrupt her education to get married to help the family of should continue her studies to seek a better future for her and her family? Why?" (a scenario with the details of a story is presented)

Civic Engagement, Digital Networks, and Political Reform in Africa (Dr Fred Mudhai, Palgrave Macmillan)

last modified Apr 22, 2014 03:31 PM
December 2012


PiMA Associate Dr Fred Mudhai has published a monograph on new media and democracy: Civic Engagement, Digital Networks, and Political Reform in Africa (2012).

Professor Winnie Mitullah appointed Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi.

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:58 PM
6th February 2013

Professor Mitullah, researcher and lecturer at the University of Nairobi and Co-Investigator on CGHR's PiMA project, will assume the directorship of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from February 2013.

You can read Professor Mitullah's 'Director's Note' on the IDS website here.


Africa's Voices: Blog post on stations in Zambia and Uganda

last modified Mar 31, 2014 01:57 PM
7th April 2013


Florence Brisset-Foucault and Sharath Srinivasan of the Africa's Voices research team have visited radio stations in Zambia and Uganda. A new blog post on their experiences and the stations is now available on the FrontlineSMS:Radio website.

Dr Sharath Srinivasan guests the breakfast show on ABC Radio National to discuss escalating tension in the Sudans

last modified Apr 22, 2014 04:05 PM
24th April 2012


On April 24 2012, Dr Srinivasan joined ABC Radio National's Breakfast show to discuss the border conflict between the two Sudans which appears to be escalating to the point of fully-fledged war. The nations split last July, but have argued over where the border lies and over ownership of resources. Sudan's air force bombed parts of South Sudan overnight, and its president has ruled out any talks with South Sudan after visiting a border town that was occupied by South Sudanese troops two weeks ago. Listen to the radio clip here.

The Story is Bigger Than War Correspondents: CGHR Associate Thomas Probert writes for the Huffington Post

last modified Mar 31, 2014 02:03 PM
11th March 2012


CGHR Research Associate Thomas Probert, writes on the risks facing local and citizen journalists, linked to CGHR’s recent research on the Safety of Journalists. The article examines the threats to journalists outside direct conflict zones, including political repression, torture and organised crime retributions. Read the piece here.

A Reluctant Responsibility to Protect? UK Attitudes Towards Libya Intervention - Dr Sharath Srinivasan writes for You-Gov Cambridge

last modified Apr 17, 2014 10:01 AM
19th August 2011


Centre Director Dr Sharath Srinivasan writes on the NATO intervention in Libya, UK public opinion on the actions and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The article is based on research by the public opinion poll agency YouGov and the ongoing collaboration between CGHR and YouGovRead the piece here.

BBC World News interview: Dr Srinivasan on Archbishop of Canterbury citing Africa and South Sudan in gay marriage debate

last modified Apr 07, 2014 12:31 PM
4th April 2014

In an LBC Radio interview on 4 April, The Rev Justin Welby, Archibishop of Canterbury cited threat to Christians in Africa if CoE supported gay marriage in the UK. In particular he said he stood by a grave with 369 bodies in South Sudan recently, where it was said the killers threatened "if we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians." Dr Srinivasan responded to this specific piece of evidence and the more general argument, as well as to questions on religion and politics, and challenges for the Church in African and Sudan/South Sudan. 

Watch the interview here:

BBC World News interview - Dr Srinivasan speaks on the Sudan/South Sudan crisis

last modified Apr 22, 2014 04:04 PM
23rd April 2012


On 23rd April 2012, Dr Srinivasan spoke to Zeinab Badawi of BBC World News, on the Sudan/South Sudan crisis.

Watch the interview here:

New Media and the Developmental State in Ethiopia (Dr Iginio Gagliardone, African Affairs)

last modified May 01, 2014 11:23 AM
April 2014


In his recent piece for the journal African Affairs, CGHR Associate Dr Iginio Gagliardone discusses the relationship between new media and the Ethiopian government's state- and nation-building efforts. The piece, 'New Media and the Developmental State in Ethiopia', is available to read online; the abstract can be found below.


The Ethiopian government, led by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has developed one of the most restrictive systems for the regulation of new media in Africa. So far, most discussion has focused on the measures employed by the EPRDF to prevent the Internet and mobile phones from becoming tools for opposition forces to challenge the regime. Much less attention has been paid to the strategies pursued in order to make new media work in support of the government's ambiguous but ambitious attempt to make Ethiopia a developmental state. Examining the period between 1991 and 2012, this article explores how the EPRDF gradually moved from a simple strategy of information control towards incorporating new media into its state- and nation-building efforts through large-scale projects such as Woredanet and Schoolnet. Larger trends at the international level, including the securitization of development and the growing significance of China in Africa, have legitimated the use of the media to serve development outcomes, and have facilitated the spread of the kind of ‘developmental media system’ that has emerged in Ethiopia. The article concludes that only by engaging with these systems on their own terms and “going with the grain” can we develop a better understanding of how they work and how to change them.

PiMA Associate Dr Fred Mudhai to present on ‘media practitioners and public opinions on interactive shows in Kenya’ at Media Dialogue, May 2014

last modified May 01, 2014 11:24 AM
3rd April 2014

The focus of the 2014 Deutsche Welle Media Dialogue symposium, which will take place in Bonn on 21st May, will be the evaluation of the successes and challenges of Kenya's media landscape – a subject which relates closely to the work that CGHR has been carrying out at as part of the PiMA project, and is particularly relevant to the research interests of PiMA associate Dr Fred Mudhai. Dr Mudhai will be presenting at the conference on the subject of media practitioners and public opinions on interactive shows in Kenya, drawing on his work with the Kenyan broadcaster Citizen TV.

The Media Dialogue conference creates a forum for knowledge exchange between international media academics, political scientists, economists, academic lawyers and journalists. The full programme for the event is available online here.

Policy and media stakeholders discuss PiMA research in Nairobi, March 2014

last modified Aug 11, 2014 02:54 PM
26th March 2014

On 26 March 2014, researchers on CGHR’s PiMA project brought together media, policy and research stakeholders in Nairobi to discuss themes that have emerged from their work, and their relevance to the Kenyan policy, practice and research contexts.

The workshop, which was attended by more than 30 participants, began with an introduction from the Associate Dean of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, Professor Karuti Kanyinga. Highlighting gaps in existing research on Kenyan media, Professor Kanyinga challenged participants to think about the ethics, accountability and potential of the media within the spheres of development and politics in Kenya. He stressed that electronic polls conducted by the media cannot be relied upon due to a lack of scientific rigour, with sample sizes remaining unknown. Professor Kanyinga argued that the media should nevertheless be held accountable for their data-gathering, given the significant role they play in society. He concluded by underlining the importance of PiMA, and suggesting that the key recommendations of the study should include increased accountability on the part of the media, and the need for capacity building amongst journalists.

While acknowledging concerns about “shoddy opinion polls”, PiMA Principal Investigator and CGHR Director Dr Sharath Srinivasan noted that donors have linked the significance of freedom associated with interactive media to poverty alleviation, with the explosion in mobile phone use seen as a critical ingredient. Dr Srinivasan added that besides gender variation, a key area of interest in the PiMA research is investigation into whether differences in the level of engagement in interactive shows have been detected in comparisons between rural and urban areas. Highlighting preliminary findings, he indicated that rural-urban variations are not as pronounced as those relating to gender.  

IDS Director and PiMA Co-Investigator Professor Winnie Mitullah presented preliminary findings on audience-survey data in Kenya, indicating, for example, that there was lower listenership to and participation in interactive shows among female respondents in both rural and urban populations. Professor Mitullah also presented statistics relating to determinants of participation and perceptions of the impacts of interactive shows.

Nicholas Benequista, a PhD researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science, focused on media practitioners and public-participation spaces that he characterised as ‘created’, ‘invited’ and ‘closed’. He suggested that the PiMA project partners and other stakeholders should consider institutionalizing their work to form a think-tank.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Legal and Public Affairs Director, Mrs Praxedes Tororey described events around the 2013 general election. During this period, the IEBC tried to fill the information gap by sending their officers to FM radio stations “to educate” the listeners on various matters. They also used social media to counter rumours using the same platforms.

Overall, the workshop provided an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss and reflect on themes and opportunities emerging from the research  - specifically around audiences, governance and media agendas. There was particular interest in the findings relating to the nature of audiences, including rural and urban, and gender-based experiences. The project’s potential to deepen understanding of the influence of ‘serial’ callers and political interests in interactive shows also generated a significant amount of discussion.

Going forward, the PiMA research team will draw on the workshop to inform their on-going investigation into the project’s findings, in anticipation of two final workshops, to be held in Zambia and Kenya in July 2014.

UN General Assembly adopts resolution on the safety of journalists

last modified Apr 17, 2014 01:23 PM
18th December 2013


On Wednesday 18th December 2013 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/68/163) on “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity”.  This resolution “condemns unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations”.

The Resolution calls upon States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference.  States are encouraged to use legislative measures, to increase awareness regarding international human rights and humanitarian law obligations relating to the safety of journalists among the judiciary and law enforcement officers, as well as among journalists and in civil society, to monitor and report attacks against journalists; publicly to condemn attacks, and to dedicate the resources necessary to investigate and prosecute such attacks.

The Resolution also proclaimed 2 November as an International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

The safety of journalists was the first subject examined as part of CGHR’s research collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the right to life.  In March 2012, CGHR and the Special Rapporteur, Prof. Christof Heyns, convened a Meeting of Experts in Cambridge.  The discussions at that meeting informed Prof Heyns’ report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/20/22), which in turn was part of a growing momentum of international action on the issue, leading to the Human Rights Council’s Resolution (A/HRC/RES/21/12) later that year.  The General Assembly Resolution adopted earlier this week represents further progress in bringing these vital questions to the forefront of the international conscience.

UNODC publishes "Global Study on Homicide"

last modified May 14, 2014 03:41 PM
17th April 2014


Last week the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published its Global Study on Homicide 2013.  Building upon the research of its 2011 study, the aim is to improve understanding of the underlying pattern and trends of murder at regional, national and sub-national levels so as to support governmental efforts to address its root causes.

This clearly intersects with the research collaboration on the right to life between CGHR and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  In 2013 Prof. Heyns and Dr Probert met with some of the UNODC's team of researchers in Vienna to discuss ways in which the separate projects overlap and opportunities for each to inform the other.  As the Study makes clear:

The right to life is a supreme normative imperative, enshrined in both constitutional and international law.  The process and criteria for protecting against the unlawful taking of life, taking steps to safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction, and of assigning responsibility for violent deaths within that jurisdiction are key obligations of the State, predominantly through its criminal justice system

Intentional homicide caused the death of almost half a million people (437,000) in 2012, 31% of them in Africa.  It is clear that accurate state-reporting across Africa is extremely rare, and hence the UNODC relies upon mortality statistics that are modelled by the World Health Organisation.  As has become clear during the research on unlawful killings in Africa, there is a pressing need for better information-gathering about life and death on the continent.

In analysing the circumstances, motivations and relationships that drive homicide the study classifies intentional homicide into three main typologies, including, for the first time, one for homicide related to socio-political agendas.  These are described as  'homicides that originate in the public sphere and are typically committed as an instrument for advancing social or political agendas ... people are killed for what they represent and/or for the message that such killings can convey to the general public or to specific sub-sectors.'  This section includes discussion of many motivations for killing that will be discussed in the CGHR report Unlawful Killings in Africa, including hate crime, mob-violence and vigilantism.

Attention is also given to 'unlawful killings by law enforcement authorities.'  The Study affirms the state's obligation to safeguard life by strictly limiting the use of force by state agents in accordance with relevant international standards.  Though it draws a distinction between these unlawful killings and "intentional homicide" the report does highlight that there are circumstances in which killings by law enforcement personnel would qualify as homicide, especially where the police are not pursuing law enforcement objectives.  This might include attempts at extortion that escalate into extrajudicial killings, "social cleansing" operations, the intentional killing of criminals or members of marginalized groups, or circumstances in which the police operate as a militia or death squad.

The Study also includes a substantial section on the killing of journalists, the first subject researched by CGHR as part of its collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on questions of the right to life.  According to figures produced by UNESCO, the number of journalists killed reached a record high in 2012 (with 122 killed).  In December 2013 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning such attacks and calling for States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists.

Further information about the UNODC's Global Study on Homicide 2013 can be found here.

RCN Justice & Démocratie and CGHR co-host discussion event to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda

last modified Jun 17, 2014 10:57 AM
8th May 2014

On Thursday 8th May, the Centre of Governance and Human Rights and RCN Justice & Démocratie co-hosted a panel discussion on the Rwandan genocide and the judicial process that followed.

2014 highlights the commemoration of the genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994 – one of the most tragic events of the 20th century.

Following the genocide, with more than 100,000 suspects in prison and only 20 active magistrates, the Rwandese government and the international community must face the gravity and scope of the committed crimes. How can one judge the authors of these crimes? What are the legal sentences foreseen? What are the alternatives? How can one re-build a country where victims and genocidaires are bound to live together?


Martien Schotsmans, Legal Expert, Criminologist, Director RCN Justice & Démocratie. She worked in Rwanda between 1998 and 2000 during the trials related to the specialized chambers.

Hélène Morvan, in charge of the transmission of memory and conflict prevention project at RCN Justice & Démocratie. She has a long field experience on local conflict transformation in the Great Lakes region.

Andrew Swindells, freelance journalist and researcher. Since 1997, he has spent time investigating the work of the ICTR , Gacaca and national courts where cases are being heard. He has worked with genocide remembrance and survivor organisations IBUKA , Aegis Trust (UK), and the Rwandan National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG). He has previously investigated the role of France in Rwanda.

Moderator: Dr Devon Curtis, University Lecturer, POLIS

An audio recording of the event is available here.

New African studentships from the David and Elaine Potter Foundation

last modified Jul 21, 2014 09:09 AM
24th April 2014


The Centre of Governance and Human Rights is pleased to announce that through a generous donation from the David and Elaine Potter Foundation, matched by the Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust, funding will now be available for three students from Africa who wish to pursue doctoral and masters-level study in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge. The funds will support one doctoral student focused on governance and human rights beginning a three-year course in 2015/16, one student taking the MPhil in International Relations and Politics in 2015/16, and one taking the same course in 2016/17. The studentships will be advertised widely to encourage the brightest candidates to apply for them.

The David and Elaine Potter Foundation has been involved with POLIS since a £2 million benefaction to the University in 2008 led to the establishment of the David and Elaine Potter Lectureship in Governance and Human Rights. The Foundation and the University agreed that the Lecturer should focus particularly on Africa and serve as the Director of the new interdisciplinary Centre.

PiMA shares early results with stakeholders in Lusaka, Zambia, July 2013

last modified Jul 24, 2014 12:33 PM

On 19 July 2013, the PiMA research team held a stakeholder forum at Chita Lodge in Lusaka, Zambia, in order to share and discuss early research findings with policy, media and donor communities. Participants included Radio Phoenix, Irish Aid, BBC Media Action, UNZA, DFID and the World Bank, among others.

Beginning with an overview of the project’s aims and methodology, the forum focused on early findings from survey research in low-income constituencies, and qualitative research from inside radio and TV stations in Kenya and Zambia. Participants expressed interest in further analysis of survey results to better understand the roles of social issues and language as potential reasons for participation and non-participation. Additionally, some felt that the research presents an opportunity to further investigate regional and gender-based dimensions of participation in interactive media. Finally, responding to findings from research into media houses, debates highlighted the complex and ambiguous role of ownership and control in interactive media spaces.

The forum was chaired by PiMA co-investigator Mr Neo Simutanyi, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Lusaka, with presentations by Principal Investigator Dr Sharath Srinivasan (University of Cambridge), Co-Investigator Professor Winnie Mitullah (University of Nairobi), and PiMA Research Associates Dr Fred Okoth Mudhai (University of Cambridge) and Dr Alastair Fraser (University of Cambridge).

PiMA holds successful first stakeholder roundtable in Nairobi, February 2013

last modified May 20, 2014 12:10 PM

The Politics and Interactive Media in Africa (PiMA) Kenya team held a successful half-day stakeholder roundtable discussion on 21 February 2013 at the Nairobi Safari Club, Lillian Towers. The meeting brought together 19 key representatives from government, regulatory bodies, broadcast media, media assistance/funding organisations, media associations and civil society. It provided an active forum to introduce stakeholders to the PiMA project, gain insight into their views on important questions with regards to the project aims, and receive input on potentially useful project outputs and forms of engagement.

Government and regulatory sectors were represented by the Acting Director of Public Communications in the Department of Public Communications, who is also Secretary of the National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring, the Principal Legal Officer at the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and a Commissioner and Vice-Chairperson from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Media practitioners included the Editor-in-Chief of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, a Team Leader from Koch FM and representatives of religious broadcaster Hope FM. Additionally, a diverse group of media associations, active in media development, training, research and funding, participated in the workshop, including the National Co-ordinator of Community Radio Association of Kenya (CRAK), Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Media Focus on Africa, Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL), African Media Initiative (AMI), Hivos Kenya Media Programme, School of Journalism at University of Nairobi, UN-Habitat and Ipsos Synovate.

Taking cue from opening remarks by representatives of the Ministry of Information and Communications, CCK and IEBC, participants noted an opening of media space has correlated with advances in the democratisation process, in particular suggesting there are indications that marginalised groups make use of interactive media, for instance through community radio, to hold political leadership accountable. However, they also raised concerns that the regulatory framework for interactive communications is inadequately developed – making social media in particular open to abuse.

A number of insights for PiMA were drawn from the discussion. Many stakeholders felt the mainstream media under-represent ordinary peoples’ opinions and priorities, and especially minorities, women and the youth. “Media is an agent of marginalization; and new media can also marginalise,” IEBC Commissioner, Muthoni Wangai, commented. A number of questions were raised. Is mainstream media doing justice to society’s diversity? What informs the choice of what to air? What informs media houses’ decisions to invite studio guests? Does interactive media lead to development of new knowledge? How do we measure the knowledge that people have acquired through interactive media? Who monitors media output, and why?

Koch FM Team Leader Tom Mboya recalled anecdotes from their work that underscored his belief that “the marginalised have power if given a voice”. “Just by going on air and saying this is illegal, we brought change,” Mboya said of their impact on corruption, impunity and insecurity concerns in Korogocho slum, Nairobi. IEBC Vice-chairperson Lillian Mahiri-Zaja told of how Nairobi-based Ghetto FM is another local radio station targeting the marginalised, giving them some element of “power to set political agenda”. AMWIK highlighted their role in empowerment through community radio listening groups.

Participants also hypothesised that there is some level of stratification in the use of interactive media, with women being marginalised. They suggested that in addition to conventional broadcast media, the project should consider interrogating the role of social media as growing hubs of interactivity, and include as many demography factors as possible.

Participants also noted that to catch up with the times, political and electoral institutions such as IEBC should make their communication systems more interactive. A case in point is the helplessness of many citizens who found themselves registered as members of political parties without their consent – but with no organisation accountable or responsive to them on the matter.

The workshop concluded with stakeholders confirming their willingness to assist in the project’s knowledge generation objectives and activities. The PiMA team will organise a second, similar platform of stakeholders for information sharing and learning later in the project lifecycle.

The meeting was chaired by PiMA country Co-Investigator, Prof Winnie Mitullah of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi and PiMA’s University of Cambridge Research Associate, Dr Fred Mudhai, with the help of Kenya-based PiMA Research Assistants, Sammy Mwangi and Moses Maina. Including PiMA and IDS staff, the meeting attracted 24 participants.

'Africa's Voices: Using mobile phones and radio to foster mediated public discussion and to gather public opinions in Africa' - working paper now published online

last modified May 23, 2014 05:22 PM
23rd May 2014


The latest in CGHR's Working Paper series is now available to read online. Co-authored by Dr Claudia Abreu Lopes and
Dr Sharath Srinivasan, the paper's publication marks the conclusion of the applied pilot phase of the Africa's Voices project.

The paper can be accessed here, and the abstract is reproduced below.


This paper presents the findings from a one-year applied research pilot project, Africa's Voices, run by the University of Cambridge's Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR). Africa's Voices developed out of CGHR's wider research programme on politics, ICTs and interactive media in Africa. That research analyses how audiences interact with radio stations through mobile phones; how different actors including audiences, radio journalists, and governance actors (state officials, but also others such as community leaders and aid actors) perceive the importance of these interactions; and what the practical implications are for public discussion of political and social issues and for governance processes that shape access to and the quality of public goods. With Africa's Voices, the CGHR research team piloted a programme format with local radio stations in eight sub-Saharan African countries with the objective of practically assessing the potential for deploying interactive radio to gather and comparatively analyse opinions of harder to reach sub-Saharan African populations. Besides evaluating optimal modes of working with smaller and more rural radio stations, the research has focused on patterns of audience participation in different formats of mediated public discussions and on the efficacy of different approaches to defining, gathering and measuring public opinion. This paper presents the results of the pilot and discusses them with respect to the abovementioned objectives. The paper also discusses some of the methodological and ethical challenges of using the affordances of ICT and interactive media that make them suitable for gathering and researching citizens' opinion in Africa.

BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview: CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan on the conflict in South Sudan

last modified Apr 09, 2015 11:47 AM
12th June 2014

CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan was interviewed by Mishal Hussein on the conflict in South Sudan. After months of civil unrest, the government and the main rebel leader in South Sudan have agreed to form a unity government; Dr Srinivasan discusses the chances that the new government will be able to bring peace to the country. 

You can listen to the interview here:

CGHR Associate Dr Adam Higazi speaks to Australia's Radio National about Nigeria and Boko Haram

last modified Jun 17, 2014 10:53 AM
25th May 2014


The abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria in April 2014 provoked angry street protests at home and growing outrage around the world. In this programme, Rear Vision looks at why the wealthiest nation in Africa seems unable to deal with the violent Islamist sect, Boko Haram.

Dr Higazi (Research Fellow in African Studies at King's College, Cambridge) joined Richard Dowden (Director of the Royal African Society) and Sola Tayo (Associate Fellow at Chatham House in London) to discuss the origins of Boko Haram.

The programme is available to download here.

Mapping and Analysing Hate Speech Online: Opportunities and Challenges for Ethiopia (Dr Iginio Gagliardone, PCMLP, Oxford and Addis Ababa University)

last modified Jun 18, 2014 04:04 PM
June 2014


Former CGHR Research Associate Dr Iginio Gagliardone has co-authored this working paper, which seeks to provide a framework through which hate speech which emerges and is disseminated online can be identified and analysed, with a specific focus on Ethiopia.

Published by the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP) at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with Addis Ababa University, the report offers a set of innovative conceptual and methodological tools to address the emergence and proliferation of hate speech online.

The working paper is available to download from the PCMLP website here.

UN Special Rapporteur gives CGHR Public Lecture on Autonomous Weapons Systems

last modified Jul 02, 2014 11:20 PM
19th June 2014

Yesterday the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, delivered a public lecture on ‘Autonomous Weapons Systems: The Future?’ in front of a diverse audience from across the University and beyond.  The lecture was part of a two-day programme of events developing greater collaboration between CGHR, its associates, and this UN mandate.

Prof. Heyns, who is also Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, was appointed a Special Rapporteur by the Human Rights Council in 2010.  Since then he has worked on issues ranging from the policing of demonstrations and the death penalty to military drone-strikes.  He has also been at the forefront of the debate about the challenges for the laws and ethics of armed conflict posed by the development of Autonomous Weapons Systems (formerly known as Lethal Autonomous Robots). 

For more information on the background to the event and Professor Heyns' involvement with the debate over the use of these weapons, see here.


CGHR launch report on "Unlawful Killings in Africa"

last modified Jul 09, 2014 12:59 PM
23rd June 2014


On 19th June, CGHR published and launched the outcome of its most recent collaboration with the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, a study of the incidence of violations of the right to life across the African continent.  This study, Unlawful Killings in Africa is the product of a year-long collaboration between CGHR Research Associate Dr Thomas Probert and the Special Rapporteur, focused on the creation and coordination of a Research Team during Michaelmas and Lent terms of this year.

More information about the report and a video of the launch event can be found here.

CGHR is looking for a new Student Group Coordinator for the year 2014-15

last modified Aug 10, 2014 04:07 PM
8th July 2014


An exciting opportunity has opened up for a student to become involved with the Centre of Governance and Human Rights, based in the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS).

The CGHR Student Group forms an integral part of the overall functioning of the Centre and amongst other things, is involved in the organisation and hosting of seminars and events, and the Postgraduate Research Working Group. CGHR is looking to recruit a Student Coordinator to support the Centre's work and coordinate the CGHR student group during the 2014/15 academic year. This is a key role, and will be expected to lead in the organisation and smooth running of the Student Group and its activities.

More information about the role and how to apply can be found here.

For more information please get in touch:

CGHR Photography Competition: Winner Announced

last modified Jul 11, 2014 12:08 PM
10th July 2014


The results of the first CGHR human rights photography competition themed ' A Thousand Words' have recently been announced. The winner was Sárica Robyn Balsari-Palsule, whose compelling images call for reflection on a number of human rights concerns in India.

Describing the background to her submission, Sárica said: 'All the photos I have selected are from India, and portray the urgent need for human rights in specific areas such as food, shelter, sanitation, social equality and gender equality.' 

Amongst the broad range of entries were highly commended images from Vietnam, by Caitlin Stewart and Romania, by Anne Martine Norli Solstad.The entries were judged by Professor Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, on subjects related to the right to life and Roeland Verhallen, a PhD student and professional photographer.

Images from the winning and highly commended photographers can be seen by scrolling through the carousel above.

Continental Conference on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa

last modified Jul 21, 2014 01:55 PM
11th July 2014


Earlier this month, at Cotonou, Benin, a Continental Conference was convened to finalise an optional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the abolition of the Death Penalty. The final communiqué of the conference (“Cotonou Declaration”) calls upon African states to adopt that Protocol.

This was the culmination of a process in which CGHR Director Sharath Srinivasan and Research Associate Thomas Probert participated almost a year ago in Pretoria (pictured). At that time a joint meeting was convened between the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions—with whom CGHR collaborates on research concerning the right to life—and the African Commission’s Working Group on Death Penalty and Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings, to consider a working draft of the Protocol.

According the recent survey of unlawful killings presented by the Working Group to the African Commission’s 55th Ordinary Session in Angola (available here), 17 African states have abolished the death penalty through national legislation and a further 25 states have not carried out an execution in more than 10 years. Despite this promising trend, the issue remains a concern on the continent (with executions in at least five countries in 2013 and death sentences in more than 20). CGHR’s recent study on Unlawful Killings in Africa (available here) dedicated a chapter to this issue.

The idea of a regional legal instrument expressly abolishing the death penalty achieved significant support from civil society: 78 human rights organisations have put their name to a Manifesto for a Protocol to the African Charter on the abolition of the death penalty (available here).

First Contact with the Field: Experiences of an Early Career Researcher in the Context of National and International Politics in Kenya (Njoki Wamai, Journal of Human Rights Practice)

last modified Jul 22, 2014 02:49 PM
16th July 2014


The Journal of Human Rights Practice has published a practice note on the fieldwork experience of POLIS PhD candidate and former CGHR Student Group member, Njoki Wamai

The piece focuses on the various identity dilemmas and challenges faced during fieldwork within the context of the ongoing international human rights-related trial and investigation process of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Kenya, which is the subject of Njoki's doctoral research. In the note, Njoki discusses how safety can be assured and access negotiated in the field, especially in the context of the ICC trial which has shaped human rights-related research in the counties that are the focus of her work.

The full article is available to read online here.

Africa's Voices as a sustainable enterprise: Final presentation of the business case

last modified Jul 25, 2014 04:41 PM
25th April 2014


Following the successful pilot of the Africa's Voices research project, a team of four MBA students from the Cambridge Judge Business School has been analysing the sustainability of the project as an ongoing social enterprise. After a week spent in Cambridge undertaking a literature review, the team spent three weeks in Nairobi, meeting with various parties including the UN, DFID and a number of local radio stations.

After extensive evidence collection and hypothesis testing, the team came to the conclusion that there is significant value to be captured in this space for the right enterprise. In the first instance, there is potential for the scoping, measuring and evaluation of NGO and aid projects but also for a much wider public engagement and research agenda. The team were highly optimistic about the potential for a successful spin-off from the Africa's Voices project.

A version of the final presentation is available on the CGHR website here.

PDF document icon CGHR+Further+Information.pdf — PDF document, 90 KB (93057 bytes)

Dr Alastair Fraser presents findings from Zambian PiMA research at the 2014 International Studies Association conference

last modified Jul 28, 2014 11:01 AM
29th March 2014


Dr Alastair Fraser, Research Associate on Politics and Interactive Media in Africa (PiMA), presented some of the findings of the Zambian aspects of the project during a panel on ‘Crowdsourcing’ in social science research at the International Studies Association (ISA) conference in Toronto in March 2014.

Alastair’s paper, ‘Accountability versus Politics in Zambian interactive media’ was one of two papers on the panel discussing urban solid waste management in Africa. Alastair talked about the politics of reform of Lusaka’s solid waste management systems and how it can be understood through an analysis of calls coming in to an interactive radio show supported by Lusaka City Council. 

The PIMA project’s understanding of ‘crowdsourcing’ involves analysing sources of mass data about public opinion that can be ‘extracted’ from already existing forms of social life. This approach contrasted interestingly with other papers on the ISA panel that involved ‘seeding’ participation in ‘experiments’ designed by academics to try and increase public participation, and with the hope that by doing so they might be able to contribute to improving governance and service provision, or predict popular unrest or violence.

Researching (with) Social Media: Reading Group now open

last modified Jul 03, 2015 01:21 PM
5th August 2014

As part of her 2014-17 ESRC-funded research project, Social Media, Human Rights NGOs, and the Potential for Governmental Accountability, Dr Ella McPherson will be holding monthly meetings of the Researching (with) Social Media Reading Group, starting in October 2014.

The aim of the group, which is co-convened by Dr McPherson from Sociology/CGHR and Dr Anne Alexander from Cambridge Digital Humanities Networkis to bring together staff and students across disciplines to explore findings and methods of research involving social media.

To register interest or find out more about the group, visit the Social Media and Human Rights homepage.


Advocacy Organizations’ Evaluation of Social Media Information for NGO Journalism (Dr Ella McPherson, American Behavioral Scientist)

last modified Aug 07, 2014 04:53 PM
July 2014


Dr Ella McPherson's article 'Advocacy Organizations' Evaluation of Social Media Information for NGO Journalism:
The Evidence and Engagement Models
' has been published in the July edition of American Behavioral Scientist journal.

The piece appears as part of a special issue on social media, collaboration and organizations edited by Dhiraj Murthy and is available to read online here.

More information about Dr McPherson's three-year ESRC-funded research project, Social Media, Human Rights NGOs, and the Potential for Governmental Accountability is available from the Social Media and Human Rights website.

CGHR at Voice and Matter conference 2014

last modified Sep 06, 2014 12:25 PM
12th August 2014


CGHR Director Sharath Srinivasan will be speaking at Voice and Matter: the fourth annual Communication for Development event taking place at Roskilde University in September 2014.

The 4 day event is a mixture of academic conference and cultural festival, open to anyone with an interest in Communication for Development. Registration is open until the 31st August and available here.

Dr Srinivasan will be appearing on a panel to discuss ICT for development and citizen engagement, to address this year's theme: the concepts of voice and matter. He will present on insights from CGHR projects: Africa's Voices and PiMA (Politics and Interactive Media in Africa).

A preliminary programme is available to download here.


Amplifying Africa's Voices

last modified Sep 29, 2014 12:15 PM
Cambridge University asks journalist Becky Allen to report on CGHR's collaboration with IBM Research Africa Lab on turning PiMA/Africa's Voices research into impact.


How the death penalty is slowly weakening its grip on Africa - Dr Thomas Probert for African Arguments

last modified Oct 10, 2014 11:29 AM
10th October 2014


In connection with the 12th World Day against the Death Penalty, CGHR Research Associate Thomas Probert wrote a guest post for African Arguments on the global trend towards abolition and the extent to which African states are moving away from the practice.  The piece drew from the chapter of CGHR’s recent survey of Unlawful Killings in Africa highlighting that while not the gravest threat to the right to life on the continent in terms of number of deaths, the symbolic importance of the death penalty meant that the number of African states on the cusp of abolishing capital punishment should be welcomed. Read the piece here.

New case study on PiMA/Africa's Voices

last modified Apr 07, 2015 10:31 AM
17th October 2014


Cambridge University asks journalist Becky Allen to report on CGHR's collaboration with IBM Research Africa Lab on turning PiMA/Africa's Voices research into impact. Read the article.

Papers for Prof. Laurie Nathan talks on 17 & 18 November now available

last modified Nov 14, 2014 11:15 AM
20th October 2014


University of Pretoria Centre for Mediation in Africa Director, Prof. Laurie Nathan, will be giving two CGHR seminars on November 17 & 18. Read the paper on Sovereignty, and on International Mediation

Please note, these papers are works in progress and should not be cited without the author's permission. Prof. Nathan looks forward to contributions at the seminars that will help develop these papers further. 

Pursuing Justice in Africa

last modified Oct 21, 2014 05:06 PM
17th October 2014


Following its research on Unlawful Killings in Africa, CGHR is glad to partner with the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the Centre of African Studies, the Division of Social Anthropology, the Trevelyan Fund and the Smuts Memorial Fund in supporting a multidisciplinary conference in Cambridge next year (27-28 March 2015) on Pursuing Justice in Africa. 

In recent decades, justice has been overshadowed as a subject of concern to scholars of Africa by literatures centring on rights, crime, punishment, policing and social order. This neglect of justice is striking given the increasing presence of international justice institutions, such as the International Criminal Court, on the African continent and the remarkable diversity of legal structures of justice. Across Africa complex pluralities of ‘customary’, religious, state, and transnational justice regimes interact on what is often contested terrain. 

The concept of “accountability” was addressed by various sections of the CGHR study Unlawful Killings in Africa, not least in pointing to its absence—cultures of impunity—with respect to various violations of the right to life across the continent.  Analysing the nature of accountability in African contexts remains a thematic interest of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. 

More information about the conference can be found here.  CGHR’s study on Unlawful Killings (including an executive summary) can be downloaded here.

Africa's Voices helps develop radio engagement model for IBM Ebola initiative

last modified Oct 27, 2014 01:01 PM

Working with IBM's new Africa research lab, Africa's Voices has helped develop a radio engagement model that is part of a new IBM initiative to contain the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone. Read the full story.

Inaugural CGHR film screening, Friday 14 November: Tickets now available

last modified Nov 07, 2014 01:02 PM

The first of CGHR's termly film screenings, We Are Many by Amir Amirani will be at 5pm on Friday 14 November, in Keynes Lecture Hall, King's College, Cambridge.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the Director, Amir Amirani. 

Further details.

Reserve your free ticket.

Regional Review of the Geneva Declaration in Nairobi

last modified Dec 09, 2014 12:30 PM
28th November 2014


As part of the research on violations of the right to life in Africa earlier this year, CGHR used material and research gathered by the secretariat of the Geneva Declaration, which monitors indicators of violence around the world, both in conflict setting and outside them. Over the course of 2014 the Geneva Declaration has been conducting a series of Regional Review Conferences, of which the last, on sub-Saharan Africa, was held in Nairobi this week.

CGHR Research Associate Thomas Probert was invited to the conference to present on behalf of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions as part of a panel on 'The Importance of Justice and Security Providers for Peace and Development'. In light of the Special Rapporteur's report to the Human Rights Council earlier this year, and the chapter on excessive use of force in CGHR's study Unlawful Killings in Africa, Dr Probert focused on the extent to which security providers could themselves be agents of violence, and suggested ways in which domestic legislation concerning the use of force could be brought into conformity with international standards.

More information on the Geneva Declaration, including its various Regional Review Conferences in 2014, and the anticipated publication of the latest version of its Global Burden of Armed Violence report can be found here.

Before the conference Dr Probert participated in a regional civil society workshop hosted by the Global Alliance on Armed Violence (GAAV) with the America Friends Service Committee (AFSC) on Preventing and Reducing Armed Violence to Promote Development. More than 30 civil society organisations were able to attend the meeting in Nairobi, and a further 190 participated in an online consultation beforehand. The workshop produced a statement of recommendations to the states and other agencies represented at the Regional Review Conference. The civil society statement is available here.

Dr Sharath Srinivasan speaks at Chatham House event on Sudan and South Sudan

last modified Jan 09, 2015 05:51 PM

CGHR Director Dr Sharath Srinivasan speaks at the Chatham House research event, Sudan and South Sudan: Reflecting on Ten Years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Further details of the event.

Dr Sharath Srinivasan speaks at SCHR conference, Geneva

last modified Jan 13, 2015 02:17 PM

CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan is speaking at the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Responses' conference, 'Humanitarian Action in 2025: What future ahead of us?' on Monday 19th January in Geneva. Dr Srinivasan will be speaking on 'The 2025 Communicator – Shifting Power to Aid Recipients'. 

The Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR) is a voluntary alliance of nine of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations. They share an aim, and work together, to improve the quality, effectiveness, accountability and impact of aid efforts for people affected by crisis. 

#ICT4HR - Expert panel on using ICTs for human rights

last modified Feb 02, 2015 05:53 PM
23rd January 2015


As Amnesty International’s recent report on Nigeria has shown, there are many powerful ways in which information communication technology, including satellite imagery, has transformed human rights advocacy.  They can be powerful tools in pushing for accountability for violations.  However they also present new challenges—for example around issues such as verification--for those working in the field.

For the last five months, as part of its research theme on the Right to Life, CGHR has been working in collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who will be presenting a report to the Human Rights Council on these questions later this year.  In Michaelmas CGHR convened a small student team under the direction of CGHR Research Associates Ella McPherson and Thomas Probert, which has been providing invaluable assistance in the drafting of a discussion document on the subject.  In February, CGHR will host a two-day meeting of international experts, to discuss this document and make recommendations to the Special Rapporteur.

On Tuesday 10 February, at 1pm, after the expert meeting has concluded, there will be a public panel discussion in room S1 of the Alison Richard Building, West Road, Cambridge.  This will be an opportunity for a wider audience to engage with both practitioners and commentators and to explore these themes in greater depth.  CGHR will also launch the online resource which the student research team as been developing--designed to be a one-stop survey of applications and processes which harness the potential of ICTs for human rights work.

The panel will include:

  • Christof Heyns - UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
  • Christina Ribeiro - Investigation Coordinator, Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
  • Christoph Koettl - designer and editor of Amnesty International's Citizen Evidence Lab
  • Eliot Higgins - creator of the Brown Moses blog, investigating the conflict in Syria
  • Ella McPherson - CGHR Research Associate (chair)

Dr Sharath Srinivasan speaks at CPA UK conference, Houses of Parliament

last modified Feb 03, 2015 10:36 AM
3rd February 2015


CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan is speaking at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's conference 'Human Rights in the Modern Day Commonwealth: Magna Carta to Commonwealth Charter', which is being held in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 4 February. 

Dr Srinivasan will be taking part in a panel discussion entitled 'Rights and their Boundaries', which will look at the co-existence of individual, national and international rights and the circumstances in which they are limited and challenged.

More about the conference.

ICTS and Human Rights Tumblr blog launched

last modified Jul 10, 2015 11:25 AM
10th February 2015
ICTS and Human Rights Tumblr blog launched

©Image by Drone Wars UK


As part of CGHR's project on ICTs and the Right to Life, a student team has assembled a multi-authored Tumblr blogaggregating their research into technologies, tactics, and case studies of the use of ICTs in human rights work.

This resource is intended to be a reference point for how ICTs are being incorporated into the prevention of human rights violations as well as into fact-finding and advocacy practices. The team have categorised the material by hashtag. Short write-ups include key features and links, while longer authored pieces take a more in-depth look, considering aspects such as ownership, risks and opportunities, as well as the key consideration of pluralism – namely, who is included and who is excluded by use of the technology in question.

This is a live resource, as the student team will continue to update it as they hear of new examples.  They welcome recommendations for inclusion; please message the site via Tumblr.

CGHR at World Radio Day, SOAS

last modified Feb 11, 2015 10:16 AM
13th February 2015

CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan, and Research Associate Dr Claudia Abreu Lopes are to speak at a World Radio Day talk and trade fair at SOAS on Friday 13th February.  

UNESCO's World Radio Day is a day to celebrate radio as a medium, to improve international cooperation between broadcasters, and to encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote access to information, and free, independent and pluralistic media. The topic of the 4th World Radio Day is Radio and Youth.

To celebrate, the event at SOAS will present some of the latest research and projects using Radio in Public Health, Political Participation, Education and Freedom of Expression and Communication in Africa and around the world. 

Dr Srinivasan and Dr Lopes are speaking on public consultation and political participation in Africa using mobile phones and interactive radio.

Recording of World Radio Day talk now available

last modified Feb 27, 2015 12:04 PM
27th February 2015


CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan spoke at the World Radio Day talk at SOAS on Friday 13th February. You can now listen to a sound recording of the event.  

CGHR's Annual Report 2013-14 now available

last modified Apr 07, 2015 10:24 AM
25th March 2015

CGHR's Annual Report 2013-14 covers the breadth of our research, from our ESRC-DFID funded project Politics and Interactive Media in Africa (PiMA) to our continuing collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The enduring value of our research partnerships, such as with the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, are also a focus. The report highlights CGHR successes in engaging the full diversity of the research community in Cambridge, such as through the series of events and seminars held over 2013-14. Finally, to mark our fifth anniversary, we include a brief overview of our first five years.

Read the report.

Watch Dr Sharath Srinivasan discuss media and technology in East Africa as part of the CEU's Center for Media, Data and Society's Media and Change series

last modified Mar 31, 2015 03:00 PM
31st March 2015

In this interview CGHR Director Dr Sharath Srinivasan talks to Dr Phil Howard, Director of the Center for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University, about about media and technology, access to information and innovation hubs in East Africa.

Recording of Chatham House event on Sudan and South Sudan now available

last modified Apr 15, 2015 02:24 PM
15th April 2015

On 9th January, CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan, spoke at the Chatham House event 'Sudan and South Sudan: Reflecting on Ten Years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. 

You can now listen to an audio recording of the event. 

Africa's Voices website now live

last modified Jun 02, 2015 12:44 PM
2nd June 2015

The website for Africa’s Voices – the non-profit start-up, spun-out of CGHR research – is now live.  

Africa’s Voices harnesses mobile technology and interactive media to help organisations understand, engage with and respond to target audiences. Visit the new website to learn more about its work. 

New Interactive Radio Toolkit launched to help hosts and producers make space for all voices

last modified Jun 30, 2015 10:06 AM
16th June 2015

A new Interactive Radio Toolkit designed by Internews Center for Innovation & Learning, in partnership with CGHR, and based on CGHR's research on Politics and Interactive Media in Africa (PiMA), has been launched to help radio hosts learn how to be a conduit for community voices, and boost their own ratings and success as a result.

Learn more about the Toolkit and download your copy from this Internews blog post

Exciting vacancy for Chief Operating Officer in Nairobi at Africa's Voices

last modified Jun 19, 2015 12:56 PM
19th June 2015

Africa's Voices has an exciting vacancy for a Chief Operating Officer based in Nairobi. This non-profit startup, spun out of CGHR research, uses media, technology and sophisticated analysis to amplify voices in the African continent ( Please take a look at the job description and share widely.

For any questions, .

Special Rapporteur report on ICTs and human rights delivered in Geneva

last modified Jul 10, 2015 11:24 AM
3rd July 2015

On Friday 19 June at the 29th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions presented his thematic report on the potential of information communication technologies (ICTs) in protecting the right to life. The report explored the potential of ICTs in promotion, protection, monitoring and accountability for violations of the right to life, and called on the UN system and other international human rights bodies to “catch up” with rapidly developing innovations in human rights fact-finding and investigations.

The report can be downloaded in the six official languages of the UN. The interactive dialogue with States concerning the report, including Prof. Heyns’ initial presentation to the Council, can be watched via the UNWebTV service.

CGHR have been proudly involved in supporting the work of the Special Rapporteur over several years. In this academic year, the collaboration has focussed on the question of ICTs. A student team coordinated by CGHR Research Associate Dr Ella McPherson assisted in the compilation of material for a discussion document ahead of an Expert Meeting which the Special Rapporteur convened in Cambridge in February.

To accompany the presentation of the report, the Special Rapporteur organised a side event in Geneva, #ICT4HR: Using information and communication technologies to protect human rights. The event took the form of a panel discussion, chaired by CGHR Research Associate Dr Thomas Probert, bringing together experiences from the streets of Bahrain as well as expertise from large human rights NGOs and the ICC. The event was co-sponsored by the International Service for Human Rights, which has written a brief summary of it.

Both the report and the side event underlined the extent to which, while the affordances of ICTs should be embraced, they should not be seen as a panacea. Prof. Heyns also warned that it will be short-sighted not to see the risks: “Those with the power to violate human rights can easily use peoples’ emails and other communications to target them and also to violate their privacy,” he said. Moreover, there is a danger that what is not captured on video is not taken seriously. "We must guard against a mind-set that ‘if it is not digital it did not happen,’” he stressed.

“There is still a long way to go for all of us to understand fully how we can use these evolving and exciting but in some ways also scary new tools to their best effect,” Heyns stated, noting that not all parts of the international human rights community are fully aware of the power and pitfalls of digital fact-finding. He made several recommendations in his report, including that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights appoints a specialist in digital evidence to assist it in making the best use of ICTs.

CGHR contributes to Data Science policy briefing

last modified Jul 10, 2015 11:24 AM
6th July 2015

CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan, and Head of Research and Development at Africa's Voices, Dr Claudia Abreu Lopes, have contributed to a data science policy briefing launched by the University of Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy at an international conference, Policy making in an era of big data, held in Cambridge on 15-17 June 2015. 

The briefing also contains a piece by CGHR Research Associate Dr Ella McPherson and CGHR Associat Dr Anne Alexander on ethical implications that arise from distortions in social media data. 

Read more about the Data Science and Policy policy challenge and download the briefing

ISHR article by Christof Heyns and CGHR's Thomas Probert on the power of ICTs for human rights

last modified Sep 16, 2015 11:44 AM
10th July 2015

In an article published by the International Service for Human Rights, CGHR Research Associate, Dr Thomas Probert, and Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, highlight the power of information communication technologies (ICTs) for human rights. 

This year, CGHR's collaboration with the Special Rapporteur has focused on ICTs. A student team coordinated by CGHR Research Associate Dr Ella McPherson assisted in the compilation of material for a discussion document ahead of an Expert Meeting in Cambridge convened by the Special Rapporteur in February. As part of the project, the student team assembled a multi-authored Tumblr blogaggregating their research into technologies, tactics, and case studies of the use of ICTs in human rights work.

In June at the 29th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur  presented his thematic report on the potential of information communication technologies (ICTs) in protecting the right to life.

Can you lead a dynamic student team and bring fresh ideas to CGHR?

last modified Sep 16, 2015 11:49 AM
24th July 2015

CGHR is looking for a new Student Group Coordinator for the 2015/16 academic year. The CGHR Student Group forms an integral part of the overall work of the Centre, coordinating events and the CGHR Research Group. This is an exciting and dynamic role, leading the organisation and smooth running of the Student Group and its activities. If you are interested in applying, or would like further information, please get in touch

As CGHR’s Student Group Coordinator I helped manage the publicity, outreach and events of a research centre at the cutting edge of its field. I honed a range of competencies and it was particularly enjoyable to be exposed to the ideas, people and conversations around CGHR, which enlivened my academic experience and exposed me to new pathways for putting my degree into practice. Partha Moman, CGHR Student Group Coordinator, 2014-15.

More about the CGHR Student Group.

CGHR co-hosts workshop on "Making and Breaking Peace in Sudan and South Sudan"

last modified Sep 07, 2015 04:18 PM
4th September 2015

On 4-5 September 2015, CGHR co-hosted a workshop of invited participants – Making and Breaking Peace in Sudan and South Sudan: Ten Years after the “Comprehensive” Peace Agreement – to explore the legacy of peacemaking in the Sudans over the decade.

An edited academic volume will be produced from the workshop papers, refined through pre-circulation and comment as well as by the use of discussants and wider debate in the workshop sessions themselves. All papers may also be published as a Working Paper series.

The workshop was funded by CGHR, Pembroke College Cambridge, and a British Academy Rising Star Engagement award to CGHR Associate and Lecturer in Law, Dr Sarah Nouwen.  

Summary of CGHR/Amnesty Encryption, Anonymity & Human Rights Workshop now available

last modified Sep 16, 2015 11:31 AM
9th September 2015

On 29 June 2015, CGHR and Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights team co-hosted an exploratory workshop on Encryption, Anonymity, and Human Rights. CGHR Research Associate Dr Ella McPherson, and PhD candidate Rebekah Larsen have written an in-depth summary of the workshop, which is now available to read on the CGHR website.

Read the summary.

Dialogue with the Dalai Lama

last modified Sep 16, 2015 12:13 PM
16th September 2015

CGHR Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan, is today participating in an Inspire Dialogue Foundation event hosted by Rowan Williams at Magdalene College, Cambridge. The event, Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, aims to be "a genuine conversation around what resources we need to shape humane, compassionate, intelligent responses to the crises that confront us today", and "to give the fullest possible opportunity for younger people to join the conversation." The plenary sessions with Lord Williams and the Dalai Lama, and small group sessions, will focus on the themes of resources, health, environment, education, technology, conflict resolution and freedom. Dr Srinivasan will be facilitating the sessions on freedom.

Inspire Dialogue Foundation facebook page.

Dr Ella McPherson on verification in civilian human rights reporting

last modified Sep 21, 2015 11:33 AM
21st September 2015

CGHR Associate, Dr Ella McPherson, has contributed the chapter 'Digital Human Rights Reporting by Civilian Witnesses: Surmounting the Verification Barrier' to a new volume, Produsing Theory in a Digital World 2.0: The Intersection of Audiences and Production in Contemporary Theory (Vol. 2).

Dr McPherson's Chapter demonstrates how professional human rights fact-finders can be understood, after Bourdieu, as a field characterized by an information logic governed by verification. In contrast, civilian witnesses – particularly at the accidental rather than activist end of the spectrum – can be thought of as a non-field. It concludes with considering how the phenomenon of third party verification subsidies, both human and machine, might lower the verification barrier. 

Read the chapter

Order the book

MPhil and Phd Scholarships for Students from African Countries now available for 2016

last modified Oct 07, 2015 06:07 PM
5th October 2015

Scholarships are now available for students from African countries undertaking either one-year Phil in International Relations and Politics or a three-year PhD in a field related to governance and human rights from 2016.

Find out more.


New CGHR Report on ICTs and Human Rights Practice

last modified Oct 12, 2015 01:21 PM
7th October 2015

CGHR is delighted to announce the publication of a new report, 'ICTS and Human Rights Practice', by CGHR Associate Dr Ella McPherson. 

In 2014, a CGHR research team began a study of how the use of information and communication technologies affects the right to life, resulting in this report and the ICTs and Human Rights blog. This report was originally a discussion document prepared by CGHR Research Associate Dr Ella McPherson in collaboration with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and ahead of a meeting of experts held in Cambridge in February 2015. The discussion document, as well as the discussion at the expert meeting, contributed to the Special Rapporteur’s thematic report on the use of information and communications technologies to secure the right to life, presented at the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The report will be launched on Monday 19 October at 4pm in the Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road Cambridge (room S1). All are welcome to attend. 

Read the report.

New opportunity for students to participate in research with UN Special Rapporteur

last modified Dec 02, 2015 03:55 PM
26th October 2015

Since 2011 CGHR has been collaborating with Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  More information about the research collaborations on the right to life of journalists (2011/12), unlawful killings in Africa (2013/14) and on the use of information communication technologies in human rights work (2014/15) can be found on the Right to Life page.

These collaborative projects have been opportunities for Cambridge students to undertake substantive research as parts of multidisciplinary teams on a wide range of subjects, at the same time as engaging directly with the work of the UN Human Rights Council.

CGHR is pleased to announce that during the coming academic year this research collaboration will be continuing, and the Centre is currently seeking applicants to join its Research Team.

The Special Rapporteur is looking to conduct a study into armed violence reduction (AVR) programming in Africa, ahead of a large-scale research collaboration in the coming years. CGHR is recruiting a team of researchers to complete a broad mapping and review of AVR work being conducted across the continent, and to produce a “Research Pack” for the Special Rapporteur.

Further details of the research project, along with details of applications to join the Research Team, can be found in the Call for Researchers

Deadline for applications: 13 November 2015

African Commission opens consultation for General Comment on right to life

last modified Dec 02, 2015 03:54 PM
14th August 2015


CGHR is pleased to note that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has made available a draft text of its proposed General Comment on the right to life (that will become General Comment No.3).

The draft is available in English and in French from links on the Commission’s homepage.

In June, the Working Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa (the mechanism of the Commission which will initially work on the General Comment) held a drafting meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.  CGHR Research Associate Dr Thomas Probert was invited to attend on behalf of our partner, the Centre for Human Rights (University of Pretoria), and as the editor of CGHR’s research report Unlawful Killings in Africa, which was a central part of the background material provided to the meeting.

The current draft now open for consultation includes sections on the death penalty, the use of force in law enforcement, the use of force in armed conflict, custodial deaths and state responsibility for killings by non-state actors. It also dedicates sections to the importance of accountability in the protection of the right to life and the question of interpreting the right to life more broadly.

“Accountability Vacuum” for the right to life in Ukraine

last modified Dec 15, 2015 01:39 PM
18th September 2015


The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, today called on the Ukrainian Government and the armed groups operating in the country to put into place a proper system of accountability in order to bringing the current cycle of violence to an end.

This call came at the end of his official ten-day country visit, on which he was accompanied by CGHR Research Associate Thomas Probert, who works as a research consultant to his mandate.

Thousands of people have died in Ukraine over the last two years, both in the context of a brutal armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and in the rest of the country. This armed confrontation, which has a strong international dimension, has taken an especially heavy toll on civilians. During his ten-day visit to the country, the Rapporteur was able to visit both sides of the ‘contact line’. He met with officials and others, and observed the effects of the shelling, raising concerns that many civilian causalities could have been avoided if parties to the conflict had taken stronger measures to mitigate such losses.

During the visit, the Special Rapporteur and his team held meetings here in Kyiv, as well as traveling to Zaporizhzhia, Mariupol, Donetsk, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv and Odesa.  They met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Office of the Military Prosecutor, the Security Service of Ukraine, the Headquarters of the Anti-Terrorism Operation, the National Security and Defence Council, the High Specialised Court on Civil and Criminal Cases, the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson) including her National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).

In addition they also met with the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, the General Consulate of the Russian Federation in Odesa, and with other international and national monitors or non-governmental organisations, civil society, and families of victims.

They crossed the so-called “contact line” and travel to Donetsk, where they met with representatives of various monitoring missions, with representatives of the ‘Office of the commissioner for human rights’ (‘ombudsperson’) of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and with representatives of the ‘bar association’. Unfortunately, despite significant efforts to arrange meetings, no other ‘officials’ of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ would meet with me. They were however able to visit some of the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, including the area surrounding the airport, and to see some of the extensive damage that had been caused, particularly to civilian infrastructure and domiciles, by heavy shelling.

“I am particularly concerned by the allegations of indiscriminate shelling, armed forces of both sides taking positions and placing artillery in civilian-populated areas (including at schools and hospitals) and the use of weapons with indiscriminate effects,” Heyns said in his statement. “There is however very little evidence that either the Government or the armed groups investigate any of these allegations – instead they point fingers at each other. Those allegations ring hollow if not contrasted with investigations on their own side.”

Global attention was drawn to Ukraine nearly two years ago when a mass demonstration in the centre of Kyiv resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people. Only a few months later groups of demonstrators participating in another mass demonstration clashed in Odessa, resulting in the deaths of at least 48 people, many trapped in a burning building. “Ukrainian authorities – former and present - had responsibilities to protect life both at Maidan and during the events of 2 May in Odesa, and their failure to do so had tragic results,” Heyns said. “Those shortcomings are only exacerbated by the subsequent failure properly to investigate the cause of these deaths in the aftermath, and to take steps aimed at redress.”

According to the expert, the legal framework for the protection of the right to life is largely in place, but its implementation seems highly problematic as there are accountability failures for violations of these norms on many levels. “The Security Service of Ukraine has been the subject of widespread allegations—and seems to be above the law,” he noted.

The Special Rapporteur made a range of recommendations to improve the level of accountability in the country. “Ukraine faces serious challenges, and violations will almost inevitably occur,” he said. “The only way forward is for all parties actively to confront that fact and to ensure that a functioning system of accountability for a common set of standards is put into place.”

You can read the full end of mission statement here.

The right to life and the progressive abolition of the death penalty (Prof Christof Heyns and Dr Thomas Probert)

last modified Mar 21, 2016 04:09 PM
6th November 2015


In New York yesterday, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched the UN’s latest publication on the global status of the death penalty.  The book, Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Arguments, Trends and Perspectives, includes a chapter co-authored by UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns and CGHR Research Associate Thomas Probert on ‘The right to life and the progressive abolition of the death penalty’.

The chapter begins from an understanding of the place of the death penalty within the scope of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (discussed in detail in CGHR’s study on Unlawful Killings in Africa). The authors briefly survey the global decline of the practice of the death penalty, before describing the evolving treatment of the question within international law.

[G]iven the shift that has taken place in state practice, it seems accurate to say that the mandate of the special rapporteur is at least progressively abolitionist. For the same reason, it is no longer necessary to state in an unqualified manner that the death penalty per se is not contrary to the requirements of international law. Over the past several years, the perspective has emerged that international law requires the progressive abolition of the death penalty. This is not to say that it requires immediate compliance, as is usually the case with civil and political rights. Instead, the drafting history suggests that international law requires at least the gradual, progressive abolition of the death penalty, as is often the case with socio-economic rights.

In general, the collection launched by the UN today conveys very much the same message.  As the Secretary General said, “I will never stop calling for an end to the death penalty…  This book contains a great deal of information – but it makes no prediction on when the death penalty will be abolished globally. That is up to us.”


Read the UN Secretary General's statement here.

Read the e-book here.