Freedom from Violence

Freedom from Violence

Project background

A multidisciplinary international research collaboration aimed at contributing to the realisation of SDG Goal 16 in Africa – promoting peaceful societies, access to justice, and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.

Based in the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA) it aims to work both with the Centre for Human Rights’ extensive network of African universities, as well as research leaders at the University of Cambridge and in international Geneva.

The programme begins from the assumption that violence is not an immutable constant—that it can be affected by social, economic, legal and policy interventions. Moreover, it explores to what extent, in addition to the commitment of the SDGs, States’ international human rights law obligations require them to implement interventions that can be demonstrated to have an impact on the protection of life.

Some of the core research will be about the legal dimensions of issues such as the use of force by law enforcement officials, and the State’s duty to protect and to investigate, including in the context of anti-terrorism measures and armed conflict. It will also explore some of the more practical dimensions of these fields, including the use of less lethal weapons, or the use of new technologies for training, monitoring and accountability. At the same time, essential insights will be brought to the topic from other disciplines such as criminology, sociology, political science, public health, and history, especially with respect to better understanding the incidence and character of violence in Africa.

At the centre of the initiative is an impulse to have more of this vital kind of research being conducted in Africa rather than about Africa—and therefore having an extensive dedicated doctoral programme undergirding its research agenda. Meanwhile, a number of related research or implementation projects are already underway: aimed at improving the quality of investigations into potentially unlawful death, developing international guidelines on the use of so-called “less-lethal” weapons in law enforcement, and conceptualising a new form of training concerning the use of force by police officers in Africa.