Research area Human rights

The subject of Human Rights has been taught at University College Stockholm (UCS) (Enskilda Högskolan Stockholm, EHS in Swedish) since 1997 and there is today a Department of Human Rights and Democracy (HRD) offering higher education on both undergraduate levels (BA and MA). We do currently not offer educational programs on the postgraduate level (PhD programs) ourselves, but have collaborations with other universities.

However, UCS has a much longer history. It has its roots in formal training institutions, established in the 19th century, for ministers and deacons of three church denominations: the Baptist Union (1866), the Methodist Church of Sweden (1874) and the Covenant Church of Sweden (1878). Over a century later, in 1993, the Stockholm School of Theology (SST) was formed as a merger of the Baptist and Covenant churches’ educational institutions and in 2011 the Methodist School of Theology joined as well. From 2018, the name of this institution is University College Stockholm (UCS).

The social transformations of Swedish society – such as democratization and secularization – created a situation leading up to a decision in 2011 to create a new church which consisted of all three denominations, named Uniting Church in Sweden (Swedish “Equmeniakyrkan”). This decision also prompted a redesigned academic institution caring for its educational needs.

All three historic churches had experienced a lack of freedom of religion and social exclusion characterizing Swedish society in the 1800s. At the same time they practised democratic principles based on equality and a one-man-one-vote system in their internal decision-making – a system unseen, for instance, in Swedish political life at the time. For this reason, the concept and practice of Human Rights and Democracy was a strongly supported component when a modern academic institution was to be formed for the 21st century.

University College Stockholm has, as mentioned above, been offering higher education in human rights since 1997. The university college’s roots in social movements have meant that issues of democracy, minority rights, religious freedom, and other fundamental freedoms and rights have held a central position. UCS/EHS has also long been an important platform for research and the exchange of ideas on religion, culture and human rights, as well as the relationship between human rights and peacebuilding efforts.

Our researchers come from various disciplinary backgrounds – such as human rights studies, anthropology, economics, philosophy, law, political science, and theology. What unites them is an interest in human rights as a multifaceted idea and societal phenomenon. This implies approaches that span from the norms codified in international law to the contested moral and political concepts, often with deep historical roots, and expressed in a normative language that is used by local, national, and international movements and institutions.

Over time and in line with a growing faculty, research has expanded into new areas. UCS faculty members today conduct research within the framework of extensive national and international networks and engage in issues such as asylum and refugee law; women’s rights; reconciliation and negotiation; racism and discrimination; freedom of religion, belief and conscience; indigenous rights; human rights and claims of justice in the just and green transition, business and human rights as well as technology and surveillance.