Students Staff

19 November 2009

Award for pioneering international human rights

Colchester Campus

Professor Paul Hunt with a fellow UN representative in Lebanon

Essex’s work in promoting and protecting human rights across the globe has won Royal recognition with the award of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize to the University.

The award, which will be presented by The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace in February, recognises the University’s pioneering role in advancing the legal and broader practice of international human rights.

The University’s Human Rights Centre, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, has trained more than 1,500 students from more than 100 countries. They work for international organisations such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and in non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Centre graduates also work in the field to safeguard human rights in conflict-torn countries including Bosnia, Kosovo, Nepal and Sudan.

The Centre’s staff are drawn from a dozen different departments of the University and have served in key UN positions including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, senior adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, member of the UN Human Rights Committee, and independent expert member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Essex boasts the longest-established postgraduate degree in international human rights law in the UK, which was one of the first in the world, established in 1983. The Human Rights Centre subsequently pioneered the UK’s first interdisciplinary masters degree in human rights and the first undergraduate human rights programme. In the last year, pioneering new courses have been introduced including Language Rights (in the Department of Language and Linguistics) while new degree schemes include an MSc in Human Rights and Research Methods, the first of its kind, applying rigorous social science analysis and methodologies to human rights issues and standards.

Essex’s strength in human rights education and practice has prompted the University to develop plans to establish a new flagship International Centre for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, which will extend the University’s engagement with organisations working on the achievement of rights for all people both in the UK and overseas.

Professor John Packer, Director of Essex’s Human Rights Centre and one of its early alumni, said: ‘This award recognises the pioneering nature of the work and teaching of the Centre and its many internationally-renowned staff, who have contributed substantially to the development and enjoyment of human rights around the world, and the education of so many prominent human rights advocates and scholars.’

Notes to Editors
1. The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded every two years to UK higher and further education institutions for work of outstanding excellence which demonstrates benefits to the wider community. In this eighth round of the prizes scheme, 21 universities and colleges receive awards. For further information, see 

2. The Communications Office has photos available of Human Rights Centre members at work in Lebanon (Professor Paul Hunt) and Kosovo (Centre Director Professor John Packer with HRC alumni at a training session for OSCE staff).

3. For further information or to arrange interviews or photos, please contact the Communications Office on 01206 872400.

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