On the 15th of November, SAR Europe’s Advocacy Manager, Denise Roche, and Prof. Manfred Nowak, Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights, were invited to address the European External Action Service (EEAS) training seminar on Human Rights. This was the first time that these type of events featured a session dedicated to academic freedom. With over 40 in person attendees (with a further 20+ participants joining online, including EU Member States representatives), delegates included heads of political sections in EU delegations; human rights focal points in EU delegations; political officers in geographic departments dealing with human rights; and policy and programme officers in the European Commission (external Directorates General) dealing with human rights.
Following an introduction by Luca Venchiarutti, Human Rights Division, EEAS, Prof. Nowak began the session by articulating academic freedom as a human right, and outlining the extent to which it is protected by international human rights law. Denise discussed academics as human rights defenders, and drawing on SAR’s 2022 Free to Think report and the Academic Freedom Index she highlighted the current global trends in respect for academic freedom and attacks on academic communities, introducing to the audience the main tools available to monitor these trends. There was a short discussion on the role of the EU in upholding academic freedom and protecting higher education communities worldwide. Denise advised on ways in which the EU could champion academic freedom as part of their UN work, the necessity for EU delegations to monitor academic freedom, to support scholars in prison, to raise awareness about protection programmes for at-risk scholars, and to highlight attacks on higher education communities by releasing public statements. The discussion also included references to the Global Campus for Human Rights support to Afghan scholars (with Imke Steimann of the Global Campus joining the conversation) and EU-funded support for displaced researchers from Ukraine via the MSCA4Ukraine scheme.