Dignity & Democracy
  • HRDF logo
  • Dignity & Democracy

    A HRDF Blog

    About us

    Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’. As the Declaration turns 75 this year, this foundational promise has lost none of its relevance. At the same time, the world in 1948 was not the same as it is today.

    We are a team of legal scholars and students based at University of Exeter Law School and, with this blog, we aim to foster critical reflection and encourage discussion on the significance of human rights for democracy today. We also aim to contribute to a better understanding of human rights and of their connections with liberal democracy. At the heart of these discussions lies the fundamental idea of human dignity. The apparently simple claim that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’ has raised complex issues about what it means to be human. This also raises questions about how human rights might contribute to protecting humanity against unprecedented challenges such as climate change, the development of Artificial Intelligence, as well as the rise of authoritarianism. The fundamental idea that all human beings matter equally is also affecting what liberal democracy involves in practice, and what it means in theory. Ultimately, the idea of human dignity invites us to explore the ways in which liberal democracy might be envisaged as a way for human beings to live together and shape their collective destiny together.

    The blog has its roots in the research developed by the Human Rights and Democracy Forum since its foundation in 2017, and in the many undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses offered on these topics at the University of Exeter Law School. It brings together peer-reviewed blog posts, interviews and discussions, as well as a range of resources. As we are based in the UK, it is fair to say that some of the discussion is focussing on developments taking place in the UK and in Europe. As human dignity is a global concept and a quality shared by all people around the world, we also aim to document, reflect on and discuss issues of human dignity, rights and democracy as they arise around the world. As we value a diversity of opinions, we would like to note that the views presented in the posts and interviews are those of their authors, and are not necessarily shared by the editorial team.

    Catherine Dupre, 5 October 2023

    Editorial Team: Staff and Students from Exeter University

    David Barrett researches equality and human rights law. In particular, he is interested in socio-economic rights (especially the right to education) and the implementation of equality and human rights norms by public sector organisations (particularly regulators and inspectorates). Recently, he has also started exploring gender inequality in pensions.

    Christine Bicknell is an international human rights law scholar with expertise and experience in, but by no means confined to, the prohibition and prevention of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment across a range of detention settings and legal systems. In her published and ongoing research Christine has a strong interest in the intersections between different legal systems and frameworks of rights protection: intersections for example between regional systems; between domestic and international structures; and between different but sometimes disparate thematic frameworks. These Christine explores keenly as capable of deepening understanding of specific rights issues, and identifying and potentially unlocking barriers to the effective protection of rights.

    Hannah Burman is a third-year law student at the University of Exeter. The concept of human dignity was first introduced in my second academic year. It advanced a new understanding of human rights and a contemporary perception of the law rooted in historical events and moments. I discovered that, in particular, laws that protect human dignity could be used as a pivotal tool in the protection of fundamental rights globally.

    Catherine Dupre‘s research engages with constitutions and human rights, and she focusses on the concept of human dignity as a foundation of human rights and democracy in Europe. Her publications include Importing the Law in Post-Communist Transitions (Hart, 2003); The Age of Dignity (Bloomsbury, 2015), as well as numerous articles and book chapters. She co-edited Human Dignity and Democracy in Europe (Edward Elgar, 2022). At Exeter Law School, she has developed and taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses on human dignity and human rights since 2009.

    Raphael Girard is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter Law School, where he is also Director of the Graduate LLB Law programme. He convenes the Graduate LLB constitutional and administrative law core module and a module on law, democracy and populism. Raphaël holds a PhD in comparative constitutional law from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Raphaël’s main research areas include constitutional law, comparative constitutional law and constitutional theory. He is particularly interested in the intersections between populism, authoritarianism, constitutionalism and democracy.

    Olivia Pukalski is a third-year law student at the University of Exeter with a keen interest in human rights and AI law. Following her second-year studies of human dignity, she is particularly concerned with the intersection of new technologies and the law, ensuring that advancements respect and uphold our inherent human dignity. As a part of this blog team, Olivia hopes to contribute to a platform that fosters understanding, empathy and open discussion.

    Eleanor Rowe is a 3rd and final year student at Exeter Law School with hopes to go into employment law following graduation. She studied Human Dignity in her 2nd year and found it both interesting and useful for widening my legal knowledge yet it is often forgotten about in legal conversations, something we’re hoping to change with this blog.

    Lauren Scrivener is a third-year law student at the University of Exeter. Her degree has been really interesting so far, and she discovered the significance of human dignity and human rights law with Catherine Dupre’s module. As a Women and Law Society committee member, she has found it fascinating learning about how women are protected by human rights and specifically human dignity. Women’s dignity is about women having inherent worth and being treated equally to men, the ability to possess autonomy and rights over their bodies, and to be protected against violence, amongst other aspects. She wanted to join the editorial team to further her human rights knowledge and work alongside those with a similar interest.

    Suchita Tamang is currently undertaking her LLM in international law at the University of Exeter. Originally from Nepal, she graduated with a Law LLB from the University of Exeter in which she was able to deepen her understanding of human rights, as well as learn the importance of human dignity. From reading on human dignity and undertaking a research project examining Japanese imperialism in causing trauma and the impact of legal response in exposing systemic oppression, her interest in the academia side of human rights law was sparked. In the last term of her third year, she undertook an internship with Catherine Dupre in which the idea of a human rights and dignity blog was able to be developed.

    Rachael Wyborn is a final-year Law student who studied Human Dignity in her second year. Whilst human rights theory has been prominent in recent decades, the practical enforcement and protection of vulnerable human beings often remains weak: Rachael believes that the concept of human dignity offers a new way forward in this capacity. She is eager for the opportunities this blog presents in terms of discussing and raising awareness around issues of human dignity, human rights and democracy. Dignity is the very core of human beings, the common thread which links all humans. Every decision ever made, from legal and political all the way to social, technological and economic, has impact on human lives: everybody’s worth is equal and we have a duty to ensure nobody is ever left behind. Rachael hopes this blog acts as a beacon of light, drawing attention to current deficiencies, whilst also provoking dialogues for solutions.