Julie Fraser wint de Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2019

Dr. Julie Fraser
Dr. Julie Fraser.

Voor haar proefschrift “Every Organ of Society”, heeft Julie Fraser de Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2019 gekregen. Fraser is docent Internationaal en Europees Recht aan de Universiteit Utrecht. Als onderzoeker is ze daar verbonden aan het Studie- en Informatiecentrum Mensenrechten en aan het Montaigne Centrum voor Rechtsstaat en Rechtspleging. Haar onderzoek richt zich op de rol van culturele normen bij de implementatie van mensenrechten.

(De rest van dit artikel gaat verder in het Engels)

The Max van der Stoel award is given to the best PhD and the best Master thesis or article in the field of human rights. It is organised by Tilburg Law School, together with the Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research. The purpose of the award is to stimulate human rights research in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is named after Max van der Stoel, who served as OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

Beyond traditional methodologies

“I am thrilled and honoured to receive this award”, Julie Fraser says, “It is wonderful to have one's work recognised in this way. I similarly want to recognise and thank my supervisors Tom Zwart and Yvonne Donders, and all of my colleagues particularly at SIM,The Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, at Utrecht University, who helped me throughout the PhD.”

The full title of Frasers dissertation is: "Every Organ of Society": Exploring the Role of Social Institutions in the Effective Implementation of International Human Rights Law.” As part of her doctoral research, Fraser assisted the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women with their 65th session in Geneva in 2016, and undertook field research in Java, Indonesia in 2017. She thinks the qualitative field work helped her. “There is a strong emphasis now in law to undertake multidisciplinary research and go beyond traditional methodologies.”

A new take on an old issue

“Secondly, my PhD provides a new take on an old issue - the relationship between human rights and culture. Rather than pitting the two against one another, my PhD emphasises that the law, value systems, beliefs, and even human rights are themselves part of culture. As such, culture should not be set aside in order to implement human rights, but rather instrumentalised. While culture, and particularly religion, is often portrayed in human rights discourse as a violator of rights, my field work demonstrated its positive role as an asset in protecting rights.”

Culture should not be set aside in order to implement human rights, but rather instrumentalised.

Advocating an increased role for cultural norms and actors in human rights implementation, also feeds into the contemporary critique of state-centricity in international law more broadly, according to Fraser. 

Promoting the role of social institutions

Fraser wrote an open access article, related to her PhD in the International Journal of Human Rights.
Challenging State-centricity and legalism: promoting the role of social institutions in the domestic implementation of international human rights law 

She also wrote a blog post on the subject, at the Montaigne Centre blog. 

And this month, an open chapter came out, also related to the PhD
The role of cultural norms and actors in addressing human rights contestation
In 2020 Julie Frasers work will continue to focus on culture and international law. A revised version of her PhD will be published as a monograph by Cambridge University Press. Later in the year a volume she is editing with Brianne McGonigle Leyh will also be published, which explores intersections of law and culture at the International Criminal Court.