Archive for October 25th, 2013

October, 2013

Blogger of the Week: Dr Frank Uekoetter

Frank Uekoetter was born in Münster, Germany. He studied history, political science and the social sciences at the universities of Freiburg and Bielefeld in Germany, the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. In 1997, he graduated from Bielefeld University. From 1997 to 2001, he was a doctoral student at the graduate school of the Institute for Science and Technology Studies of Bielefeld University. In 2001, he received his Ph.D. from Bielefeld University for his dissertation on the history of air pollution control in Germany and the United States; the University of Pittsburgh Press published a translation in 2009. In 2002, he organized the conference “Nature Protection in Nazi Germany” under the auspices of the German minister for the environment Jürgen Trittin. This work eventually led to the publication of an environmental history of Nazi Germany with Cambridge University Press.

He was a research assistant at the History Department of Bielefeld University from 2003 to 2006 and a Dilthey Fellow with the Research Institute of the Deutsches Museum in Munich. He taught at Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians-University and was a co-founder of Munich’s Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, which he left in 2013 to accept a Readership in Environmental Humanities at the University of Birmingham (UK).

Frank will be posting each day for a week, starting on Monday 28 October.

October, 2013

Reflections on using an interdisciplinary lens

The blog posts this week have explored different aspects of international human rights. My research interests include the United Nations human rights machinery, political processes around human rights and the developments occurring at the international level. Human rights are not static. They evolve as global society changes. The field constantly adapts and responds to new challenges. Understanding the mechanisms and processes involved requires a bridging of the gap between scholars of international law and international relations. International law depends heavily on politics, diplomacy and international relations. Using an interdisciplinary lens to view the UN and international human rights enables a greater understanding of what ought to occur and what actually happens ‘on the ground’.

One main area of my work is on the United Nations Human Rights Council. My book on that body,  The United Nations Human Rights Council: A critique and early assessment,  explores the extent to which the Council is fulfilling its mandate. I use international relations theories to understand the political processes that affect the Council undertaking its duties. It is only through an understanding of the politics that occurs within that body that we can find solutions to enable the Council better to protect and promote human rights.


My second book (to be published in May 2014) is entitled ‘Failing to Protect: The United Nations and Politicisation of Human Rights.’ The UN has three human rights mandates – to develop, promote and protect rights. The book focuses on the protection mandate. It explores how and why the UN fails adequately to protect human rights. While the Organisation does wonderful work in developing and promoting rights, it is the systematic and grave violations that make the headlines; and rightly so. In order to find solutions, there needs to be greater understanding of the problems. Aimed at a non-specialist audience, the book explains the overlap between international law and politics and how that impacts on protecting rights. It demonstrates the need for stronger protection mechanisms and for ways of enforcing human rights.


Sparking conversations and discussions about the UN and human rights is crucial for ensuring that the system continues to be refined and honed in such a way as to afford better protection to individuals. Those conversations ought not to take place solely at the academic level. Nor is it sufficient for them only to take place between scholars of law and political science. Involving policy-makers, activists, the media, the wider public and other interested parties will enable more effective protection of rights. Academic research informs those discussions. My aim to ensure that my research is disseminated to as wide an audience as possible in order to fuel ongoing debates.

Rosa Freedman @GoonerDr

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