Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Acronym: Geneva Academy

Established: 2007

Address: Rue de Lausanne 120B, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland


Stakeholder group: Academia and Think Tanks

The Geneva Academy – a joint centre of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Geneva Graduate Institute – provides postgraduate education, conducts academic legal research and policy studies, and organises training courses and expert meetings. It concentrates on branches of international law that relate to armed conflict, protracted violence, and the protection of human rights.

Digital activities

Are new means and methods of warfare compatible with existing international humanitarian law (IHL) rules? What challenges do big data and artificial intelligence (AI) pose to human rights? How can we ensure the right to privacy and protection of the private sphere in times of war and peace?

New technologies, digitalisation, and big data are reshaping our societies and the way they organise. While technological advancements present tremendous opportunities and promises, rapid developments in AI, automation, and robotics raise a series of questions about their impact in times of peace and war.

The Geneva Academy’s research in this domain explores whether these new developments are compatible with existing rules and whether IHL and human rights law continue to provide the level of protection they are meant to ensure.

Its three Master’s programmes and training courses also train tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers in the IHL and human rights legal frameworks relevant to digital activities, including on the law of weaponry and new military technologies.

Its Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) facilitates exchanges and discussions among various stakeholders – experts, practitioners, diplomats, and civil society – around digitalisation and human rights to provide policy advice on how to harness potential and mitigate danger in this rapidly changing field.

The Academy’s public events and expert meetings provide a critical and scholarly forum for experts, practitioners, and policymakers to discuss and debate the impact of digitalisation on human rights and contemporary armed conflicts.

Digital policy issues

New military technologies

New military technologies are transforming the nature of modern warfare, raising a legitimate concern that existing laws and regulations will be outpaced by technological advancement, widening the scope for rights abuses and impunity.

Under the leadership of the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (Swiss IHL Chair), Professor Marco Roscini, the Geneva Academy’s research aims to identify specific humanitarian threats and legal lacunae resulting from new military technologies and develop pragmatic law and policy responses.

The joint initiative on humanitarian impact and protection carried out with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assesses the continued relevance of IHL in a digitalisation context to develop law and policy recommendations aimed at mitigating the identified risks and addressing new protection needs. 

Parallel research on disruptive military technologies assesses the impact – and related protection needs – of new military technologies that shape the future digital battlefield in relation to cyberwarfare, cybersecurity, and emerging military applications of AI.


The Geneva Academy’s research addresses the human rights implications stemming from neurotechnology development for commercial, non-therapeutic ends. These implications include direct externalities (violation of the rights to privacy, property, freedom from discrimination, etc.) and indirect externalities (spillovers for social cohesion, equality, and inter-group tolerance). As corporate actors become the main producers and disseminators of neurotechnology, managing these risks will require enhanced multilateral cooperation towards developing a common regulatory framework. A key challenge in this regard is the complex nature of neurotechnology coupled with the traditional siloing between human rights, neuroscience, and corporate communities of practice.

Artificial intelligence

Digital technology advancements have created opportunities and risks for the promotion, expansion, and application of human rights. Among the most topical challenges are the advent of AI and the possibility that such technologies will grow and disperse without taking into account human rights externalities. In the absence of a robust regulatory framework. AI, coupled with internet reliance, has also created an opportunity for individuals, non-state groups, and states to use web-based platforms to push content to produce outcomes that violate human rights (e.g. incitement of discrimination-driven violence). The coming years represent a critical period for unpacking and understanding these digital technologies through a human rights lens and ensuring that regulatory standards and accountability keep pace with threats.

These challenges are beginning to be discussed at the multilateral level. At the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), AI has been examined in terms of its impacts on persons with disabilities, privacy, and racial discrimination. The Geneva Academy’s research aims at empowering key stakeholders with a common understanding of the principal risks with a view to strengthening the international human rights framework and crafting effective regulation. The project will culminate in guidelines on the development and use of these new technologies in conformity with human rights.

Data governance

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under IHL.

RULAC currently monitors more than 100 armed conflicts involving at least 55 states and more than 70 armed non-state actors. These armed conflicts can be searched via an interactive map that displays state parties, and the various types of armed conflicts: international, non-international, and military occupations. All the armed conflicts on RULAC are constantly monitored and regularly updated to include new developments and fundamental changes that may affect their classification.

Digital tools

In and Around War(s) podcast

The Geneva Academy’s In and Around War(s) podcast focuses on contemporary legal issues related to wars. Each episode discusses related topical issues, including data protection in war, or warfare and cyberspace. 

Online learning

The Geneva Academy’s online part-time Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict and online short courses and GHRP training courses allow practitioners to upgrade their legal skills on the many contemporary challenges in international humanitarian and human rights law. 

Facilitating exchanges and discussions

The Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP), hosted by the Geneva Academy, provides a neutral and dynamic forum of interaction for all stakeholders in the field of human rights to debate topical issues and challenges related to the functioning of the Geneva-based human rights system. Relying on academic research and findings, it works to enable various actors to be better connected, break silos, and, hence, advance human rights.

In this context, the GHRP supports the “digital uplift” of the UN’s human rights system, piloting digital solutions to facilitate the work of the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies. 

In a dedicated initiative, the GHRP has created a directory of Digital Human Rights Tracking Tools and Databases and continues exploring their impact on the national implementation of international human rights obligations and recommendations made by the UN human rights mechanisms. 

Social media channels

Facebook @GenevaAcademyIHLandHR

Instagram @geneva_academy

LinkedIn @Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian

Law and Human Rights

Twitter @Geneva_Academy

YouTube @Geneva_Academy