Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Acronym: Geneva Academy

Established: 2007

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

Website: https://www.geneva-academy.ch/

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

Emerging technologies

New military technologies have a profound impact on how wars are fought. Significant advances in the fields of cyberspace, AI, robotics, and space technology are at the forefront of contemporary geopolitical power struggles and current protection questions during armed conflicts.

The Geneva Academy addresses these challenges via the following two research projects coordinated by its Swiss IHL Chair Professor Marco Roscini.

  • Digitalization of Conflict Joint Initiative: Humanitarian Impact and Legal Protection
  • The Disruptive Military Technologies project aims to stay abreast of the various military technology trends, promote legal and policy debate on new military technologies, and further the understanding of the convergent effects of different technological trends that shape the future digital battlefield. Developments in the fields of cyberwarfare, cybersecurity, and emerging military applications of AI constitute the core focus area of this research.

Artificial intelligence

The Academy’s research project on disruptive technologies and rights-based resilience addresses the impact of disruptive technologies such as AI and advanced robotics on 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 international humanitarian law.

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.

Human rights principles

Disruptive technologies such as AI and advanced robotics pose significant societal challenges and specific threats to human rights. They can be used, for instance, to exacerbate ethnic conflict, fuel hate speech, undermine democratic processes, facilitate state surveillance, and perpetuate discriminatory narratives and practices. Better regulating these fast-paced technological advances requires placing IHRL at the centre of regulatory and policy frameworks developed by states and tech companies.

Research on disruptive technologies and rights-based resilience – launched in 2021 and carried out in partnership with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) B-Tech Project and the Geneva Science- Policy Interface (GSPI) – facilitates a multistakeholder process to identify gaps, generate new evidence, and design tools to support regulatory and policy responses to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies.

The 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 facilitates exchanges and discussions on human rights and digitalisation with a view to moving the focus of UN human rights mechanisms beyond the right to privacy or freedom of expression by exploring the impact on all rights and formulating specific policy advice.

Digital tools

The Geneva Academy proposes many of its activities– events, training courses – in a hybrid format (in-person and online). Via the recording and publication of videos on our website and social media channels, interested audiences can also watch important public debates and discussions afterwards.

One of its Master’s programmes – the Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict – is an online part-time programme for practitioners with demanding jobs and responsibilities. An easy and interactive platform allows them to interact directly with professors and other participants during classes and access all the course materials and readings. If a participant is unable to follow a specific class, they can watch the recordings afterwards.

Its short courses on topical issues and challenges in international law in armed conflict like international refugee law, the protection of persons and property in international armed conflict, or the challenges of international criminal justice, are also offered online.

Future of meetings

Following the COVID-19 crisis, the Geneva Academy continues to offer many of its events and training courses in a hybrid format (in-person and online).

In addition, its Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict and related short courses are now exclusively offered online and, therefore, also accessible to practitioners in the field.

Social media channels

Facebook @GenevaAcademyIHLandHR

Instagram @geneva_academy

LinkedIn @Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian

Law and Human Rights

Twitter @Geneva_Academy

YouTube @Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights