Human Rights Policy

In a nutshell

Ghent University does not cooperate with organisations involved in serious or systematic human rights violations, nor does it want projects to lead directly or indirectly to human rights violations. Therefore, in 2017, Ghent University adopted a human rights policy inspired by the UN Basic Principles on Business and Human Rights and the recommendations of the Flemish Inter-University Council. To define human rights violations, the main human rights instruments of the United Nations are used.

A preventive approach: the human rights impact assessment

All new or renewed cooperations must be preceded by a human rights impact assessment.

The researcher responsible for the project checks whether:

  1. human rights might be violated during the planned activities.
  2. the research results may be misused for human rights violations at a later stage.
  3. the partner may be involved in human rights violations.

If the answer to any of the questions is positive, you must report the cooperation or activity to the Committee on Human Rights Policy and Dual-Use Research. The Committee will advise researchers on measures to reduce the risk of violating human rights during or after the cooperation. As a rule, cooperation is not possible if the Committee deems that the candidate partner is involved in serious human rights violations.

Additionally, the following should be considered:

Ghent University researchers can find more information on the topic and how to proceed on the intranet.

If Ghent University refrains from a cooperation, the reasons for the refusal will be communicated transparently with the rejected partner and, possibly, more broadly.

A reactive approach: the human rights clause

All cooperation agreements contain a human rights clause. This allows the cooperation to be discontinued when there is clear evidence that either party is involved in a serious or systematic violation of human rights. This allows partners to react to human rights violations that arose only after the cooperation started or that were not sufficiently known when the cooperation began. Since the clause is formulated in a reciprocal manner, Ghent University can also be held responsible for human rights violations.

The clause is only invoked as a last resort, after a dialogue with the partner institution.

The default human rights clause goes as follows: “The parties guarantee to respect human rights. Each of the parties may terminate this agreement with immediate effect if the other party is involved in a serious or systematic violation of human rights.”

Cooperation agreements which leave no room for negotiations, or where the clause is devoid of purpose, do not require a human rights clause (e.g., one-off performance agreements). Nevertheless, a human rights impact assessment remains necessary.

Specific concerns

In certain regions there is widespread concern about the involvement of research institutions in human rights violations. The Committee calls on Ghent University staff to exercise particular caution when working with institutions from the regions listed below.




Israel and Palestine



Promoting human rights

Ghent University also supports and develops activities that promote the application of human rights. The initiatives below are some examples of this: