Human Rights Policy

In a nutshell

Ghent University is a socially committed university. The institution stimulates respect for human rights and minimizes the risks of human rights violations. Ghent University’s human rights policy is inspired by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the recommendations of the Flemish Interuniversity Council.

  • More concretely, UGent will not contribute to, nor benefit from, human rights violations (negative dimension). In addition, UGent supports and develops activities that promote the application of human rights (positive dimension).
  • In order to prevent benefiting from human rights violations, collaborations with external partners are subject to a human rights impact assessment as a preventive measure.
  • To allow Ghent University to respond to future human rights violations, each cooperation agreement contains a human rights clause. This enables Ghent University to terminate a collaboration when the partner is involved in a serious or systematic violation of human rights.

A preventive approach: the human rights impact assessment

Prior to each new or renewed collaboration, the collaboration is assessed, based on a number of criteria.

The human rights impact assessment consists of two questions:

  1. Is it likely that the activities during the collaboration contribute to human rights violations?
  2. Is the partner involved in serious or systematic violations of human rights?

For help in answering the above questions, see the Human Rights Impact Assessment tips.

Additionally, the following considerations are taken into account:

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.

Contact the Human Rights Policy Committee for more information on the human rights clause.

Human Rights Policy Committee

The Human Rights Policy Committee gladly advises Ghent University staff on concrete dossiers, a planned cooperation, the human rights impact assessment, and possible measures to limit the risk of human rights violations. Information provided to the Committee is treated confidentially.

Promoting human rights

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

  • The interdisciplinary research consortium ‘Human Rights Research Network’.
  • The yearly Amnesty Chair at Ghent University, which goes to a person who has made a significant contribution in the field of human rights.
  • The university-wide elective course 'human rights: multidisciplinary perspectives'.
  • Celebrating 70 years of human rights with a human rights week.
  • Membership of Scholars at Risk, through which persecuted academics are offered a temporary position at Ghent University.