Time for Rights/Rights for Time: Responding to the times of violence, conflict, and displacement

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Psychology


Humanitarian policy and practice are driven by the immediacy of crisis and urgency. But in contexts of protracted conflict and displacement, it is often the hidden damage that takes place over time that sets the terms for future violence, change, and possible peace.

One of the major stumbling-blocks to protection is the failure to measure and identify needs and problems not currently obvious to external actors in policy, law, and local contexts. Aid and protection that reacts to only the most 'recent' abuse or threat not only fails to understand the nature of injury, but limits the sustainability of possible solutions. Uncovering layers of time and hidden damage will reveal the specific needs of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised. Multiple, layered and even simultaneous experiences of violence, displacement, and generational trauma persist into future generations, creating new challenges and blocking change.

What is our main aim?
The Rights for Time/Time for Rights Network Plus (R4T+) will co-create a research network+ that supports and delivers a new understanding of how time conditions war, displacement, and violence, and shifts the possibilities and frame of action for humanitarian protection and human rights.

What will we do?
We will meet these challenges by developing a network that stimulates and supports interdisciplinary, peer-peer, case-based research, drawing together 6 in-country partners from 5 DAC-list countries, including Rwanda, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Kenya, and academic experts from the arts and humanities, psychology, medical anthropology, refugee studies, gender studies, human rights, transitional justice, humanitarian law, and protection policy. We have chosen to work both within and across specific contexts where the long periods of violence produce enduring and intractable challenges, particularly for vulnerable communities and groups, such as refugees, people who have been displaced, women, and children. We will develop the concept of 'Rights for Time' to build a network+ that can bring the hidden legacies of conflict directly into humanitarian protection, and human rights policy and practice.

What will the network+ look like?
Co-Investigators based at the universities of Birmingham, KCL, SOAS, Taghyeer (Jordan) and the Lebanese American University will work with 6 Project Partners to establish the Network+. Partners include the Wangu Kanju Foundation, We Love Reading, BLAST, the African Initiative for Mankind Progress and the Kigali Center for Photography. We will begin by piloting a series of initial case studies. These will inform the research projects we will commission in our countries of focus as well as in other DAC-list countries as the network grows. The projects will generate new evidence bases, impact communities at the ground level, and develop new policy and practice to make the forms of injury of protracted violence culturally visible at local, national and international levels. In doing so, partner countries will have the necessary tools and an increased ability to develop effective protection solutions for those most affected by conflict and violence, especially vulnerable groups, such as refugees, people living in informal settlements, women, children, the elderly, and those in 'extreme poverty'.

How will this be done?
The network will:
- Fund and support research projects that address protection and the long times of violence for vulnerable communities;
- Undertake a range of activities that create change on the ground and in policy for vulnerable communities, such as through workshops, a Research Summit, a dedicated website and social media;
- Build the capacity of partners and academics to fully reach their potential via training;
- Use creative ways of engaging with people, particularly those who usually miss out.

Planned Impact

Our ambition is to get policy makers, law workers and local and national governments to take the long times of atrocity and protection seriously. Too often, the invisible injuries of memory and trauma are consigned the role of extra or collateral abuse and atrocity. Whilst it is acknowleged that justice is intimately connected with memory claims, the extent to which the deep times of injury hinder protection, and reproduce harm, are not well understood. We aim to produce a sea-change by providing a new knowledge and evidence base that will allow local, national and international policy models to respond more effectively, deeply, and enduringly to the deep times of conflict.

The network will work with researchers, policy makers, local community groups and activists, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for the benefit particularly vulnerable groups, such as refugees, women, children, and other marginalised communities, bringing academic and creative work into dialogue with the expertise of those who are directly subject to the long-term effects of protracted conflict and violence. Three pathways to impact follow from these collaborations:

1. The generation of new evidence bases will be showcased in our Times for Rights Pamphlets and launched with Policy and Citizen Seminars in each LMIC. This will begin with our pilot projects in Kenya, Jordan, Rwanda, and Lebanon which will develop a range of new creative and critical forms of gathering and presenting evidence, targeted specifically at existing challenges (e.g. forthcoming elections in Kenya, Syrian refugee movement in Lebanon). This impact model will be repeated in subsequent calls, which will be required to target a specified need (what evidence is needed, where and when?) and encouraged to experiment with innovative forms of evidence presentation (film, digital, tracking, simulation, art).

2. The development of new policy, practice, and law in action will be realised through our Policy Briefing, Policy and Citizen Seminars, and our Rights for Time Manifesto and our education programmes. Working with our Policy Engagement Team, local partners, and with the PI and Co-I's established connections with UNHCR, UNDP, Amnesty International, our calls will target specific requirements (e.g. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), so as to secure direct impact at local and international levels. Responding to the need for a new interdisciplinary human rights education that communicates the deep-times of injury and protection, we aim to work with the Mellon-Volkswagen 'Global Curriculum' Project to produce new syllabi and resources.

3. Making forms of injury of protracted violence culturally visible at local, national, and international levels. Arts advocacy, photography, poetry readings, research-based journalism, archiving, film thread through the network. Underpinning our Impact Strategy will be a proactive public engagement strategy. Drawing on best practice from the AHRC/ESRC/GCRF project, Refugee Hosts (led by Stonebridge as Co-I), this will begin with the launch of an outward focused website including the evolving Critical Lexicon and a creative blog series, working between English, French, and Arabic. Drawing on the investigators' extensive public engagement work, we will pitch for articles and programmes on the long-times of rights with Prospect, Middle East Eye, New Humanitarian, New Statesman, the Guardian, New Humanist, BBC Radio 4, Politico, Al-Jazeera, Al-Akbar, An-Nahar and the World Service. Working with the University of Birmingham's media team, local NGOs, and drawing expertise from our Policy Engagement Team, we will also develop a media strategy for our LMIC's as well as offering training (e.g., during the Commissioning Workshop).


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