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Institutional responses to shrinking academic spaces in Latin America: the ambiguous role of academic institutions

November 3, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Current human rights violations and attacks on academic freedom in Latin America take different forms and evidence the multiple past—and present—attempts to silence the academic community, in particular the most outspoken sectors. Demands and mobilisations for increases in the education budget, or at least for the non-reduction of the current budget, along with many other social and educational demands, have resulted in threats, persecutions and attacks on faculty members and student organisations from public universities in several Latin American countries. The violence against the academic community also consists of individual aggressions against specific professors or researchers, who in most cases have raised a critical voice and have been subject to significant public exposure.

In these contexts, academic institutions such as universities, especially—but not exclusively—public ones, might be expected to play a significant role in the promotion and protection of academic freedom and human rights. However, they often play an ambiguous role. Whilst universities themselves are frequently the targets of attacks and public allegations in Latin America, they do not usually respond to the threats and attacks faced by academics in an effective and appropriate manner—if they respond at all. Indeed, there is a striking lack of institutional protocols and procedures for these cases, particularly for a context in which the academic community has been persecuted for decades.

In this presentation Dr Rosario Figari Layús examines the cases of Brazil and Colombia and analyses university reactions when staff and students are being attacked or in a situation of risk. What measures are adopted by universities in these countries to deal with security challenges faced by scholars at risk and to guarantee academic freedom? How effective and sustainable are these measures? What are the consequences and impacts of such institutional actions in these cases?

This presentation is based on a research project supported by the Mellon / SAR Academic Freedom Workshop & Fellowships Program which took place between January and August 2022.

Please reserve a ticket and we will forward you a zoom link to the webinar in the week before the event.

Dr Rosario Figari Layús is post-doctoral researcher at the Chair of Peace Studies at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen in Germany. She also collaborates as a researcher with the German-Colombian Peace Institute – Capaz in Colombia. Rosario holds a PhD in Political Science from the Phillips University of Marburg. Previously she earned a Masters degree in Social Sciences from Humboldt University of Berlin and a degree in sociology from the University of Buenos Aires. Her areas of work and research focus on human rights protection, academic freedom, political and gender-based violence, transitional justice and peace and conflict studies.

This webinar is part of a series of online and face-to-face events – webinars, workshops, training events and conferences – hosted by the UNESCO Chair, Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Expansion of Political Space. The Chair was awarded to the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), University of York, in 2023 to promote an integrated system of research, teaching and training, as well as community engagement and communication. As Chair, CAHR facilitates collaboration between high-level, internationally recognised researchers and teaching staff of the University of York and other institutions in the country, as well as elsewhere in the region and in other regions of the world.

For further information about the UNESCO Chair, visit our website or email hrdhub@york.ac.uk to become a member of our network.


November 3, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Centre for Applied Human Rights @ UoY


online event
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