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Objectives, Mission and History

On this page: Objectives | Mission | History | Annual report


A key objective of the Centre is to deepen transdisciplinary collaboration on the complex social, ethical, political and philosophical dimensions of human rights.

The current Centre initiative builds upon the human rights legacy and enormous scholarly engagement found in the Universal Declartion of Human Rights.

See the First Draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [.doc] handwritten and then annotated by John Humphrey.


The mission of the Centre includes:

  • To advance innovative research on human rights and the role of law in a legally plural world;
  • To enrich the nexus of scholarship and teaching by engaging undergraduate and graduate students in human rights research projects, human rights internships, international clerkships and advanced scholarship;
  • To communicate research results and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas through scholarly publications, public conferences, seminars, and workshops.

History and Engagement

Created in September 2005, the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism was formed to provide students, professors and the larger community with a locus of intellectual and physical resources for engaging critically with the ways in which law affects some of the most compelling social problems of our modern era, most notably human rights issues.

Since then, the Centre has distinguished itself by its innovative legal and interdisciplinary approach. This was ensured by the cultural and academic diversity among its members. These members come from the Faculty of Law, the Department of Political Science, the Geography Department, the School of Social Work; and the Faculty of Education at McGill, as well as the Department of Sociology at Concordia. The Centre houses some of the world’s leading experts in international criminal law, comparative law, constitutional law, and legal theory.

Centre members have been extensively involved in research and scholarship on international and domestic human rights law, humanitarian law, comparative constitutional protection of human rights, and theoretical and historical approaches to human rights in a legally plural world. Some have been appointed to human rights monitoring and implementation bodies at the national and international levels, and are active in public policy work in collaboration with government. The primary domains of research of the Centre include: Violence: Prevention and Redress; Equality and Social Diversity; Migration and Mobility, Health and Human Rights Economic Justice; Theoretical Approaches to Human Rights, Governance and Legal Pluralism. 

Since its creation, the Centre has provided McGill students with exciting opportunities to participate in human rights internships, an international criminal justice clinic, and judicial clerkships

The Centre organizes a series of annual public lectures on human rights including the Humphrey Lecture series, the Cassin Lectures, the Wallenberg Lectures, and the Litvack Awards and Lectures. The Centre also runs many workshops, often in conjunction with diverse student groups (See Events).

Since October 2007, the Centre has hosted three global conferences on human rights, which bring scholars, human rights activists, policy-makers, young leaders, students and citizens together to examine major human rights challenges in our global community Echenberg Conferences).

Annual report

In 2013, the Centre continued to synergize its multi-dimensional human rights program and initiatives with its interdisciplinary, international and pluralistic research agenda. This past year, we welcomed a number of international scholars and human rights professionals as O'Brien Fellows in residence; they participated in teaching and research collaborations and liaised with graduate and undergraduate students. Synergy between research and teaching also occurred in our human rights internship program, as returning students contributed to our new human rights working paper series and seminars. Our research project for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was complemented by a research seminar, in which law students presented the results of their research to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Our disability rights seminar series enhanced our growing commitments to graduate studies on disability and the law, and emerging research work on the interface of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and access to justice. The Centre continues to be deeply enriched as we nurture the linkages between human rights and legal pluralism research and teaching, outreach and human rights programs.

Download the 2013 full report [4 MB, pdf]

Download the 2012 full report [9 MB, pdf]