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Moscow Universities offer Master’s degrees in Human Rights for the first time

This year’s start to the academic calendar will be a very special one for a group of students in Moscow. Three of Moscow’s Universities have signed a formal agreement with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to introduce a new academic specialization at the Master’s level in human rights studies.

The Book Fair in Moscow. A compilation of Russian language human rights publications were presented to the three participating Universities © OHCHR/MoscowThrough the pilot phase of the programme which has just begun, scholarships will be offered to as many as five students from each of the universities. Run over four semesters, the Human Rights Master’s programme will give students an opportunity to study abroad for one full semester to research their thesis, broaden their cultural horizons and gain practical experience.

The OHCHR agreement was signed with the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, the Russian State University of Humanities and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. It is the centrepiece of the OHCHR program in Russia and follows the signing two years ago of a Framework of Cooperation with the Russian Government.

Dirk Hebecker, the Senior Human Rights Advisor to the UN Country Team in Russia says of the program, “We hope that the creation of a new generation of human rights professionals will help improve the human rights situation in Russia. More people in different positions and organizations and at various levels will know about human rights – not only in the government system but also in the civil society.”

The European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice is also participating in the project and will provide guest lecturers for the program and training for their Russian counterparts. OHCHR will supply a number of the publications used in the Master’s course including “Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: a Handbook for Civil Society”.

At the Moscow Book Fair, OHCHR presented the three participating Universities with the first comprehensive compilation of Russian language publications on human rights. The catalogue – a bibliography made up of specialist human rights publications, academic research works and textbooks - was compiled by Anatoli Azarov of the Moscow School of Human Rights, in collaboration with OHCHR Moscow.

The OHCHR event at the book fair was attended by prominent civil society and academia representatives as well as human rights defenders from the Perm region of eastern Russia who presented a number of texts which are included in the catalogue. The publications from Perm make up a part of the collection which has been put together from many regions including Kazan, St. Petersburg, Rostov, Ekaterinburg and Tomsk.

OHCHR’s programme in Russia has four major themes: the rule of law, equality and tolerance, education and information on human rights and the mainstreaming of human rights within the UN Country Team in the Russian Federation. The senior human rights adviser was deployed to Moscow in March of last year to oversee the OHCHR programme in the region.

5 October 2009