SERAJ doctoral candidate, Demichelle Petherbridge, reflects on research stay in Åbo/Turku, Finland

Turku Cathedral

Turku Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and the country’s national shrine.

In August this year, I was awarded a full research scholarship by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which provided for a wonderful opportunity to undertake an eight-week research stay from mid-October to mid-December 2013 at the Institute for Human Rights at the Åbo Akademi University in Åbo/Turku, Finland. As the last few days of my research stay draw near, it is with pleasure that I highlight memorable aspects of this undertaking in Åbo/Turku.

Located in the midst of the ancient Turku Cathedral, the Institute for Human Rights provides an ideal environment for any researcher. The facilities have provided a peaceful place in which to conduct research, while the staff have welcomed me warmly and provided me with an office space that I share with a fellow researcher. Access to the library at the Institute has been one of the most valuable aspects of this research stay as the library contains a wealth of literature on, amongst others, human rights and public international law. The Institute also hosts academics, lecturers and post-graduate researchers alike and I have been privileged to meet other individuals from around the world who are researching in the field of human rights. Individuals are able to present their research in the so-called “Friday sessions” held occasionally at the Institute on Friday mornings. This provided me with a valuable opportunity to receive comments and questions on the work I presented.

Institute for Human Rights

Institute for Human Rights, Åbo Akademi University, Åbo/Turku, Finland.

The scholarship also afforded me the opportunity to participate in the Advanced Course on the Justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, hosted by the Institute for Human Rights in Åbo/Turku from 18-22 November 2013. This course focused on a number of relevant issues that included, amongst others, conceptual issues surrounding socio-economic rights, discussions on international and regional mechanisms that afford protection for socio-economic rights, emerging socio-economic rights jurisprudence in other countries, engagement with the concept of the “minimum core” and important issues concerning public interest litigation. The course contributed greatly to my research and provided an opportunity to meet a diverse group of individuals and discuss important aspects of economic, social, and cultural rights with experts in the field.

It has also been a wonderful experience to be able to explore and learn about Finnish and Swedish culture in Turku. However, engaging in the traditional past time of ice-swimming has required a bit more grit than the other less intimidating activities, such as drinking the traditional Christmas drink, “Gloggi”.

Thus far, my research stay has been a truly enriching experience on both an academic and personal level. As I begin to prepare for the trip back home, I am grateful for the opportunity to have been hosted by the Institute for Human Rights and to have been able to undertake research here for the purposes of my doctoral thesis. I am also indebted to the individuals at the Institute who have made my stay a memorable one and have accommodated me so well.

Kind regards,

Demichelle Petherbridge

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Doctoral Network on Realising Human Rights

The SERAJ Research Project, through Professor Sandra Liebenberg’s H.F. Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law, will be strengthening their bonds with the Åbo Akademi Institute for Human Rights through the newly established Doctoral Network on Realising Human Rights. Click here for more information on this exciting development. More details of this collaboration will also be posted to the SERAJ website in due course.

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