The University of Pretoria, working with a global network of research partners (including in Cambridge, Geneva and well-established collaboration with more than a dozen other African universities), recently established a research programme that focuses on violence reduction and securing the right to life in Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary programme that engages in the African context with the aspiration of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 to establish ‘peaceful societies’.The programme begins from the assumption that violence is not an immutable constant—that it can be affected by social, economic, legal and policy interventions. Moreover, it explores to what extent, in addition to the commitment of the SDGs, States’ international human rights law obligations require them to implement interventions that can be demonstrated to have an impact on the protection of life.

The ‘Freedom from Violence in Africa’ programme is located in the Faculty of Law, and some of the core research will be about the legal dimensions of issues such as the use of force by law enforcement officials, and the State’s duty to protect and to investigate, including in the context of anti-terrorism measures and armed conflict. It will also explore some of the more practical dimensions of these fields, including the use of less lethal weapons, or the use of new technologies for training, monitoring and accountability.

At the same time, we are also very interested in the insights that are brought to the topic by other disciplines such as criminology, sociology, political science, public health, and history, especially with respect to better understanding the incidence of violence in Africa. Applicants from such backgrounds or looking to be based in such other Faculties can be supported as part of the programme, potentially across an emerging international network.

Students on the programme will have the opportunity to engage with each other and with international experts in this field, as well as to participate in research projects and collaborative interventions aimed at reducing levels of violence in particular contexts.

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