Launch Event

Centre for Fundamental Rights: Are fundamental rights losing or gaining ground?

Join us as we launch our new Centre with a debate raising fundamental questions on fundamental rights.

Global trends suggest that norms and institutions of fundamental rights are losing ground.  Many governments and political movements explicitly deny fundamental rights' primacy, and some even violate them with impunity.  Some political actors and scholars question the centrality and utility of fundamental rights, claiming that they undermine other values such as security, cultural identity, economic development and social justice.

Yet there remain strong voices who insist that fundamental rights  have a vital role in addressing new and enduring challenges – migration, the climate crisis and new technologies, to name a few. Such rights are embedded in the very ethos of courts, human rights institutions and many transnational social movements, and indeed in grassroots activism from below. The Centre for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School was established to address just this: resilience, relevance and future challenges concerning the protection of human and fundamental rights in domestic, regional and global governance.

Join us as we launch our new Centre with a debate raising fundamental questions on fundamental rights - are they losing or gaining ground, or holding their own in this era of heightened contestation?  Do they still provide a lingua franca for legitimate legal and political decision making? Are current rights and accountability structures fit for the 21st century and the challenges it has brought?


Henrik Enderlein is President and Professor of Political Economy at the Hertie School as well as Director of the Jacques Delors Centre. His research focuses on economic policy-making in Europe, in particular the euro, the EU budget, financial crises and fiscal federalism.


Susanne Baer serves as Justice of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court. She is a Professor of Public Law and Gender Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and William W. Cook Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Her research focuses on critical perspectives on law, comparative constitutionalism, socio-cultural legal studies, law against discrimination, and gender studies. (Photo credit: Bundesverfassungsgericht)

Başak Çalı is Professor of International Law at the Hertie School and Director of the School's Centre for Fundamental Rights. She is an expert in international law and institutions, international human rights law and policy. She has authored publications on theories of international law, the relationship between international law and domestic law, standards of review in international law, interpretation of human rights law, legitimacy of human rights courts, and implementation of human rights judgments.

Cathryn Costello will take up the Professorship of Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School in September 2020 and will be Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights She is an expert in European and international refugee and migration law. Costello is currently Professor of Refugee and Migration Law at the University of Oxford, and also part-time Professor II at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights at the University of Oslo.

Patricia Sellers is the Special Advisor for Gender for the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. She is a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, University of Oxford, where she teaches international criminal law and human rights law, and a Practicing Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the Center for Women Peace and Security.


Arjun Appadurai is Professor of Anthropology and Globalisation at the Hertie School in Berlin. He is also Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. He is an internationally recognised scholar of globalisation, the cultural dimensions of economic development, and struggles over national and transnational identity.