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Research in the field of human rights and minority rights:

Impact in international organisations such as the European Union and Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Professor Bill Bowring’s research and expertise in the field of human rights in general, and minority rights in particular, has contributed to the policy-making of, amongst others, the Council of Europe (CoE), the European Union (EU), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). His work has been influential in encouraging countries of the Former Soviet Union to meet international obligations with respect to human rights and other issues.

Bowring’s work is interdisciplinary, being also of interest to political scientists, especially scholars of ethno-nationalism, and socio-linguists. The main findings from Bowring’s research are:

  • The key Russian response to meeting its minorities' obligations to the Council of Europe is ‘national-cultural autonomy’. This policy experiment since 1996 represents a clean break from Russia’s Bolshevik and Soviet policies.
  • Russia’s exceptionally asymmetric constitutional structure including territorial and non-territorial autonomy continues a tradition of autonomy in the Empire and the USSR.
  • Recognition and protection of the linguistic diversity of Russia is crucial to its continued flourishing and probably to its future existence.

Specific recent projects, each of which has resulted in publications, and has led to the next, include:

  • 2003-2013 Bowring secured a European Commission grant of €1 million in 2002 to found the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) of which he is Chair. EHRAC has taken some 450 cases to date to the Strasbourg court against former USSR countries, and Bowring has acted as advocate in many of them. Bowring’s critical reflections on this practice are published in his two books, The Degradation of the International Legal Order? (Routledge, 2008) and Law, Rights and Ideology in Russia (Routledge, 2013).
  • 2006-2008 Bowring was invited to participate in the CoE conference, ‘The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages’, at Swansea University. Bowring’s chapter appeared in the Council of Europe edited collection. This led to invitation to participate in the INTAS project, and the EU/CoE Joint Programme (see below).
  • 2006-2008 Bowring was legal expert in the research project ‘Language Policy in Ukraine: anthropological, linguistic and further perspectives’. Led by the University of Vienna, this project was funded by €100,000 from EU INTAS (International Association for the Promotion of Co-operation with Scientists from the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union). This interdisciplinary research included large scale surveys. Bowring provided the legal expertise; analysing Ukrainian legislation and practice. His chapter as legal expert for the project’s publications was published in Ukrainian and English.
  • 2009-2010 Appointment as co-expert for the OSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) Mr Knut Vollebaek. Bowring accompanied Vollebaek to Russia and Ukraine in spring 2009 and prepared reports and recommendations for the HCNM’s confidential work with both governments.