As part of the Keough School of Global Affairs with its commitment to integral human development and human dignity, the Nanovic Institute is particularly interested in exploring the meaning and implications of the idea of the dignity of each human person.

In 1948, the creators of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) introduced the concept of human dignity as a core principle in our global ethics. This groundbreaking document outlined essential rights that should be universally safeguarded and has been translated into over 500 languages. The UDHR is widely acknowledged for inspiring the adoption of more than seventy international and regional human rights treaties.

The Nanovic Institute is concerned with research on the respect and safeguarding of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable (migrants, children, and people with disabilities, to name a few examples). Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” This assertion speaks to human dignity, especially as it relates to European nations. The institute is interested in the literature and legislation that corresponds to Article 3.

European traditions can offer substantive contributions to the concept and institutional translation of human dignity; however, it is important to also acknowledge that Europe’s history contains many terrible instances of human dignity violations, which serve as moral reference points and invitations to learn. The Nanovic Institute supports research that deepens understandings of human dignity and its contemporary challenges. The institute’s strategic plan explicitly asks the central question: “What does it mean to respect the dignity of each person, especially the most disadvantaged, in Europe and in the context of European Studies?”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Conference

In 2023, the Nanovic Institute will collaborate with other institutes and centers in the Keough School to commemorate the 75th anniversary of this significant achievement. This event will feature speakers from nations that, at the time, were not included in the declaration to share their perspectives on the history and meaning of human rights in Europe over the past three-quarters of a century.

For more details about this event, including upcoming news, multimedia, and articles, please visit the dedicated event page.

Dignity and Development Conference

In 2023, the Nanovic Institute's director, Clemens Sedmak, played a key role in the Keough School's Dignity and Development Conference. He held a public conversation with a former judge on the European Court of Human Rights, András Sajó. Their questions and answers explored an important component of this conference as a whole, namely how the court, over time, has interpreted the concept of “human dignity.” Surprisingly, the European Convention on Human Rights does not anywhere explicitly mention “human dignity” in its text.

Judge Sajó shared how this omission means the court must weigh cases carefully and contend with other laws within the various European states individually. He painted a picture of the milestone cases that dealt with human dignity to illustrate this point and provide a good sense of where Europe stands today as a result of these rulings.

Read more of Judge Sajó's remarks

Human dignity in times of war

Within an armed conflict, the protection of human dignity is immensely challenging but critical. The war in Ukraine, which entered its full-scale form in February 2022, is one conflict where such difficulties are on display.

That is why, with a commitment to research and work that promotes human dignity, the Nanovic Institute has been deeply engaged in maintaining attention on this war and in giving our Ukrainian friends and colleagues a platform to share their story with the Notre Dame community and the world.


Answer the call

Do you find that the cause of human dignity needs our very best attention and research? Do you have an idea for research that can make a contribution?

If so, we would love to hear from you. Click the link below to fill out a brief, less than 5 minutes to complete, form, and we will follow up with you.

Start the research interests form