Meet our Researchers: Christophe Golay

Photo of Christophe Golay Photo of Christophe Golay

28 January 2020

Dr Christophe Golay is Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) at the Geneva Academy. He works on various research projects dealing with ESCR and the rights of peasants and is also involved in teaching. He is one of the three short-listed candidates for the position of United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

Tell us about you: What’s your background?

I hold a PhD in International Relations (with a specialization in International Law) and two Masters – in International Law and International Relations – from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

From 2001 to 2008 I was Legal Adviser to the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and undertook missions with the UN in Brazil, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cuba, Niger, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In that capacity, I participated in the definition of the right to food in international law and published two books, including my PhD dissertation, on the right to food and access to justice.

Since 2008, I visited several other countries, including Laos, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti, Nepal, Tunisia, and Congo-Brazzaville, to support the work of those who fight against hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, and I published two other books, as well as several journal articles and Geneva Academy publications.

In 2013, I was Visiting Fellow at the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism where I worked on the human rights impact of land grabbing and taught in an interdisciplinary course on economic justice.

Why did you choose to work in the field of human rights?

I started my studies at the Graduate Institute to work for the International Committee of the Red Cross. But at the end of my Master in international law, I started to work with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and decided to focus on the right to food for my PhD dissertation. It was in 2001, and since then I never stopped working on the right to food and related topics.

What are the Research Projects you’re currently working on?

I am supervising the legal dimension of two research projects on the right to food, one in Bolivia and Kenya and the other one in Cambodia and Ghana, jointly funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

I am also involved in two other research projects, on the promotion of a human rights-based approach to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and on the protection of the rights of peasants. After having provided academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UNDROP) for ten years, I focus now on its implementation.

I am also coordinating two training courses linked to my research, one on ESCR and the SDGs and the other on the UNDROP.

Why are these projects important?

Human rights and the SDGs are mutually reinforcing. This is particularly true for ESCR, including the right to food. ESCR can offer a legal basis and guidance in the implementation of SDGs, and the SDGs can increase support for the realization of ESCR. As the accountability framework linked to the SDGs is extremely weak, we support the role of UN human rights mechanisms in monitoring the SDGs that seek to realize ESCR. By engaging in this monitoring, UN human rights mechanisms can fill part of the accountability gap of the SDGs.

The research project on the right of peasants is key as 80 percent of the world’s hungry and extremely poor lives in rural areas. By supporting the implementation of the UNDROP – adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018 – we participate in both the protection of the rights of peasants and the achievement of the SDGs.

What will be their impact?

We have a real opportunity to contribute to the realization of the SDGs, and to a better protection of the rights of peasants. The diversity and strength of our partners – UN human rights mechanisms, states, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements – give us hope that this can be useful.

In India, a right to food campaign led by NGOs, to push Indian States to implement decisions of the Supreme Court in the right to food case, has helped hundreds of millions of children to have better access to food. If by using the same tool – human rights – we can achieve even a tiny portion of that success that would be fantastic.

According to you, what are the key challenges today in human rights?

We need to propose meaningful responses/solutions to systematic denial and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in many parts of the world.

I am convinced that it is because we are too far from the end of World War II, that we have forgotten where it leads when we discriminate people because they are born in other countries, or because they are ‘different’. What we need are more PANTHERS everywhere – participation, accountability, transparency, human dignity, empowerment, rule of law, and solidarity.

On a more personal note: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy life with my family and friends. I also like to swim in the lake or the Rhône and to play tennis or table tennis. I love good food and a nice movie.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Knitwear Factory in Mymensingh News

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights will Turn 10: Our Contribution

7 July 2020

The Geneva Academy supports the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights' project for the 10th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Read more

Flags of the Geneva Human Rights Platform on the Mont-Blanc Bridge News

The Flags of the Geneva Human Rights Platform Fly on the Mont-Blanc Bridge

2 June 2020

From today until Sunday 7 June, flags with the Geneva Human Rights Platform logo will be flying on the Mont-Blanc Bridge.

Read more

Plenary session during the first annual conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform Event

2020 Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform

15 October 2020, 09:00-18:00

The 2020 Annual Conference will focus on the connectivity between regional and global human rights mechanisms and relevant links with national systems, as well as on the effectiveness of these interactions in a number of policy areas.

Read more

Policeofficer from the back Event

Swiss Counter-Terrorism Bills: What are the Legal and Policy Challenges?

29 September 2020, 18:00-19:30

This panel will discuss the legal and policy challenges of the Swiss bills in light of international law.

Read more

Young boy in a slum Training

Formation en ligne sur les Droits Economiques, Sociaux et Culturels

12 October - 29 November 2020

Cette formation en ligne permet d’acquérir une connaissance approfondie des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels (DESC), des obligations des états et des mécanismes chargés de les protéger et de surveiller leur mise en oeuvre.

Read more

Prison visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Haiti Short Course

The Implementation of International Human Rights Law

3 December - 7 January 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, aims at presenting the institutions and procedures in charge of the implementation of international human rights law.

Read more

Session of the UN Human Rights Committee Project

Treaty Body Review 2020

Started in January 2018

The Geneva Human Rights Platform contributes to this review process by providing expert input via different avenues, by facilitating dialogue on the review among various stakeholders, as well as by accompanying the development of a follow-up resolution to 68/268 in New York and in Geneva.

Read more

Sign: National Human Rights Commission of Nepal Project

Local Implementation of Global Human Rights

Started in May 2020

The Geneva Human Rights Platform collaborates with a series of actors to reflect on the implementation of international human rights norms at the local level and propose solutions to improve uptake of recommendations and decisions taken by Geneva-based human rights bodies at the local level.

Read more

Cover page of the book Publication

The UN Human Rights Council: A Practical Anatomy

published on September 2020

Eric Tistounet

Read more