PhD candidates (2x): development rights of children living in Somaliland


1.    The project
Title: Invisible children: a rights-based approach to development for children living in unrecognized states

Although the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are supposed to apply to all children equally, one group of children have remained largely invisible to the international community, namely: children living in unrecognized states. Since the goal of the SDGs is to provide access to justice for all and leave no one behind, and to build effective and inclusive institutions at all levels, we are studying the following  main question: (How) can development rights of children living in unrecognized states be better realized?

From research in law and development, we know that for laws (including development rights) to have an impact on society, they must first be embedded in local norms. However, researchers have not yet found a way to systematically acquire and process the relationship between children’s development rights and the relevant local norms. Furthermore, there is no research currently available on what it means to say that children living in unrecognized states have development rights.

To remedy this gap, the envisaged research project will apply a three-pronged approach to answer our main question by:

1)     Conceptualizing what development rights actually entail for children living in unrecognized states from an international law perspective;

2)     Developing a theoretical framework and methodology to study the different norms related to the protection/violation of children’s development rights in different socio-legal contexts;

3)     Formulating – through field research and literature study – a deeper understanding of legal and non-legal normative mechanisms that protect/violate development rights of children living in four unrecognized states: Abkhazia, Palestine, the SADR and Somaliland.

2.    The job opening

We are looking to hire two PhD candidates who will study the legal and non-legal mechanisms that protect and/or violate children’s development rights in Somaliland.

The first PhD candidate will be tasked to focus mainly on the legal conditions of children’s development rights for children living in Somaliland. This includes studying the written law of the “state” as well as of other relevant legal orders that produce law. It may also include a reflection on the position of international law in Somaliland.

The second PhD candidate will be tasked to focus on finding social norms related to development rights of children living in Somaliland. This includes finding, through qualitative empirical research, who decides over development rights of children in Somaliland (including parents, teachers, politicians, as well as children themselves).

The PhD candidates once appointed will become part of a larger research group working on this project. They will be expected to develop an independent research project within the larger project, with the support of their supervisors. After three years they will be expected to have completed an academic PhD thesis, upon which they will receive a doctoral degree from Maastricht University.

Please note: both PhDs will be employed by the Human Rights Centre Somaliland (HRC). They will be expected to live in Somaliland at least most of the time, to work in the office of HRC, and to travel to Maastricht three times, for two research stays as well as for defending their PhD thesis.

Supervision team:
SupervisorProf. Fons Coomans, UNESCO chair in Human Rights and Peace, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University  
Co-supervisorDr. Marieke Hopman, Assistant Professor Children’s Rights, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University.

For more information see:

Deadline for application: 1 May 2020.