Research Programme Martin Roth Initiative

What effect do international protection programmes have? How can civil society’s scope of action be shaped? In the Research Programme Martin Roth Initiative (MRI) experts conduct research on current issues in the field of foreign cultural and educational policy. Therefore ifa awards three to six-month grants and research assignments to scientists and cultural activists from the areas of art, culture, policy and media. The results are published in studies and discussion papers:  ifa Edition Culture and Foreign Policy | MRI Publications.

In 2018 ifa and the Goethe-Institut initiated the Martin Roth Initiative. The joint project sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office supports artists and cultural activists as well as civil society actors by facilitating temporary protection stays in Germany and secure third countries. 

Topics and Programme Points

The programme scope Research accompanies the protection programme of the Martin Roth Initiative (MRI). Through ongoing and accompanying research, it is intended to open up the, thus far, under-researched field of protection programmes and to contribute to documenting the impact of protection programmes.

In particular, the intention is to gain insights on the effects and working methods of international protection programmes and their parameters. In this context, it should not only be possible to network with other programmes but the cooperation between them should also be improved while critically examining different working methods. In this way, the goal is to create resilient impact measures and to foster general improvements in the area of project orientation.

Central Topic

  • Civil society spaces of action

Important Programme Points

  • Practice-oriented research
  • Documentation and information
  • Ongoing and accompanying evaluations
  • International networking


Interested scholars and practitioners from the academic, artistic or other sectors are welcome to apply for freelance research assignments. All calls for proposals by the Martin Roth-Initiative are published under 'Current Research Projects' on the ifa website Jobs and Careers.

Current Projects

Shelter and Relocation for Artists at Risk in Latin American Countries

This research project aims to map the existing temporary relocation programmes for artists and cultural workers in Latin America and the Caribbean. It aims to identify art institutions, collectives or residencies that are socially engaged and stand for artistic freedom. What is needed to expand existing initiatives or create new ones? What is needed to build a bridge and create partnerships between art institutions and human rights organizations? What support do existing initiatives in the arts and cultural sector in Latin America need to include politically persecuted artists? What, in turn, must protection programmes for human rights defenders take into account to meet the specific needs of artists? The report will also examine the notion of cultural rights defenders as presented in 2020 by the UN Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, and its implications. Furthermore, it will look at how funding priorities and opportunities are shaping the protection of artistic freedom in the region. The interim results of this research project will be discussed with the community of practice in a workshop in October 2020. The project report is expected to be published in early 2021.

  • Realisation: Laurence Cuny

    Laurence Cuny is a human rights lawyer, researcher and evaluator specialized in cultural rights and artistic freedom. She is a member of UNESCO's expert facility on the 2005 Convention on the diversity of cultural expressions. Her most recent publication is 'Freedom & Creativity: Defending Art, Defending Diversity', issued in May 2020.

Artists Seeking Safety in Africa: Insights into Temporary Shelter and Relocation Initiatives

This research project on artists at risk in Africa and temporary shelter/relocation initiatives aims to give more insights into the growing collaborations between human rights organisations and arts institutions. It investigates the different types of shelter, and in doing so offers a set of thematic conceptualisations on what risk and safety include for African artists. The approach highlights existing support systems, understanding how informal responses have been working to support artists in seeking shelter or relocation. The case study of Kampala and interviews with artists who have been forced to flee, offer a more in-depth perspective for this continental study. Overall, the study is a beginning point for developing a better understanding of what the community of practice needs to support artists at risk in Africa at a time when governments and extremists are increasingly attacking creative freedom of expression. The interim results of this research project will be discussed with the community of practice in a workshop in October 2020. The project report is expected to be published in early 2021.

  • Realisation: Kara Blackmore

    Kara Blackmore is an anthropologist and curator who works at the intersections of art, heritage, displacement and post-conflict reconstruction. She has over 15 years of living and working experience in East and Southern Africa. She is affiliated to the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The Challenges of Safe Return. Supporting Civil Society Actors After Temporary Relocation

For participants in temporary international relocation programs, safe return is a key challenge. How can threatened civil society actors make an informed decision on whether return to their home countries or prior work locations can be safe? Which mechanisms can host programs include from the beginning to plan for return, and to assess the conditions for return? How can post-return follow-up and reintegration be supported? This study identifies challenges and best practices for planning safe return, and gives recommendations for program managers of how to support civil society actors in their decision-making and planning life after relocation. The results of this study were discussed with the community of practice in a digital workshop hosted by MRI in September 2020.

The study can be downloaded for free on ifa Publikationen.

  • Realisation: Stanley Seiden

    Stanley Seiden is a human rights researcher focused on the Middle East and East Asia. His professional work has included projects combating human trafficking, torture and inhumane treatment, and persecution of human rights defenders. He holds a Master's Degree in International Economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.


Wellbeing During Temporary International Relocation: Case Studies and Good Practices for the Implementation of the 2019 Barcelona Guidelines (2020)

The physical and psychological wellbeing of human rights defenders is key to the sustainability of their difficult and demanding work. This publication supplements the 2019 Barcelona Guidelines that provide principles to guide the work of wellbeing support providers (e.g. coaches, therapists and mental health professionals) and coordinators of temporary international relocation initiatives. It collects best practices and concrete examples from different initiatives on the topics of social networks and support for relocated persons (such as recreational and educational activities, local friendship or professional networks, counselling or therapy), integration of wellbeing activities in relocation plans and wellbeing of staff and supporters of relocation initiatives.

The study can be downloaded for free on ifa Publikationen.

  • Realisation: Patricia Bartley

    Patricia Bartley is a research assistant at the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) of the University of York, where she has supported and managed the Centre's protective fellowship programme for human rights defenders at risk. She is a long term Amnesty International member and forms part of the Amnesty UK's East Africa & the Horn regional team and its Teacher Advisory Group. She has worked in Ethiopia and Eritrea as an Education Advisor.

Collaboration Between Temporary Relocation Initiatives. Potentials, Challenges and Next Steps

To guarantee that at-risk civil society actors are protected in the safest and most effective way, temporary international relocation initiatives need to collaborate more systematically with each other. Based on 32 interviews with representatives of 18 relocation programmes worldwide, this study discusses necessary conditions for collaboration and provides programme coordinators with recommendations for next steps towards improved cooperation with other initiatives. The main potentials identified are: the integration of referrals in the programmes´ mandates, the systematisation of data collection, transparency of information exchange, as well as the development of shared ethical guidelines on data protection and security.

The study can be downloaded for free on ifa Publikationen.


  • Realisation: Nathalie van Schagen

    Nathalie van Schagen is a human rights scholar and co-founder of The Hague Peace Projects. In the past she worked, inter alia, as a Programme Manager for the African Diaspora Policy Centre and as a Programme Manager/Policy Officer Peace & Reconciliation for Justice and Peace Nederland in The Hague as well as the Regional Representative of Microjustice4All in Nairobi.

Relocation Initiatives and Their Impact on Home Communities. Case Study of Kenyan Human Rights Defenders (2020)

Civil society actors who stand up for human rights, freedom of expression, artistic freedom and democracy do not operate in a social vacuum. Their participation in a relocation programme affects their communities of origin, including their families, their colleagues and the local NGO scene. With the example of Kenya, this study sheds light on the impact that temporary shelter and protection programmes have on their participants´ home communities. Based on focus group discussions and individual interviews, it gives practical recommendations on how to support home communities and address challenges related to the relocation process. Interim results of this project were discussed by the community of practice at a workshop in November 2019, organized by Martin Roth-Initiative (MRI).

The study can be downloaded for free on ifa Publikationen.

  • Realisation: Salome Nduta and Patrick Mutahi

    Salome Nduta is the Director of programmes at the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Kenya (Defenders Coalition), an organisation which supports HRDs at risk. She has been a researcher on women HRDs in Kenya (gendered risks) as well as those working on extractives. She sits on the board of trustees of the human rights organisation Haki Africa and is the winner of the inaugural Scottish Bar International Award for human rights defenders 2018.

    Patrick Mutahi is a scholar, researcher and human rights defender from Kenya. He is also a research fellow at the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies (CHRIPS) based in Kenya, where he works on research and policy issues relating to human rights, governance, urban crime and security. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Temporary Shelter and Relocation Initiatives. Perspectives of Managers and Participants (2019)

Due to shrinking civic spaces, the number of protection programmes for persecuted activists in the fields of human rights, journalism, arts and science has increased significantly. Based on numerous interviews with participants and managers of such international programmes, the study provides an overview of different models and addresses questions such as: How can temporary shelter and relocation programmes promote civil society initiatives and the critical cultural scene? How can their effectiveness be measured and improved? Which accompanying measures are particularly effective in ensuring a meaningful stay?

The study can be downloaded for free on ifa Publikationen.

  • Realisation: Martin Jones, Dr. Alice Nah, Patricia Bartley and Stanley Seiden

    Martin Jones is a senior lecturer in human rights law at CAHR and has ongoing research on the well-being of human rights defenders at risk, including those within relocation initiatives.

    Dr. Alice Nah is a lecturer at CAHR and the Department of Politics of the University of York. She conducts research on the security and protection of human rights defenders at risk, and on asylum and migration in Asia.

    Patricia Bartley is a research assistant at the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR). She managed the Centre's protective fellowship programme for human rights defenders at risk.

    Stanley Seiden is a human rights researcher focused on the Middle East and East Asia. His work has included projects combating human trafficking, torture and
    inhumane treatment, and persecution of human rights defenders.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Can One Find Out about Current Calls for Applications?

    All grants and research commissions offered by ifa are updated regularly and can be found on the website under Jobs and Careers. All of the important information about the application process are given in each application.

  • Is an Application with its Own Topic Possible?

    No, unfortunately not. All grants and research assignments are tied to topics specified by ifa.

  • What Are the Requirements?

    Typically, the minimum requirement is a university education with a master’s degree. Further prerequisites can be found in the application posting on the website under Jobs and Careers.

  • What Is the Difference between a Grant and Research Assignments?

    In the framework of a grant, ifa supplies a current monthly allowance of 1,500 euros for scientific work. This funding is tax-free. The grant holder must pay for his or her own health insurance. The funding is bound to the acceptance of the grant guidelines which are agreed upon before the project is awarded. During the grant period, the grant holder may not receive additional funding or be employed.
    On the other hand, when accepting a research assignment, the research assignments recipient and ifa sign a project contract agreement. The research assignments recipient is responsible for tax treatment.

  • Can the Research Programme also Assign Commissions to Universities or only to Individuals?

    Yes, it is possible for universities and tax-privileged institutions to receive commissions.

  • Are the Projects Usually More Research-Oriented or Practice-Oriented?

    The implementation of the research is the priority. The current scientific findings should be worked out concisely and precisely for those involved in foreign cultural and educational policy, and recommendations for future foreign cultural policy measures should be formulated.

  • What Formats Are Being Developed?

    Typically, the results of the research are published in a study, in print or on the internet. Often one of the agreed requirements is to conceive and implement an event, for example, a conference, colloquium or panel discussion.

  • In Which Language Are the Projects Carried Out?

    This depends on the focus of the project. Typically, the projects are carried out in English or German.

  • Is a Workspace Provided?

    It is generally assumed that every researcher has the necessary basic equipment such as a PC or laptop in order to work on their respective project. ifa has temporary workstations with PCs that can be used by the hour or by the day as well, for example, as part of research in the ifa Library in Stuttgart. While implementing the projects, ifa may work in part with partner institutions. If this is the case, the partner organisations usually provide a workspace during the project period. In this case, the research assignment recipient must be prepared to stay, for example, in Brussels or Bonn for the duration of the project.


Dr Lisa Bogerts

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