Founded under the name of “The Shattuck Center on Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery”, the center sought to bring together policy practitioners, academics, students, and others to come up with new ideas on how to end conflict or speed the recovery from war. Based at the School of Public Policy at Central European University, the center ran open research collaborations aimed at widening the range of people involved in public policy issues around violent conflict and in providing opportunities for students to engage in current problems.
Each year, the center hosted the Holbrooke Fellows, one of whom is a diplomat from the US Department of State. The fellowship, named for US diplomat Richard Holbrooke who was central to the Dayton peace process, ensures that the center's research has a strong policy focus.
To this day, the Shattuck Center also organizes an annual event known as the Lemkin Reunion that brings together people involved in addressing genocide or atrocity crimes. The event is named for Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who coined the term genocide and was instrumental in the passing of the UN convention that outlaws the crime.
By bringing together students, academics, and policymakers, the center broke down some of the barriers to participation in public policy debates.
During the Syrian war the center focused on the Syrian city of Aleppo and aimed to ensure that refugees from this war get a voice in the eventual reconstruction of their homes. The Aleppo Project documented the violence that has destroyed so much of one of the oldest cities on earth and driven many of its people into exile as well as providing a platform for thinking about the future of the city. Almost every city destroyed by war in the past 300 years has been rebuilt and eventually Aleppo will be as well. When that time comes, its citizens need to be empowered with knowledge and ideas.
More than 25 students have participated in The Aleppo Project and other Shattuck Center projects, enabling them to get direct experience of policy research and development.
The Shattuck Center has been reoriented and renamed as The Shattuck Center for Human Rights as of Academic Year 2022-23 as an interdisciplinary hub for practical engagement on issues related to social justice in global governance and civic administration and a cutting-edge laboratory for joint research, curriculum development, and teacher training in these areas.