Esteemed partners, colleagues, and friends,
Today, we will gather to honour the memory of our beloved colleague, Desmond. It is with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to a remarkable individual who left a lasting mark on our lives and the work we do here at our institute. Desmond’s passing has left a void that cannot be easily filled. He was not just an exceptional researcher, but a kind- hearted, warm, funny, and lively soul whom we admired.
Desmond’s brought expertise and passion for human rights in the digital age. Through tireless efforts, he shed light on the complex challenges posed by the rapid advancement of technology and its impact on human rights.
Desmond’s legacy will continue to guide and inspire us as we forge ahead in our research endeavours.
Beyond his scholarly accomplishments, it was Desmond’s personality that endeared him to all. His infectious laughter brightened a dull day. Desmond made one feel welcomed and appreciated. He easily connected with people on a personal level and created genuine relationships at work.
Today, as we pay tribute to Desmond, let us remember him not only for his sharp intellect but for the kindness that radiated from his soul.
Let us honour his memory by continuing the work he carried out with such immense grit – let us keep champion human rights in the digital age. Also, we must embrace values of empathy and inclusivity.
Desmond, your spirit will remain in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing you. Your absence is deeply felt. Rest in peace, dear Desmond. Thank you for blessing us with your brilliance, warmth, and dedication to the cause of human rights and technology.
You will be missed.
Desmond Johnson was a postdoctoral researcher in technology, digital transformation, and human rights at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. His work spanned historical and contemporary global and comparative constitutionalism, digital technology, political philosophy, and socio-legal studies. His research interests ranged from domination and empire to constitutional regression and democratic backsliding, which includes exploring the role of emergency powers and crisis governance in constitutional democracies.
He worked as part of the Future of Human Rights Project, a joint collaboration between RWI and Lund University, Faculty of Law, funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation. The project explored, analysed, and aimed to secure the future of human rights by investigating three research areas in novel ways: 1. the rise of authoritarianism and populism; 2. the challenges of technological change, digitalisation, and AI; and 3. state of emergency and the erosion of the rule of law.
At RWI, he contributed to the project by exploring how digital technologies, such as blockchain-based voting and artificial intelligence, promoted or undermine norms, rights, and values in constitutional democracies at the international, regional, and national level, including the right to vote, civic participation, and non-discrimination.