Conference to Address Global Human Rights
By Allison Thompson
Though separated by geography and generations, the fight for civil rights in the United States, continuing attempts to ensure human rights for people around the globe, and the legal battle for reparations, all have a common goal: dignity and equality for all citizens.
Leaders from each of these struggles will speak at the University's third annual comparative human rights conference, "Effective Approaches to the Realization of Human Rights," to be held on Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., in the South Campus Ballroom.
Dikgang Ernest Moseneke, a South African high court judge, will deliver the conference's keynote address. A former political prisoner, Moseneke was detained at the age of 14 and incarcerated for 10 years during the apartheid era. He later became one of South Africa's most successful black lawyers, and was tapped to participate in framing the country's new constitution and to oversee the country's first democratic elections.
Ed Fagan, the lead attorney who secured a settlement of more than $1 billion for Holocaust victims in a lawsuit against Swiss banks and who is currently leading a lawsuit seeking compensation for apartheid victims from Swiss and American banks that financed South Africa's apartheid regime, will give a pre-luncheon address.
And civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, the first African-Amer ican woman to serve as chairperson of the NAACP, will deliver the conference's concluding speech. The widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, she persisted in the work the couple had begun together. She also continued her fight to have her husband's killer brought to justice, and in 1994, Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Other notable speakers include Curt Goering, deputy executive director of Amnesty International, USA; Ahmed Kathrada, a former political prisoner in South Africa for 26 years and one of Nelson Mandela's closest political and personal allies, who has received the highest award offered by the African National Congress; and Martin Macwan, convener of the National Campaign for Human Rights of the Dalit ("Untouchables") in India, winner of the 2000 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
Kathrada will also give a seminar at the Greater Hartford campus on Monday, Oct. 21, from 1 to 2 p.m.
"We are most fortunate to have visit our campus so many notable participants who, through their practical involvement in struggles against violations of human rights, have expanded the scope of human rights realization for others," says Amii Omara-Otunnu, UNESCO Chair-holder in Comparative Human Rights, who organized the conference. "Through their work, they have become historical figures and role models for countless others."
During the conference, a dozen human rights advocates and policy makers will discuss human rights abuses and triumphs around the world. The symposium will examine human rights in places such as South Africa, the Middle East, India, and Europe, as well as in the United States. Speakers will also explore what groups like Amnesty International and the International Society for Human Values are doing to promote human rights worldwide.
The conference will include a meeting of UNESCO Chair-holders in human rights from around the world. Omara-Otunnu, a regional coordinator for UNESCO Chair-holders in human rights, has arranged for five UNESCO Chairs from the Middle East, Western Europe and North America to confer at UConn to discuss international human rights education. It will be the first time that a university in the United States has convened a meeting of UNESCO Chairs in human rights.
"Through this year's conference, we will explore and suggest practical ways of translating the ideals of human rights into reality in order to make a positive difference in people's lives," says Omara-Otunnu.
"We also hope that the conference will inspire people to engage in human rights activities. Any work for human rights advances human welfare and fosters a global sense of our common humanity."