International scholars come together to discuss human rights
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 02:09
The University of Connecticut’s Human Rights Institute hosted its fourth international conference starting Thursday, “Contexts of Human Rights,” in commemoration of the institute’s 10th anniversary. Hosted in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, the conference will take place Friday and Saturday.
Scholars from around the world have gathered to highlight the interdisciplinary theme of the conference and to discuss the progress and challenges of the global human rights community. Emma Gilligan, director of the Human Rights Institute, said “(the conference) is a visible symbol of the dedication of the faculty who united to create the institute.”
Contexts of Human Rights features more than 11 panels and two keynote lectures, involving nearly 50 speakers and contributors from around the world who will discuss topics ranging from health and human rights to affirmative action policies.
On Thursday evening, one of the two keynote speakers – Thomas Pogge of Yale University, who is also the director of the Global Justice Program – was featured. A Leitner professor of philosophy at Yale, Pogge approached a variety of human rights issues in current international policies from an interdisciplinary lens.
He explained how in the case of the world’s most powerful countries meeting to discuss changes in policy for the world, many countries consider personal interest over the interests of the most marginalized populations with the greatest violations of human rights. Pogge suggested that, “supranational rule-making must be recognized and highlighted, as it has profound effects on human rights fulfillment around the world.” In a list of “Post-2015 Institutional Reform Goals,” Pogge included a proposal to “reward pharmaceutical innovation…on the basis of health impact the innovation achieves in the world.” This would prevent the hiking-up of prices for pharmaceuticals that are produced at a much lower cost – limiting their accessibility especially in developing countries – as he said, “a human right is fulfilled when the person in question has access to that freedom in question.”
Following the keynote lecture on Thursday was a dinner in honor of the Human Rights Institute’s founding director, Richard A. Wilson – who started the institute in 2003. Continuing into Friday, the conference will feature a second keynote speaker, Aryeh Neier, former president of the Open Society Foundation who will be discussing the progression and failures experienced in the current global human rights movement. Closing the conference on Saturday, a panel will be discussing affirmative action policies around the world, and a panel of scholars from various universities around the world will participate in a roundtable discussion on the, “challenges and opportunities of running a human rights program today,” as described by Gilligan.
Despite the diversity of both the topics and the scholars at the conference, Wiktor Osiatynski of the Central European University and Open Society Foundations highlighted an underlying purpose to the conference – to ensure that “individuals, groups, and primarily vulnerable populations are not positively discriminated against, have equal opportunities as others, and can have a sense of basic social and economic security without which no one can be an owner of one’s own life and protect one’s other rights.”