Comparative Human Rights Lecture Series | Annual International Comparative Human Rights Conference
Annual International Comparative
Human Rights Conference
is intended to establish a tradition of serious global dialogue among scholars, students, and advocates for human rights and to cultivate cross-regional and cross-cultural appreciation of human rights issues.
conference poster The 13th Annual UNESCO Chair & Institute of Comparative Human Rights Conference


Conference Overview | Conference Speakers | Schedule of Events | Directions | High School Resource Packet

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
9:00 A.M.
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT

Conference overview:

Today we live in a world when the popularity of human rights in political and academic discourse is more or less undoubted and taken for granted. Yet the evolution and the apparent triumph of human rights have never occurred spontaneously or without struggles.

The expansion of the range of human rights enjoyed by people in every generation and region of the world owes a great deal to the commitment, vision, courage, sacrifices and tenacity of individuals imbued with a high sense of purpose to enhance the dignity, freedoms and self- worth of the great majority of people.

In order to translate the ideals of human dignity and rights into practical reality in the lives of ordinary people, these individuals provided purposive and principled leadership and awakened the political and moral consciousness of a cross-section of people, oftentimes against parochial vested interests. For their principled leadership in the cause of human rights, a number the leaders were subjected to vilification, torture and imprisonment, and some of them paid with their lives, which had enormous impact on their societies and was felt most keenly by people closest to them.

The 13th Annual UNESCO Chair in Comparative Human Rights international conference focuses on legacies of human rights leadership and struggles for three main inter-related reasons. The first is to educate ourselves about individuals who contributed to the expansion of the range of human rights we enjoy today by providing enlightened and ecumenical leadership. The second is to acknowledge the important role paid by the individual leaders and in the process pay tribute to the type of leadership that combined political acumen with ethical values. And the third reason is for those of us who are either directly or vicariously beneficiaries of their leadership, to demonstrate intellectual and moral solidarity with the legacies of the struggles that opened new vistas of human rights enjoyment.

We do all these for the simple and profound realization that the individuals could have chosen to remain quiet in order to avoid the fray and enjoy security, when the rights and freedoms of other people were in jeopardy. Instead, the individual leaders demonstrated the quality of their character, their commitment to the ideals of human rights and freedom, as well as compassion for the great majority of people, by speaking up and standing tall. Although the leaders we honour at this conference paid dearly, their acts of love, courage and service to humanity may serve as models of ethical leadership for today and for the future.

Children and close relatives of a number of leaders for human rights and social justice from various regions of the world have been invited to share their insights and experiences of the leadership and legacies of the following individuals below:

  Presenters include:

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja of Bahrain: Arguably the most well-known Bahraini-Danish human rights activist internationally. He is head of the foreign relations office and vice president for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He is currently in prison in Bahrain following the repression of pro-democracy protests in the Bahraini uprising.
The speaker on Abdulhadi al-Khawaja will be his daughter, Maryam al-Khawaja. Educated at Brown University on a Fulbright Scholarship, Maryam Al-Khawaja joined the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, co-founded by her father, and served as acting president during BCHR President Nabeel Rajab’s periods of detention. A passionate spokesperson for human rights in Bahrain, Maryam was part of the delegation to the UN in New York in 2008 to highlight the gravity of human rights violations in Bahrain. She was invited by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to testify before US Congress about religious freedom in Bahrain.

Yuri Kochiyama of USA/Japan: She is a grassroots civil rights activist who has involved herself in a wide range of issues from international political prisoner rights, to nuclear disarmament, and Japanese redress for World War II internment. She has been an enthusiastic activist and a key supporter of many civil rights groups for more than sixty years. For example, in the 1960s she was a member of the Harlem Parents Committee organizing protests for more street lights in her neighborhood, and in 1977 she and 29 others from the Puerto Rican group the Young Lords stormed the Statue of Liberty to bring attention to the issue of Puerto Rican independence. Perhaps most famously, Yuri Kochiyama was a close friend and associate of Malcolm X, and was by his side at his assassination in 1965.
The speaker on the contribution of Yuri Kochiyama will be her grand-daughter, Akemi Kochiyama-Sardinha, who is Director of Development at Manhattan Country School and helped to produce the memoir of her grandmother titled Passing It On.

Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Africa: He is regarded by historians as the father of modern African nationalism and a far-sighted visionary for Pan African Unity and social justice. He was the first democratically elected Prime Minister and President of Ghana (previously the Gold Coast), from 1951 to 1966. He spearheaded the struggle for Ghana’s independence from British colonial rule and was a founding father of the Non-Aligned Movement following in the Asia-Africa Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955 and of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. He was overthrown in a military coup in 1966.
The speaker on Kwame Nkrumah’s legacies will be his daughter, Samia Nkrumah, who has been a member of Ghana’s Parliament since 2008 and is leader of Convention People's Party (CPP), the political organization under whose banner Ghana won independence from British colonial rule.  She is not only the first female to chair a major political party in the country, but is also considered one of the most principled African leaders.

Shimon Peres of Israel: The ninth and current President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister. He is widely regarded as a “dove”, and a strong supporter of peace through economic cooperation.
The speaker on Shimon Peres will be his son-in-law and personal physician too, Professor Raphael Walden, who is a vascular surgeon and was chief of surgery at Sheba. He is a professor at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine, and has been a visiting professor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at Salpetriere Hospital in Paris. In 1992, he joined Physicians for Human Rights and been one of its leaders ever since. Deputy Director of the Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Walden received the French Legion of Honor in 2009: a prestigious award in recognition of his leadership in the Israeli NGO, Physicians for Human Rights, and for his contribution to Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

Salmaan Taseer of Pakistan: He was an influential governor of Pakistan's Punjab province and a senior member of the Pakistan People's Party who was assassinated in January 2011 by one of his bodyguards in the capital, Islamabad, for speaking out against the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws in 2011.
The speaker on Salmaan Taseer will be his daughter, Shehrbano Taseer, who is a recent graduate of Smith College. A journalist with Newsweek Pakistan, Taseer devotes her energies to educating people about the dangers of intolerance. Despite ongoing concerns for her own safety and the security of her family, she continues to fight to promote freedom, dignity, justice, and fairness in Pakistan.



8:30 a.m.        General Registration (outside Student Union Theatre)

9:00 a.m.        Welcome, Reading of the United Nations Day Proclamation

9:03 a.m.         Greetings and overview from Prof. Amii Omara-Otunnu

9:10 a.m.         Plenary Session:

                       Shehrbano Taseer, Pakistan
                       Samia Nkrumah, Ghana
                       Maryam al-Khawaja, Bahrain
                       Professor Raphael Walden, Israel
                       Akemi Kochiyama-Sardinha, USA/Japan


12:30 p.m.       Conference Ends


Directions to the University of Connecticut, Storrs:

Travel I-84 east/west to exit 68.  Travel south on Route 195 straight through intersection with Route 32.  At intersection of Route 195 and Route 44 (Mansfield Four Corners) proceed straight approximately 1.5 miles to the Storrs Campus.

North Parking Garage:
From Route 195, turn right onto North Eagleville Road (Congregational Church on right).  At the second light, turn left onto North Hillside Road.  At the first stop sign, turn left.  The entrance to the North Parking Garage will be immediately on your left.

Student Union Theatre:
Upon exiting the North Parking Garage, walk straight up Hillside Road.  The Student Union is the second building on your left


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