National Conference Assesses History of Human Rights
Alma College’s Public Affairs Institute and the Center for Responsible Leadership have partnered to organize a national conference assessing what has been achieved in 500 years of human rights advocacy.
The 500th Anniversary Conference on Universality in Human Rights also is sponsored by Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University; George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution; the Osgood Center for International Affairs; the Aquinas Institute; and the Washington Theological Consortium, in addition to global partners.
To be held in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2-4, the conference will celebrate the anniversary of Antonio de Montesinos’ sermon in Santo Domingo that called for the reform of Spanish policy toward the indigenous.
Statue in Santo Domingo
Public Affairs Institute Director Ed Lorenz says the delivery of this sermon not only launched a debate about indigenous human rights, it also contributed to the advocacy of the universality of human rights.
“As far as protecting the indigenous, Montesinos is a model for how people today ought to be taking on human rights,” he says. “While celebrating the anniversary of his great leadership, we also want to take a look at where we are today and where we ought to go.”
While focusing on current approaches to protect human rights, the conference will bring together international scholars, attorneys, civic leaders and other experts to discuss how to build on the legacy of people like Montesinos.
“The goal is to think about the future,” says Lorenz. “We will discuss what needs to be done in order to improve leadership and protect human rights more effectively. We want to look at how we can get the United States to maybe do more than what it’s doing.”
With the creation of formal human rights statements and enforcement institutions, progress has been made in areas of human rights protection. Lorenz says the issue remains a relevant area of concern, however.
He points to the commission set up last year by President Barack Obama, which led to the revelation that the U.S. Public Health Service and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau infected hundreds of Guatemalans with the syphilis bacteria in the 1940s during a penicillin study.
“This leads to the question of, ‘Have we really come as far as we should have,’” says Lorenz. “We need to question leadership and confront issues related to human rights – and that’s what we’ll do at this conference.”
Venues for the seminars and conference sessions include George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in Arlington, Va.; Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and Foreign Affairs; the Osgood Center for International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and St. Matthews Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
Posted: Mon, September 19th, 2011 at 8:28AM