Reflections from the Association of Human Rights Institutes 2016 Conference

Dr Kasey McCall-Smith and Dr Dimitrios Kagiaros attended the 2016 Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) conference on behalf of the Global Justice Academy. The conference was hosted by the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) of Utrecht University, and welcomed over 200 academics and researchers. In this short post, Kasey McCall-Smith reflects on the discussion.

The theme of the conference was ‘50 Years of the Two UN Human Rights Covenant: Legacies and Prospects’. The conference enjoyed presentations, debates and interventions from well-known faces on international human rights scene.

These included: Sarah Joseph (Monash), Martin Scheinin (EUI), Françoise Hampson (Essex), Cees Flinterman (Utrecht), Elena Katselli (Newcastle), Lorna McGregor (Essex), Marko Milanovic (Nottingham), Janneke Gerards (Utrecht), Margot Salomon (LSE), among many others. Representing the GJA were Dr Kasey McCall-Smith and Dr Dimitrios Kagiaros. They presented current research projects on proceduralisation of human rights adjudication and the impact of austerity measures on human rights, respectively. Both papers were very well-received and generated much discussion for future projects in collaboration with other AHRI members.

Key to each AHRI conference is a general assembly meeting of its member institutions, which includes the GJA. In light of the growing restrictions on academic freedom in several countries, the general assembly adopted the Utrecht Declaration on Academic Freedom. The declaration aims to demonstrate the support of the AHRI network for all colleagues suffering from a range of oppressive circumstances in the pursuit of free thinking and academic investigation. Tracking the ideas behind the Utrecht Declaration, the closing keynote was delivered by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The High Commissioner highlighted that all human rights academics, activists and advocates must stay the course and push our local and national governments to respect and protect human rights by countering the outright oppressive movements appearing across the world with increasing frequency. Through our work at the GJA and the LLM in Human Rights, we aim to prepare the next generation of human rights promoters and defenders.

Click here to read and download the full Utrecht Declaration on Academic Freedom.