Sussex Centre for Human Rights Research

Conference: Challenging Human Rights Disenchantment

The Sussex Centre for Human Rights Research at the University of Sussex was proud to convene its inaugural conference on Friday 27 January 2017: Challenging Human Rights Disenchantment 50 Years on from the ICCPR and ICESCR.

This international and interdisciplinary academic conference involved a series of sessions linked together by the common theme of considering different forms (political, legal, social) of disenchantment with the state of human rights 50 years after the adoption of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and whether and how any such disillusionment is being, or can be, challenged.

The conference opened with a plenary session, taking a reflective approach, asking ‘How real is human rights disenchantment 50 years after adoption of the ICCPR and ICESCR?’. Mona Rishmawi (Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) began by drawing together threads in the history and development of human rights that both galvanized the human rights movement and the progression of human rights as well as which continue to challenge the realization of human rights today. Professor Pamela Palmater (Ryerson University, Canada) spoke of the need to never be apathetic about the international and national human rights frameworks that have been so hard fought for and of the ability of every person to be a human rights activist and grow the human rights movement. To listen to the opening plenary, click here.

Thematic sessions saw 23 speakers from throughout the world address particular challenges and frameworks: human rights in international relations and theory; economic, social and cultural rights; UN human rights mechanisms; human rights, society and the rule of law; discrimination and marginalization; challenges in human rights protection; and human rights in the digital age.

The closing plenary of the conference looked to the future, enquiring ‘Where to now? How can we challenge human rights disenchantment?’. The keynote speaker, Professor Andrew Clapham (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland), spoke of the antipathy to human rights and supranational adjudication and challenged participants to go beyond their bubbles to connect and engage with, and directly confront where necessary, those who view human rights as merely aspirational or who deliberately misconstrue the significance of human rights for every person, every day. To listen to the closing plenary, click here.

The Centre is grateful to all speakers and participants at the conference and for the generous financial support of the University's School of Law, Politics and Sociology.

Conference speakers paid tribute to the late Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, who was to be one of the keynote speakers at the conference: a towering figure in the human rights movement; a generous and kind man; and someone who helped shape and defend many of the norms and mechanisms discussed at the conference.

Click here for a copy of the conference programme.