University of Dayton Conference will examine pandemic's effects on human rights issues
This year’s Social Practice of Human Rights Conference at the University of Dayton takes place December 2 - 4, 2021. WYSO’s Jerry Kenney spoke with Shelley Inglis, the executive director of UD's Human Rights Center. She says the focus of this year’s conference is how human rights concerns over immigration, privacy and access to healthcare, and other issues have been affected by the COVID 19 pandemic.
Shelley Inglis: Many human rights issues have been heightened by the pandemic in multiple ways. One of the first ways is that the pandemic has given the opportunity to those actors and governments who would use it to crack down on freedom of expression, freedom of the media, on opposition movements, on social movements.
What was already a pretty fragile democratic situation globally was heightened in terms of that fragility with the pandemic. Secondly, as everyone knows, the pandemic sort of pulled the Band-Aid off of a lot of wounds, so structural issues, inequalities, systemic injustices in in those areas, particularly in this country, as it relates to race, but in other countries, in other ways, and in that context, people have now seen how much there are structural and systemic issues in inequities within societies.
Jerry Kenney: Who are some of the core presenters this year? Is there a standout session or a speech that shouldn't be missed?
SI: Well, there are two keynotes; one is Nathan Law. He is one of the top 100, considered by Time, most influential advocates on democracy deepening globally. He was a very young activist in Hong Kong, as a part of the Umbrella Movement and then switched to becoming the youngest ever elected councilor in politics. And then, of course, with the security laws in China, he fled Hong Kong recently to seek protection in the United Kingdom. But he is a real leading voice on what young people are doing around deepening democracy and human rights and social movements.
And then we also have Erica Chenoweth. We're very proud here at UD, she's a UD alum. She's also a professor at Harvard, and she is a leading voice, if not the leading voice on nonviolent civil resistance movement. How do you raise concerns nonviolently and how effective are movements that advocate non-violently for change? And then in addition, just to go on, we have so many interesting plenary speakers from academics who really study these issues and write books about them to young advocates who've been out on the streets doing community organizing, you know, running small NGOs and doing the practice and advocacy on a day-to-day basis.
JK: Why is the University of Dayton the place to hold this conference? And perhaps, let's talk about UD's commitment to the study and promotion of human rights.
SI: So, UD, it's really one of the few universities at the United States level that has an undergraduate human rights studies program, and we claim sort of with others, the first in line on developing that over 20 years ago. So, really visionary in bringing human rights beyond the traditional legal space that it has been into our more interdisciplinary younger generation looking at an undergraduate level.
And we do have a particular social practice approach, which is informed by the Marianist and Catholic tradition of this university, and also informed by this concept that human rights is about how we live our daily lives. We don't just look to experts and institutional processes to deliver human rights. Human rights is about culture and dialog and finding ways to actually realize and implement and enjoy human rights in daily practice. And that's hard for people to sometimes get their heads around, but it's a really important notion about everyone taking sort of responsibility, and also claiming and demanding accountability for their human rights situation.
JK: Shelley Inglis is the Executive Director of the University of Dayton's Human Rights Center. Shelley, thanks so much for your time and information today.
SI: And thank you for having us.
You can find more information at https://udayton.edu