Thursday, 29 November 2018
International Human Rights Education
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of addressing the 9th annual International Conference on Human Rights Education at Western Sydney University. It's a great initiative, which was first convened in 2010 by Dr Sev Ozdowski, the Director of Equity and Diversity at Western Sydney University, following the completion of his term as the Australian Human Rights Commissioner.
This year's conference was significant as it commemorated two very significant events on the human rights calendar, notably the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, particularly in relation to education. The conference promoted a productive discussion on human rights issues engulfing our region and around the globe and focused on an international multidisciplinary approach.
The conference was well attended. The attendees included international human rights experts, practitioners in the field, decision-makers, academics, representatives of human rights organisations and, most notably, international representation from Amnesty itself. The event covered a range of human rights issues, such as international curricula, pedagogy and best practices from various nations, and also dealt with discrimination faced by First Nations people, women, persons with disabilities, people from the LGBTI communities and, in particular, refugees and people from ethnic and religious minority backgrounds. As the co-chair of Australian Parliamentarians Against the Death Penalty, I was invited to speak. I addressed the conference on contemporary issues surrounding the use of the death penalty and the global efforts towards its abolition. This necessitated my being involved in a broader discussion, particularly in relation to nations we are working with and the levels of respect for the rule of law. I emphasised that we must appreciate that when the rule of law is being sidelined bad things are going to happen and, inevitably, the first casualty is always human rights. I used the Philippines experience, particularly in relation to their program of extrajudicial executions, as a case study for my discussion.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Western Sydney University, and particularly Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM for hosting this brilliant event and for his tireless advocacy in relation to human rights. To quote Desmond Tutu:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.