Students Staff

30 June 2008

Human rights alumni celebrate 25 years

Colchester Campus

Human rights experts from around the globe are congregating at the University of Essex to mark the 25th anniversary of the University's Human Rights Centre.

Nearly 200 alumni of the pioneering Centre are returning for a conference which will also celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A panel of senior officials from six international organisations will debate current progress towards the goal of international protection of human rights. The panellists come from the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation of American States, the African Union and the League of Arab States.

Professor John Packer, Director of the Centre and one of its graduates, said: 'This is our first alumni conference and the climax to our celebratory year. The Human Rights Centre has grown into a major success story for the University, while producing generations of graduates who are working for the advancement of human rights all over the world.'

The Human Rights Centre has established a global reputation for both the study and practice of human rights, with many of its staff having held key positions within the United Nations and other international organisations. Essex was the first university in the UK, and one of the first in the world, to offer a postgraduate degree in International Human Rights Law. Its first cohort of students in 1983 came from as far afield as Canada, the USA, India, Nigeria and Germany. The Centre subsequently pioneered the UK's first interdisciplinary Masters degree in human rights and the first undergraduate human rights programme.

The Centre now has more than 1,200 graduates, from more than 100 different countries. They work for international organisations such as the United Nations and OSCE, and for non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Centre graduates also work in the field to safeguard human rights in Bosnia, Kosovo, Nepal and Sudan.

The conference Human Rights: Interpretation and Implementation takes place at the University on 4 to 6 July. Among those attending will be all seven of its former Directors. Sessions will cover areas including Human Rights and Conflict, Women and Human Rights, Human Rights and Development, Economic and Social Rights, Business and Human Rights, Children's Rights, and Minorities and Indigenous Peoples.

To coincide with the conference, the University Gallery has an exhibition entitled Human Traces, which explores the engagement of contemporary Latin American artists with basic rights and freedoms which are under threat in some of their countries. The exhibition, which is open to the public, runs until 19 July.

For further information please contact the University of Essex communications office on 01206 874377 or e-mail

...more news releases