Students Staff

04 March 2015

Geneva launch for pioneering human rights project

Researchers from the University of Essex will launch a major new initiative, aimed at tackling one of the biggest challenges facing the international human rights community, in Geneva next week.

Experts from Essex’s world-leading Human Rights Centre will host a panel discussion, with leading figures from the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, to explore how international and national laws can be ‘operationalised.’

The event will be hosted by Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair of both the UN Human Rights Committee and the University’s Human Rights Centre, and will include a keynote speech by Dr Danilo Türk, former President of Slovenia.

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair of the Human Rights Centre explained: “Our understanding of human rights has developed exponentially since 1948, giving rise to international and national laws that today help protect people around the world. But international law has not been enough to prevent widespread torture by governments around the globe, and it has not been enough to prevent rising levels of inequality that affect the advancement of economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights.

“The biggest challenge we face today is how to translate the promises that legislation offers into practical reality. We must explore how human rights standards and principles can be embedded in plans, policies and programmes from formative stages to their practical implementation, and how we can engage those agencies and organisations not currently part of the United Nations process.”

Lorna McGregor, Director of the Human Rights Centre added: “We are well placed at Essex to lead on this global discussion. The members of our Human Rights Centre have made trail-blazing contributions to the evolving approaches to human rights implementation, covering both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

“We can also offer a uniquely inter-disciplinary approach, with more than 80 members from across 11 academic departments. This is critical as we need to understand why human rights violations occur to tailor effective responses and to do this we need the input of psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists.”

The event, which takes place at Le Richemond Hotel in Geneva, is part of the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Panellists are:

Dr Flavia Bustreo: World Health Organisation Assistant Director General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, and previously WHO Deputy Director and then Director of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

Professor Malcolm Evans: Chair of the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture and Chair of the Meeting of Chairs of UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies, and Professor of Public International Law at the University of Bristol.

Lorna McGregor: Director of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, former International Adviser at REDRESS, and a Commissioner with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed: UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, previously Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Maldives, and Lecturer at Essex’s School of Law and Human Rights Centre.

Dr Shaheed said: “The initiative includes a programme of research and knowledge-exchange activities that will form the core of the work of the Human Rights Centre, and will highlight the contributions already made in this field, and explore persistent and emerging challenges to the operationalisation of human rights through mainstreaming. The objective is to build on the achievements to date to ensure that human rights makes a tangible difference in the lived reality of the people.”

The Geneva event is part of a week-long series of activities marking the contribution of Essex’s academics in the advancement and protection of Human Rights.


More information

1. For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications office, telephone: 01206 873529 or email:

2. The University of Essex Human Rights Centre is one of the world’s leading centres for the interdisciplinary study of the theory and practice of human rights. Established in 1982, it enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellence, and its 2,000 graduates work to promote and protect human rights around the world.

The Centre’s 80 academic staff are not only prominent scholars in human rights but also advise and act on behalf of governments, NGOs, national and regional human rights bodies and international organisations such as the United Nations.

The Centre established the first postgraduate course in international human rights law in the UK in 1983, and was amongst the first to introduce an expanded suite of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the early years of the new millennium.

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