Human rights workshop brings together global scholars to address health, gender, sexuality and other issues of our time

Thought leaders from around the world gathered for a unique two-day workshop that prompted discussion from multi-disciplinary perspectives around the global crises impacting human rights and ways in which these challenges can be addressed. The workshop allowed for frank discussion as to how different approaches and perspectives understand the value of human rights to doing work on the ground even in difficult times.  

The workshop, organized by USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, Occidental College, Arizona State University, and Indiana University, included participants from the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, Malaysia and the UK with backgrounds in law, public health, anthropology, politics, diplomacy, foreign affairs, and sociology creating a truly interdisciplinary discussion. 

A lawyer by training, Sofia Gruskin directs the USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health and brings with her the intersection of health and human rights. “My concern is with lived reality,  to actually consider how rights and within that which rights need to be realized for the health and well-being of all people, and to bring to light the interaction  between lived realities, social movements, and the legal, technical, and political spheres where human rights norms and standards develop and change.” The institute engages in policy and research work around the world to address disparities and inequalities in health and uses human rights as a key tool in this effort. “This workshop builds upon the work we do and brings in new and valuable perspectives that can help shape our perspectives and work for the future.”

“Human rights are indeed in crisis and under threat, and the best way for us to preserve them is for us to come together, for us to come out of our siloes, our disciplinary siloes, the siloes that we’ve created between academia and activism and look at what are the scholarly nexus of academics and activism,” Pardis Mahdavi, Director of the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University, explained.

“We’ve tried as hard as possible, in the context of this workshop, to bring in people from different positions, different geographies and different points of view,” organizer Anthony Chase, Professor and Chair of the Young Initiative on Global Political Economy at Occidental College, said about the participants. “If we can take our conversations out to different communities with which we engage, if those connect, that means we have had some success.”

Noting the importance of the linkages between them, the conversations centered around four main topical areas: gender, sexuality and identity, crisis in cosmopolitanism, and the interplay between global norms and local ownership.

“One of the things that I found really exciting, is about the range of disciplines represented here. What I’m taking away from this is that its pushing me to think differently about how we do the work that we do and how we can be a little bit more creative by trying to address some of the challenges from different perspectives,” said Pascale Allotey, Director of the United Nations University, International Institute for Global Health, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “This allows us alternatives ways of thinking about what solutions might be regardless of how we come into the conversation.”