Online Symposium on Human Rights in Transition 25-26 October

Human Rights are taken to be a stable constant of our post-war world. The accomplishments are many, as are the criticisms of what Human Rights has failed to deliver. The urgency of climate change and the disruption brought by the Covid-19 pandemic lead to profound questioning of the status quo. Political and economic orthodoxies are being revised also with an eye on exponential technological advances, which come with opportunities and threats. In response, policymakers are promoting and accelerating significant investment in the transition to a green and digital economy. Non-state actors are reacting to this transition and are actively involved in this systemic shift in a rapidly changing geopolitical context. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights attempted to capture the essence of what is required for individuals to enjoy lives with dignity. Though the contexts and challenges have changed fundamentally, some perennial questions have acquired heightened urgency. 

  • Can Human Rights play a role and facilitate this transition so that it is fair and responds to human aspirations?
  • Do Human Rights – as an idea and a system – need to change in order to facilitate this transition and offer safeguards against illiberal alternatives and persistent structural inequities?

In some areas, the international, regional, and national systems to protect human rights have evolved and adapted to changing circumstances. In other areas, human rights principles appear ill-suited to contemporary challenges. 

This symposium provides timely, insightful analyses and visions on the roles that Human Rights have and can play in the multiple transitions our world is confronting. 

Date and time: 25 October (13.00 – 17.00) – 26 October (12.00 – 15.45)
Where: Online
Organisers: The symposium is organised by the Pufendorf IAS Theme The Future of Human Rights. 

Read more about the theme


Day 1 – Monday 25 October (13.00-17.00)

Opening remarks

Opening key note – Professor Bhupinder Chimni

Break 5-10 min

Session 1: Are migrants’ human rights an early casualty of climate emergency?

Climate change is already contributing to the displacement of millions of people every year. Despite progress on protection frameworks for displaced populations, the human rights situation for people who move, as well as those who remain, looks increasingly bleak. This session explores the human rights implications for people who move within their own countries as well as those who cross international borders.

Dr Bina Desai (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre)
Prof. Thomas Spijkerboer (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Professor Mo Hamza (Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety, Lund University) Dr Matthew Scott (Raoul Wallenberg Institute)

Break 15 min

Session 2: The significance of human rights for the business sector in fair transitions.

Governance of the global economy is changing due to existential threats posed by climate change, geopolitical shifts, technological advances, and shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic and financial crises. As the post-war rule-based economic system is under revision, business responds to increasing calls for value-based trade and assumes new roles and responsibilities. Business finds itself in the midst of a geopolitical clash of alternative models of development and human rights. Furthermore, businesses strategy is being reshaped by the European Green Deal that encapsulates the ambition of Europe to put its economy on a fairer, greener and digital path. This session probes what role will the business sector play in the clash between liberal and illiberal governance systems and the (fair) transition to a green and digital economy.

Jerker Hellström (Swedish Center for China Studies) – China and the West: China’s rise and the development of an alternative human rights ‘model’ to counter the human rights narratives of liberal democracies

Dr Axel Marx (Leuven Centre for Global Governance) – The European Union’s Green Deal: Gauging the ambition and ability of Europe to put its economy on fairer, greener and digital path

Anne Lauenroth (Federation of German Industries (BDI): Business strategy: The significance of human rights for businesses in the changing context marked by geopolitical clash and green transition

Dr. Radu Mares (Raoul Wallenberg Institute)
Dr. Christopher Mathieu (Department of Sociology, Lund University)

Day 2 – Tuesday 26 October (12.00-15.45)

Session 3: Gender, Climate Justice and Resistance: In the Shadow of Authoritarianism and Human Rights

Authoritarianism intersects with discourses of climate change and gender, with climate change denial frequently couched within misogynous, hypermasculine and populist language and emotive responses. However, we see multiple expressions of authoritarianism across space and context, including fully fledged authoritarian regimes and far-right populism in a range of countries across the world. This panel addresses the intersections between authoritarianism in its different forms, climate change (both quests for justice and resistance to such claims) and human rights. Underpinning this discussion is the willingness to explore how ecologism and gender have often been (mis)used to further authoritarian aims, and the implications of these phenomena for the future of human rights.

Dr Emily Jones (Essex University, School of Law, UK) – Queer Theory, Posthuman International Law and the Rights of Nature 
Dr Rose Parfitt  (Kent Law School, Kent University, UK) – A Rise of Ecofascism?
Dr Cara Daggett (Department of Political Sciences, Virginia Tech, US) – Petromasculinity, the Far-Right and the Future of Human Rights

Dr Annika Bergman-Rosamond (Department of Political Science, Lund University)
Dr Daria Davitti (Faculty of Law, Lund University)

Break 15 min

Closing roundtable: What is the role of human rights in a fair transition to a green and digital economy?

This session brings together leading voices from a diversity of geographies and academic disciplines to reflect on the relevance of human rights in a world in transition. Looking at the potential and limitations of human rights, speakers reflect on the present and future challenges posed by anthropogenic climate change and digitalization, for people, the planet as well as for human rights as a system.

Prof. Daniela Gabor (University of the West of England)
Prof. Jayati Ghosh (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Prof. Louis J. Kotzé (North-West University, South Africa)
Prof. Philip Alston (New York University)

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