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Anne Roosevelt speaks at human rights conference in Edinburgh

ByNatalie Nazanin Imani

Sep 10, 2018

On September 7 and 8, the University of Edinburgh Law School and Edinburgh Global Justice Academy hosted the annual conference of the Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI), whereby Anne Roosevelt gave a moving speech. 

This year’s conference coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To commemorate the occasion, the granddaughter of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was instrumental in designing the Declaration, Anne Roosevelt delivered the closing remarks of the conference, titled ‘Nevertheless, She Persisted’. 

Surrounded by the white sculptures of influential men on the Playfair Library’s podium, Anne Roosevelt gave a speech about our collective responsibility to defend the marginalised, as human rights are essentially a radical notion about mutual respect. 

She emphasised the importance of widening the participation beyond classroom settings to not confine the significance of human rights to purely scholarly discourse. 

She insisted that we all persist in times of populist pressure to uphold these principles and regain consensus on the definition of human rights in order to transform rhetoric into reality. 

In light of the current turbulent political era, the theme of this year’s conference was Renewing Rights in Times of Transition. 

Consequently, this was a question posed by The Student to Anne Roosevelt regarding her statement of the failure to translate these ideals into a comprehendible language and whether this disconnect constitutes the biggest challenge to human rights. 

She responded that although there are numerous challenges, there is also more insight and inclusivity. 

For instance, previously when developments were introduced following the housing shortage in the US, African-Americans were entirely excluded and we continue to see the consequences of that policy. The digital era also expands the tools to rewrite the rules and renew the rights. 

When asked whether the contemporary challenges of increased wealth inequality and climate change makes it possible to stay hopeful for the future, Anne Roosevelt smiled and insisted that she remained hopeful with a reminder that although certain threats are new, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was conceived following the Second Word War, where humanity felt most hopeless. 

Kasey McCall-Smith, AHRI Conference organizer spoke to The Student on the event: “AHRI 2018 demonstrates that even when it seems many governments, the media and social sectors are moving away from and demonizing human rights, human rights defenders remain committed to the task of working out how to communicate and use human rights for the benefit of all people in all places.

“The last 70 years have seen the development of the machinery needed to realize the promise of the UDHR. This conference demonstrated that now we must turn our attention to ensuring that the machinery delivers real and effective human rights, whether economic, social, cultural, civil or political, to humanity.”


Image: Natalie Nazanin Imani

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