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UW–Madison Human Rights Initiative to Host International Activists

September 5, 2008


Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights on September 26, the Division of International Studies will publicly launch the UW–Madison Human Rights Initiative.

Building on UW–Madison’s tradition as a champion of human rights and international service, the initiative redefines traditional human rights to include economic, social, and cultural rights, setting it apart from other programs in the nation. The initiative will bring students, scholars, and faculty together through courses, internships, research, lectures, fellowships, and conferences to secure the rights of people around the world in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.

This month, two outstanding international champions of human rights will speak at UW–Madison in celebration of the launch: Mary Robinson, former and first female president of Ireland, who reconstructed human rights initiatives with the United Nations; and Virginia Vargas, a Peruvian pioneer for women’s and human rights throughout Latin America.

Mary Robinson will discuss human rights challenges in the 21st century at the Division of International Studies’ Mildred Fish-Harnack Human Rights and Democracy Lecture on September 26 at 4:00 p.m. in the Ebling Symposium Center in the Microbial Sciences Building. A reception will follow.

Robinson served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and is president and founder of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, an organization committed to placing human rights at the forefront of all global policy-making decisions.

On September 30, Virginia Vargas will present this year’s Soffa Lecture at 4:00 p.m. in the Pyle Center. Vargas, founder of the Center for the Peruvian Women “Flora Tristán,” is internationally renowned for her human rights work in Latin American with NGOs and for her work in Beijing, China with the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. There she received a UNIFEM award and then worked as a coordinating consultant for the UNIFEM Program of Economic and Social Rights for Women in the Andean Region.

The Fish-Harnack lecture series promotes human rights and democracy around the world and honors the heroic UW–Madison alumna who gave her life in resistance to the Nazi regime. The Soffa Lecture annually invites a distinguished international woman to discuss a contemporary issue of global significance.

The Division of International Studies, Global Legal Studies, and J. Jobe Soffa and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Distinguished International Visitor Fund proudly host these two distinguished international human rights champions as it presents the Human Rights Initiative to the public.

For more information please visit www.international.wisc.edu/humanrights. Or contact Cynthia Williams, cwilliam@wisc.edu, (608) 262-3929.

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