Evolving Landscapes of Human Rights

Celebrating 20 Years of Interdisciplinarity & Innovation

March 29-31, 2023 • Storrs, CT

Evolving Landscapes of Human Rights

To celebrate the Human Rights Institute’s 20th anniversary, we are convening an international conference, showcasing the thematic foci of the Institute's research and practice clusters.

This international conference will convene more than 40 speakers over the course of three days. Conference panels will address themes central to the work of the Institute's research and practice clusters, including:

  • Right to health in Latin America
  • Memorialization, transitional justice, and human rights
  • Humanitarian narratives in the global south
  • History and future of war crimes prosecution
  • Human rights, science, and technology
  • Challenges and methodological approaches of monitoring and measuring human rights
  • Reflections on the US National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct
  • Supply chains disrupted: the social and environmental dimensions of reform

These panels cut distinct routes through the human rights terrain while remaining rooted in rigorous social science and humanities methods of inquiry. The discussions both reflect and celebrate the interdisciplinarity of HRI’s research programs and the innovative scholarship that have emerged from two decades of hosting conferences, workshops, and invited speakers across these domains. 

Founded in 2003, the Human Rights Institute has fostered an empirical and historical approach to human rights teaching and research that subjects universal moral values and legal rights to rigorous scrutiny. Today’s HRI is a vibrant intellectual community, with 15 core faculty members in 11 different departments, 3 post-doctoral fellows, and nearly 50 associated faculty across the University. It has ten established research clusters. HRI is also home to robust undergraduate and graduate programs, including  the first undergraduate major at a public research university, a university-wide graduate certificate program, and master of arts degree.

HRI has provided a fruitful site for convening for scholars across disciplines, instigating and supporting collaboration across conventional academic boundaries. Situated at the intersection of academic inquiry between the legal, social science, and humanities traditions, the University of Connecticut is a place where the promise and claims of human rights are interrogated through empirical research into institutions and processes, both global and local. Human rights are not simply academic subjects, however, and we seek to inform and shape policy decisions through our empirical investigations. 

This conference will continue its tradition, drawing scholars and practitioners from around the world to renew ongoing conversations and to inspire new ones about the latest challenges in the field.

Conference Overview

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

All events will take place in the Konover Auditorium at The Dodd Center for Human Rights unless otherwise noted.

10:00 a.m. Opening remarks
10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. History and Future of War Crimes Prosecution

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has precipitated a turning point in the international law of war crimes. In similar previous moments, new concepts and terms emerged to make sense of crimes and to prepare a path toward justice. "War crimes," "crimes against humanity," "genocide," and "human rights" are examples of these earlier concepts. Recognizing the importance of historical context in establishing these precedents, what new concepts, what new language, can help make sense of crimes committed in twenty-first century warfare and contribute to securing justice?



Predrag Dojčinović, Adjunct Professor and Research Affiliate, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut

Emma Gilligan, Associate Professor of International Studies, Indiana University Bloomington

Nathaniel Raymond, Director, Humanitarian Research Lab, Yale University's School of Public Health

Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow, Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University


Moderator: Sara Silverstein, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut


11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Supply Chains Disrupted: The Social and Environmental Dimensions of Reform

Global supply chains have experienced multiple recent and high-profile shocks, driven in part by labor shortages and transportation snares spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and by commodities shortfalls linked to the war in Ukraine. Beneath these disruptions are underlying problems including a lack of social protection floors for workers in multiple industries, and a lack of regulatory safeguards for new industries integral to contemporary supply networks (e.g., e-commerce and other elements of the digital economy). Panelists will explore problems and proposals for reform aimed at safeguarding the economic rights of workers while shoring up the social and environmental sustainability of global supply chains. 



Tola Moeun, Executive Director, Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights in Cambodia 

Marina Colby, Senior Labor Advisor, USAID 

Mark Anner, Professor of Labor and Employment Relations, and Director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights, Penn State University

Judy Gearhart, Senior Researcher, American University School of International Service


Moderator: Shareen Hertel, Professor of Political Science and Human Rights, University of Connecticut


1:15 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. LunchStudent Union, 3rd Floor


3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Russian Propaganda for War 

What is the character and function of Russian propaganda for war, and what concrete effects does it have on Russian popular opinion on the war? Has social media changed the terrain and meant that states can no longer control information as much as before? Can propagandists, publishers, and media owners be held accountable under international law for inciting war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide? This panel brings together experts in Russian media and international law to examine the legal and political implications of war propaganda.



Richard A. Wilson, Gladstein Distinguished Chair of Human Rights, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Law and Anthropology, University of Connecticut

Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow, Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University

Predrag Dojčinović, Adjunct Professor and Research Affiliate, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut


4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. A Legacy Without Limits Film Screening and Discussion 

A Legacy Without Limits celebrates the life and work of human rights scholar and advocate Wiktor Osiatyński, highlighting his key role in the founding and development of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut. Directed by UConn faculty member Catherine Masud, the film features interviews with Wiktor’s family and friends, as well as colleagues at UConn, Open Society Foundations, the Central European University, and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, each reflecting on the impact of Wiktor’s legacy and what it means for human rights today and in the future.



Ewa Woydyłło Osiatynska, Doctor of Clinical Psychology, Certified Family Counselor and Supervisor in Addiction Treatment

Natalia Osiatynska, Strategic Writer and Brand Naming Consultant

Maciej Nowicki, President, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Małgorzata Szuleka, Secretary of the Board,  Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Gary Gladstein, Founder, Marsha Lilien Gladstein Foundation


Moderator: Kathryn Libal, Director, Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute and Associate Professor, Social Work and Human Rights, University of Connecticut


Production credits: Director, Catherine Masud; Executive Producer, Kathryn Libal;  Post Production Producer, Sahil Laul; Archival Producer, Alex Branzell, Camera, Catherine Masud, Sahil Laul, Laurel Pehmoeller; Editing, Catherine Masud, Sahil Laul


Thursday, March 30, 2023

All events will take place in the Konover Auditorium at The Dodd Center for Human Rights unless otherwise noted.

9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. Global Health & the Right to Health: Critical Perspectives from Latin America

The intersection of Global Health and Human Rights has generated concepts, methods, and political debates, as well as legislation and programs. In official accounts, the importance of local activism, social movements, and regional trajectories in the history of global health and the right to health is often overshadowed by international organizations and foundations’ universalizing narratives of what human rights are and how to measure progress. In this panel, leading scholars and activists from Latin America will challenge these top-down accounts by sharing incredible conceptual, methodological and political contributions of subaltern proposals from Latin America. Panelists will not only shed light on the regional specificities of their struggles, but also show how this region is at the forefront of challenging Western perspectives on the right to health, for instance by proposing novel decommodified and pluriversal perspectives on the social determination of the health-disease-treatment process, intercultural health, and healthcare systems.



Mario Hernández-Álvarez, Coordinator of the Doctoral Program on Public Health, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Alejandro Cerón-Valdes, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Denver

Erika Arteaga-Cruz, Professor, San Francisco de Quito University 


Moderator: César E. Abadía-Barrero, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights, University of Connecticut 


10:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. The US National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct

On June 16, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration that the federal government would soon begin updating and revitalizing the United States’ National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Conduct. Interested parties were provided the opportunity to submit written comments for federal government agencies to consider in developing the NAP. Submissions from business, civil society, and academia were followed by informal consultations between these groups and the government in 2022. The United States published its first NAP in December 2016, one of about 30 countries throughout the world to have done so. The panel will consider the role of NAPs and how the NAP could and should take forward the business and human rights agenda in the United States.



Jena Martin, Robert L. Shuman Professor of Law and Ethics, West Virginia University

Jordyn Arndt, Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Eric Biel, Senior Advisor, Fair Labor Association; Adjunct Faculty, Georgetown Law


Moderator: Rachel Chambers, Assistant Professor of ​Business Law, University of Connecticut School of Business


12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. Lunchtime Breakout SessionsStudent Union, 3rd Floor


Exploring a Human Rights-based Approach to Engineering

Engineering has profound implications for human societies, individuals, and the environment. Yet, the field's traditional focus on shaping the physical and natural world has frequently underemphasized the social impacts of engineering practice. Human rights offer a specific framework for managing harm prevention and enhancing the social benefits of engineering. This breakout session will discuss the "Engineering for Human Rights" paradigm and showcase ongoing research and teaching efforts in this area at the University of Connecticut. Attendees will also have the opportunity to engage in a case study discussing the application of engineering ethics and Human rights to engineering work.



Davis Chacon-Hurtado, Assistant Research Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Human Rights, University of Connecticut

Shareen Hertel, Professor of Political Science and Human Rights, University of Connecticut

Genevieve Rigler, Ph.D. Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Connecticut


Engaging the Human Rights Archive at The Dodd Center for Human Rights

The Human Rights Collections within UConn Library’s Archives and Special Collections documents human rights and social justice struggles. This growing collection is a repository for materials invaluable to researchers and in the classroom. Presenters share insights into several collections related to war tribunals, genocide, children’s labor rights, rights to housing, and more. Attendees have an opportunity to think about how histories of human rights can be examined within this growing collection.



Catherine Masud, Assistant Professor in Residence, Digital Media and Design and Human Rights, University of Connecticut; Director, A Legacy Without Limits

Predrag Dojčinović, Adjunct Professor and Research Affiliate, Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut

Fiona Vernal, Director of Engaged, Public, Oral, and Community Histories (EPOCH) and Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, University of Connecticut


Alumni Experiences in the Human Rights Field

Human rights informs work in a range of professions. This breakout session draws upon the experiences of three UConn alum who share insights into how human rights matter in their work. Attendees will have a chance to engage the panelists and each other to discuss the diverse applications of human rights knowledge in practice at the community, state, national, or international levels.



Victor Schachter, Founder and President, The Foundation for Sustainable Rule of Law Initiatives

Jeff Smith, Founder and Director, Vanguard Africa; Producer, The Resistance Bureau

Johanna DeBari, Director of Workforce Equity and Training, Caring Health Center, Springfield, Massachusetts 


1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. Human Rights Measurement and Monitoring: Challenges and Methodological Approaches

In order to document and describe the extent of human rights conditions and abuses, advance our understanding of their causes and consequences, and inform policy and advocacy requires that we accurately and systematically observe and measure these phenomena. Because human rights abusers seek to obfuscate their actions and deny access to evidence, this is a tremendous challenge. The Human Rights Research and Data (HuRRD) Hub workshop session brings together scholars working on cutting edge techniques to improve and expand the measurement of human rights fulfillment and violations, as well as the institutional and policy approaches to prevent or address them, around the world. Panelists will explain the key challenges to human rights measurement and observation that their research aims to address, introduce their innovative methodological approaches to meeting these challenges, and discuss how their data can be used in human rights research, policy, and advocacy. Panelist presentations will lead to an open format discussion to 1) elicit critical feedback on the projects from the audience, 2) make these cutting edge methodological advances in human rights research accessible to the audience, and 3) identify present limitations in human rights measurement and the needs for innovation and future research to address these gaps.



Rebecca Cordell, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Texas-Dallas

Chris Fariss, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

Kelebogile Zvobgo, Assistant Professor of Government, William & Mary and Director, International Justice Lab

Skip Mark, Assistant Professor and Director, Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies, University of Rhode Island


Moderator: Mike Rubin, Assistant Research Professor, Human Rights, Engineering & Business and Director, Human Rights Research and Data Hub


3:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. Transforming Human Rights Education for Contentious Times

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “every individual and every organ of society…shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms” (1948). Since then, human rights education has evolved from a field that aims to raise awareness about respect for human rights to one through which a person or community has the potential to transform as a result of realizing human rights and one’s ability to influence positive social change. At the same time, scholars and practitioners have critiqued human rights and human rights education for privileging Western and Eurocentric contributions to the fields over non-Western knowledge, values, and perspectives. As a result, they have been engaged in the work of decolonizing human rights education. In this panel, leading human rights education scholars will draw on their decades of experience to reflect on the past and discuss how human rights education needs to continue to evolve at present to meet these contentious times. They will discuss how human rights education can address global challenges such as prejudice and discrimination, economic injustice, and the effects of the climate crisis, and examine how scholarship can inform practice to contend with the human rights challenges of today.  



Audrey Osler, Professor Emerita of Human Rights Education and Citizenship, University of Leeds

Michalinos Zembylas, Professor of Educational Theory and Curriculum Studies, Open University of Cyprus

Andre´ Keet, Research Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and Transformation, Nelson Mandela University


Moderator: Sandra Sirota, Assistant Professor in Residence, Experiential Global Learning & Human Rights, University of Connecticut


4:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. Gladstein Visiting Professor Keynote Address: "Accountability and its Discontent – Between Hope and Despair"

Rashida Manjoo, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, and Professor Emerita, University of Cape Town


Friday, March 31, 2023

All events will take place in the Konover Auditorium at The Dodd Center for Human Rights unless otherwise noted.

9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. Memorialization, Transitional Justice, and Human Rights

The power of memorialization is widely recognized as a form of symbolic reparation aimed at redressing social injustices in the aftermath of mass violence. Yet its potential to activate the connection between repair and social transformation remains underutilized in contexts of transitional justice and international human rights law. This panel unites memorialization practitioners with experts in international human rights law to address how we can integrate memorial practices into multilayered strategies for justice and social reconciliation.



Diego García Sayán, former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Sergio Beltrán García, Assistant Researcher, Forensic Architecture

Jha D Amazi, Principal, Co-Director, Public Memory & Memorials Lab, MASS Design Group

Claret Vargas, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Justice & Accountability


Moderator: Robin Greeley, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art History, University of Connecticut 


10:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. Humanitarian Narratives in the Global South

This panel will reassess the narrative conventions surrounding human rights and humanitarianism as well as the responses they are presumed to evoke in readers and publics. Can appeals to empathy with human suffering or stories of traumatized refugees and witnesses to mass crimes still have a lasting and substantial impact in enlisting public support for human rights?  What role can literature play in identifying new narrative forms or alternative kinds of evidence, including historical evidence, to make sense of the current relationships between humanitarianism, human rights, and global economic inequality?



Joseph R. Slaughter, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Executive Director, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University

Yogita Goyal, Professor of English and African American Studies, University of California Los Angeles

Eleni Coundouriotis, Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Connecticut

Kerry Bystrom, Associate Dean, Bard College Berlin


Moderator: Sarah Winter, Professor of English and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, University of Connecticut


12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. LunchWilbur Cross Reading Room
1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. Biomedical Technologies and Human Rights: Conceptual, Ethical and Legal Considerations

Emerging biomedical technologies, such as genetic engineering but also applications of artificial intelligence in medicine and healthcare, provide exciting new opportunities for improving human health and well-being. At the same time, they may create substantial ethical and legal challenges and the rapid pace of innovation makes responsible governance of these technologies increasingly complex. In this panel, we shall highlight some of the most pressing ethical and legal concerns and discuss possible approaches to more adaptive governance and regulation.



Fruzsina Molnar-Gabor, Professor of Law and BioQuant, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences

Molly Land, Professor of Law, University of Connecticut School of Law

Thomas Burri, Associate Professor of International and European Law, St. Gallen University, Switzerland


Moderator: Sebastian Wogenstein, Associate Professor of German Studies, University of Connecticut


3:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. Closing Celebration & Reception


8:00 p.m. Death and the Maiden, a co-production written by Ariel Dorfman, directed by Gary English, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, 802 Bolton Road, Storrs, CT 06269

Together with Connecticut Repertory Theatre, HRI co-sponsored the production of Death and the Maiden. Conference participants are invited to attend the production on Friday March 31, 2023. For more information and to purchase a ticket from the box office, visit Connecticut Repertory Theater’s website: https://crt.uconn.edu/  


Death and the Maiden deals with the conflict between justice and reconciliation in the aftermath of human rights abuses. After a chance meeting with her alleged attacker, Paulina Salas demands justice for past crimes on a personal level, which illustrates the difficulty of victims living within the same country as those who committed atrocities.



Digital Program

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