Commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
To reflect on the application of a human rights agenda
and the current challenges in guaranteeing human rights for all people,
researchers at Deakin University and RMIT University are holding a one
day symposium on December 3 in Melbourne.
There will be two key themes for the day. The morning session will focus
participant discussion on social and political issues in the principles
and practices of human rights. The afternoon session will focus on “roadblocks
and how to get around them”.
For further information on the Symposium please contact Anne O’Keefe
at the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights at Deakin
or phone (03) 5227 2113.
Human Rights in the Institute for Citizenship
and Globalisation at Deakin University
December 10, 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the proclamation of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is much to celebrate
and much more that needs to be done to ensure that human rights are
guaranteed for all human beings. Much of the discussion has focussed
on legal aspects of the implementation of a human rights agenda. While
legal perspectives are important there is much more to human rights
than conventions and protocols and much more to understanding human
rights than legal analysis. It is important to understand the political,
social and ethical aspects of human rights. There is a group of researchers
in the Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation and the Centre for
Citizenship, Development and Human Rights concerned with these aspects.
These researchers are studying a wide range of human rights issues,
using sociological, political science and philosophical frameworks.
For example, the research activities of Professor Fethi Mansouri have
embraced a number of issues pertaining to asylum seekers and minority
groups in contemporary Australia. His pioneering work on temporary protection
visa holders has exposed shortcomings in government policies and highlighted
the need to overturn harsh punitive measures aimed at deterring on-shore
asylum seekers. His book ‘Lives in Limbo’ (co-authored with
Michael Leach, UNSW Press 2004) won a human rights medal award in 2004
(Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 2004) in the non-fiction
award category. Professor Mansouri’s work on the cultural rights
of migrant youth in particular Australian Muslim youth has also attracted
significant industry support and media coverage and has led to numerous
partnerships with schools, NGOs and government agencies.
undertaken by Professor Sue Kenny and Dr Ismet Fanany explores
the ways in which moderate Islamic non-government organisations
in Indonesia work to establish tolerance and pluralism as
a necessary underpinning to the achievement of human rights.
To many Indonesians, human rights are seen as a Western invention,
part of a discourse that constructs Asians as “inferior”.
To challenge this view many Indonesian
non-government organisations are now avoiding the mystifying language
of international law and international conventions and ensuring that
the concepts of human rights make sense to be people at the level of
the grass roots, for example by linking human rights concepts to religious
and cultural themes. How they are doing this provides fascinating insights
into the strategies used by a new generation of Indonesians as they
nurture Indonesia’s journey from an authoritarian to a democratic
Associate Professor Damien Kingsbury has been actively involved in human
rights work since visiting, writing about and subsequently securing
the release of more than 100 political prisoners in El Salvador in 1981.
Since then, he has reported on human rights issues in Nicaragua, the
Middle East and South-East Asia, and since becoming an academic has
published extensively on human rights issues, in particular in Indonesia
and East Timor, as well as coordinating ballot monitoring in East Timor
in 1999 and again in 2007. Through this work, in 2005 Damien was invited
to assist the Free Aceh Movement in finding a peaceful resolution to
three decades of war with Jakarta, the process of which helped net the
mediator, Maart Ahtisaari, the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.
Police forces globally are often at the sharp edge of the
application of human rights, given their often difficult intervention
roles between individuals and the state. Increasingly human
rights training is being incorporated into everyday police
work. But how are the police responding to this training?
How do they understand human rights? Why has human rights
training been successful in some police forces and not in
others? These questions are being addressed by researchers
in the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights.
In ground-breaking research, Dr Kevin Brown and Amy Nethery
have been contracted by Victoria Police to undertake a survey
of understandings of human rights within Victoria Police.
Dr Matthew Clarke researches the fate of illegal Burmese migrants in
Thailand. One million Burmese migrants reside in Thailand illegally
(excluding the political refugees within the camps on the Thai-Burma
border). Without legal rights, these migrants are at constant risk of
harassment, exploitation, arrest and deportation. They have no freedom
of movement, limited access to basic health or education services and
no recourse to the rule of law. A limited number of non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) work with these communities, but struggle to engage
with them or achieve any level of community participation in, or ownership
of development interventions. This is largely because these communities
seek anonymity to reduce the risk of harassment from Thai authorities.
Community organisation of any sort places these communities at risk.
NGOs must therefore act as 'advocate-guardians' for these communities
and assume the role of 'active citizenship' on behalf of these illegal
Burmese migrant communities. They must provide the basic services they
require, but also advocate locally, provincially and nationally to improve
their rights. The role of 'advocate-guardian' is a new role within human
rights agendas. It is only slowly being adopted by certain NGOs willing
to challenge the current political situation, in order to obtain access
to human rights for these communities. The strategy of 'advocate-guardian'
is an important development for those concerned to find new ways of
ensuring human rights for the most oppressed and marginalised people
in the world.
At a more conceptual level, Associate Professor Stan van Hooft has recently
completed the manuscript of his book: Cosmopolitanism: A Philosophy
for Global Ethics to be published by Acumen in the UK. Originating with
the Stoics and developed by Kant, cosmopolitanism is both a philosophical
framework for understanding what our global responsibilities are and
an ethical stance that acknowledges the moral equality of all the world’s
people. Most people think of themselves as citizens of nation-states
and thus treat global problems in terms of the international responsibilities
of states. Cosmopolitanism understands the world as a global community
in which each person has equal responsibilities and rights grounded
in transnational bodies such as the United Nations. Discussing the work
of Kwame Anthony Appiah, Seyla Benhabib, Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Pogge,
John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Henry Shue, Peter Singer and others, this book
provides a clear and accessible survey of cosmopolitanism and analyses
the reality of the rights and responsibilities that it espouses. It
rejects the claim that human rights are a purely Western conception
or a neo-colonial imposition. The book also discusses the ethical challenges
of globalisation, the development of the cosmopolitan idea in the west,
cosmopolitanism and patriotism, global justice, and the requirements
for lasting peace.
Similarly Dr Steven Slaughter’s research explores the ethics and
politics of global poverty and globalisation.
This research examines
the political significance of socio-economic human rights and UN anti
poverty measures (such as the Millennium Development Goals and related
human development policies) and the role of trans-national activism
in developing, strengthening and contesting these measures. His research
also relates to the deeper questions of what forms of moral responsibility
do Western societies and governments have for the fate of poor people
in the developing world, and what forms of political institutions are
most appropriate to enact these forms of responsibility.
For further information about Deakin University’s ground breaking
work in human rights, visit:
For a previous Deakin Research article on Sue Kenny:
For a previous Deakin Research article on Fethi Mansouri:
For a previous Deakin Research article on Michael Clarke: