Conference on human rights and diverse societies set for October

International youth forum to tackle tough issues in second Echenberg event

By Pascal Zamprelli

What do reasonable accommodation, aboriginal rights, national security laws and ethics education have in common? They are all examples of how societies grapple with the diversity of their populations, and they are but a few of the hot topics to be tackled at the second Echenberg Family Conference on Human Rights – the Global Conference on Human Rights and Diverse Societies, to be held Oct. 7-9 at McGill.

The Faculty of Law’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism is convening legislators, scholars, journalists, policy-makers, students, diplomats, activists and others active in the field of international human rights and social diversity to debate important questions: Are human rights truly universal? How are actual human-rights policies and norms implemented in a world where very diverse societies coexist? How are such societies dealing with the issues raised by their own internal diversity? Can multiculturalism policies help diminish sources of cultural conflict? What are the solutions to global human rights abuses?

“In many parts of the world, diversity is one of the causes of ethnic or religious conflict or at least troubles,” said François Crépeau, Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Professor of International Public Law at McGill, and Chair of the conference.

It promises to be an event filled with enlightening debate and gripping exchanges between fascinating panelists from around the worlds, including the Principal English Translator to the Dalai Lama, a former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada, the Solicitor General of India, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, a female Member of Parliament in Afghanistan, the Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Program, the Editor-in-Chief of La Presse, and a Senior Editor of the Toronto Star, to name but a few.

Timely, hot-button issues Panel topics will include the media’s role in shaping public opinion and public policy on human-rights and diversity issues, the power of education to spur and combat hatred, the state of the world’s human-rights institutions, as well as the interaction of human rights with indigenous cultures, religion, and security.

“Human rights have been determined to be universal, yet cultural diversity makes the interpretation and implementation of many human rights norms challenging,” added Crépeau. “This conference will address how we can move forward on human rights and diversity issues: fine-tune language, renew conceptual frameworks, invent creative processes,

develop more powerful international and domestic institutions, and learn from best practices.”

Young leaders take the stage

Also, beginning on Oct. 4, the Centre will host the second International Forum for Young Leaders, a pre-conference gathering of 25 young professionals and scholars from every corner of the planet – 21 different countries, to be exact – covering every continent save for Antarctica. The young leaders will explore the contributions they can make to the promotion of multiculturalism and human rights, as the forum will provide a unique networking opportunity to engage with each other and to meet some of the Conference’s distinguished speakers. The primary objective of the forum is to raise awareness of human- rights issues amongst the younger generation by creating, over the term of the Echenberg conferences, an active global community of young leaders who will remain in contact with each other as well as work in concert to advance the human rights agenda.

The Echenberg Family Conference was established by a generous gift by McGill alumnus Gordon Echenberg and his wife Penny. The series kicked off in 2007, when McGill hosted the Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide. The goal of these conferences is to bridge the gap between academia, including human-rights research and writings, and the pragmatics of daily life in order to have an impact on public policy and foster a greater understanding of the importance as well as the role of human-rights issues in the daily lives of individual citizens everywhere.

Please visit for more.