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UNESCO Inter-Generational Human Rights Conference
an article by Nancy Wrenn

Thirty-three young people from 22 countries participated in a week-long human rights training at the University of Connecticut from August 7-13 this summer. Selected from over 300 applicants, who submitted mission statements and action plans for the work they wanted to do, these men and women plunged into workshops on poverty, hunger, health, gender issues and the environment with lively discussion. The week culminated in a visit to the United Nations for International Youth Day.

Dr. Amii Omara-Otunnu, UNESCO Chair in Human Rights at UConn and Executive Director of the UConn-ANC Partnership with South Africa, envisioned the conference with members of the Coalition of Human Rights Organizations in New England (CHRONE), which he founded. Staff of the UN and UConn, members of CHRONE, and other human rights activists participated as workshop leaders.

"I was very impressed with the energy and enthusiasm these young people expressed throughout the week," Omara-Otunnu said. "We expect they will maintain these contacts as a support network in their ongoing work."

Friendships developed quickly. Hina Ali, a research fellow from the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development in Islamabad, wearing a beautiful maroon sari, found kinship with Sreyashi Gosh, a Youth Coordinator for an NGO in Calcutta which is protesting violence against women. Nadejda Mazur from Moldova, founder and board member of Youth Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, came with the goal of educating children in rural areas about the dangers of trafficking. Dickson George of Liberia, a trainer in gender-based violence with the American Refugee Committee, wants to establish a joint monitoring team on college campuses to help minimize human rights abuses and the spread of HIV. Sarada Taing, a 25 year old reporter with the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, will continue to do daily radio news programs on human trafficking, land disputes and the environment. Maria Salas, a young professor at the University of Costa Rica, who has taught an award-winning micro business course to school dropouts, expressed concern for sustainable development and gender discrimination in her country. She found a new friend in Carolina Garcia from the Patagonia area of Argentina, an environmental lawyer who is working with indigenous people through the University of Buenos Aires. Theresa Loken, a student at New York Law School, plans to create a student organization as a division of Lawyers Without Borders.

From Prince Edward Island, Canada came Kara O’Brien of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and a Global Youth Speaker at the Canadian International Development Agency meeting where she advocated for full implementation of the Rights of the Child Convention.

For more information about the UNESCO program at UConn, go to www.unescochair.uconn.edu.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


How can this experience be shared with more young people?,

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Latest reader comment:

Today, September 8, as I entered my classroom at UConn , Storrs, a UNESCO group was moving on. This group is composed of Israeli and Palestinian youth. I asked the leader who had sponsored the group. She answered that it was the YMCA of Hartford. Have any readers heard more in detail about this imortant development?

If every YMand YWCA sponsored such groups, perhaps there would be a positive, cumulative effect.


This report was posted on August 31, 2005.