The University as Human Rights Agent

In honour of our scientific director Manfred Nowak and his numerous achievements in academia, diplomacy and human rights activism, the Vienna Human Rights Master Team organized a secret symposium entitled: The University as a Human Rights Agent. Many high-level representatives of politics, diplomacy, academia, NGOs as well as his family and students of all generations of the Vienna Master of Arts in Human Rights surprised Manfred on the Rooftop of the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna in December 2016.

We were very delighted to have had Michael O’Flaherty, director of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, holding the keynote speech as well as Bettina Perthold, Vice-Dean of the Law Faculty, holding the welcome address.

Georges, our Program Manager, and Marijana, our Academic Coordinator have initiated and organized the event and moderated respectively throughout the programme and the panel discussions.

This symposium intended to look at the question whether universities are indeed human rights agents from “The Inside” as well as from “The Outside”. In order to do this, it united distinguished academics as well as high-level practitioners to discuss the latter question:

Panel “From the Inside”
Heinz Faßmann, Vice-Rector of the University of Vienna
Christina Binder, Professor for International Law, University of Vienna
Martin Jäggle, Former Dean of the Faculty of Catholic Theology
George Ulrich, Director of the European Masters in Human Rights  and Democratization (E.MA)

PANEL “From the Outside”
Melita Hummel-Sunjic, Head of Communication with Communities, UNHCR
Christian Felber, Founder of the “Economy for the Common Good”
Walter Suntinger, Human Rights Consultant
Wolfgang Petritsch, Diplomat and President of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation

Walter Schachermayer, Professor of Mathematics and one of Manfred’s best friends, closed the symposium with endearing anecdotes of him.

Please find the complete programme here.

After our 2 lively high-level panel discussions, we were serenaded by Petr Kudelka and Aram Bajalan, students of the Vienna Master in Human Rights.

We would like to thank all panelists, guests, co-initiators (esp. Christina Binder and Martin Jäggle) and co-organizers (esp. Sabine, our Programme Coordinator) as well as all musicians and helping hands involved in making this surprise a success and sending out a signal that Human Rights shall always remain an essential academic discipline as well as the foundation of a strong social and political consciousness of equality and equity.

Special thanks goes also to the Syrian Restaurant “Jasmin al Sham” for enchanting us with a generous and delicious Syrian buffet.

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