On Human Dignity and Identity: Observing International Human Rights Day

The European and Eurasian Studies Program, together with the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights & Diplomacy, the Dorothea Green Lecture Series, the Jewish Museum of Florida – FIU, the African and African Diaspora Studies Program, and the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab, is co-sponsoring a webinar Thursday, Dec. 10 at 2pm on “On Human Dignity and Identity: Observing International Human Rights Day.” This event, hosted by the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs is to honor International Human Rights Day.

The event, to be introduced by Green School Founding Dean John F. Stack, Jr., and moderated by Martin Palous, Director of the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy, and David J. Kramer, Director of the European and Eurasian Studies Program and Senior Fellow with the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy, features three panelists:

  • Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow, Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI); Mosbacher Director, FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
  • Nicole Bibbins-Sedaca, Professor of Practice and Chair, Global Politics and Security Concentration, Georgetown University

Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” So begins the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly. The concept of human rights as laid out in the Declaration forms the cornerstone of liberal democracy. But it has been challenged by some who argue that unique historical experience and cultural, religious and civilizational traditions provide better ways to ensure human rights.

And what of identity? How does identity in both its individual and collective dimensions inform an understanding of human rights? Recognition by others is a key driving force of today’s “identity politics” and underscores the basic human need for validation. Are “inherent dignity” and “identity” compatible concepts in a human rights paradigm for the 21st century?

With democracy and human rights under attack from both internal and external challenges, this event is very timely. Both the United States and the European continent are not immune from these threats, as we see from interference in our elections and undermining of our institutions to disinformation and the scapegoating of minority groups. Attacks on our democracy are usually accompanied by efforts to impinge upon fundamental human rights. Protecting these rights and respecting individuals’ dignity help to blunt the rise of populism and demagoguery and preserve the foundations of democracy. In the latest challenge due to the coronavirus, efforts to win the battle with the pandemic must not come at the expense of fundamental human rights. Those living in free societies have an obligation to support those fighting for the exercise of human rights elsewhere.

► To watch recorded video, click here