Social justice is the focus of the upcoming FedTalks, to be held at Federal Hall February 22 from 7pm.
Guest speakers are professor Baden Offord and Cathy Burke, who will be in conversation with author and journalist Susanna Freymark.
Themes included are ‘seeking social justice in a world of growing inequality,’ and ‘how do our lived experience shape us towards social action?’
Cathy Burke is CEO of the Hunger Project and author of Unlikely Leaders while professor Baden Offord is director and chair of the Centre for Human Rights Education at the faculty of Humanities at Curtin University in Perth.
The Echo asked Professor Offord about the relevance of the UN and the concept of human rights.
Question: In terms of the UN’s Human Rights Council, many current member countries have appalling human rights records.
Saudi Arabia is just one example, as is China, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and Russia. Should this council be taken seriously?
‘I would venture that your take on the current membership is simply illustrative of how complex the international community is. The stark reality is that we live in a world of difference.
‘On a number of issues the Council has made important statements since its formation in 2006, such as a controversial resolution it made in 2014 about discrimination against people on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
‘Its “Working Group on Arbitrary Detention” just made the statement that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the UK since his arrest in London 2010.
‘On the other hand, the chair of the Council is currently the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN, and he has the ability to select the experts now for their investigations. Cynic or not, this is a hard pill to swallow given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. I’m sceptical about the role and value of human rights governance instruments and institutions, which are highly political and hugely problematic.
‘But if I saw it as a means of leverage towards brokering something such as helping to alleviate the enormous suffering of refugees around the world, I would use it.’
Question: Does the concept of Human Rights actually mean anything and does it really exist?
‘Ask someone who is fighting oppression (who might have a disability or discriminated on the basis of their sexuality, or who are seeking asylum) whether human rights mean anything and you will get your answer immediately. Yes.
‘From my point of view, the concept of human rights is merely our current form in history of attempting to have a shared/common moral framework or language for how we get along together respectfully. Human rights is the language of mutual recognition.
‘Are we seeing the end of human rights? That its language is being eroded through forums such as the UN HR Council? Perhaps.
‘But there will always be attempts to work out how we live together as human beings without killing each other, indeed, valuing what it might mean to be human. And this of course also implies relating to the earth. Does a river have rights? Does the earth? Does nature? I would say so.’
For more visit http://fedtalks.com.au.