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Largest Student-Organized Human Rights Conference Set

The conference will take a critical look at the humanitarian aid that follows in the wake of disasters.

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January 20, 2009 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- If you're looking to dispute the conventional wisdom that college students today have limited interest in the outside world, you need only visit Northwestern University's Evanston campus Jan. 22 to Jan. 24.

That's when undergraduate student delegates from more than two dozen universities around the country, policymakers and representatives from non-governmental organizations will gather for what is believed to be the largest undergraduate student-organized conference on human rights in the United States.

The Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights (NUCHR) – now in its sixth year – will take a critical look at the humanitarian aid that follows in the wake of disasters such as last year's cyclone in Burma/Myanmar or the 2004 Asian tsunami. The event -- save for a $5 charge for the keynote addresses for individuals without a Northwestern ID -- is free and open to the public.

Keynote speaker Nicolas de Torrente, the United States executive director of Doctors Without Borders/MSF USA, worked extensively for that organization as an emergency coordinator in Somalia and Afghanistan. He will speak on "Current Humanitarian Priorities and Challenges" at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, in Leverone Hall's Owen L. Coon Forum, 2001 Sheridan Road.

David Kobia, director of technology development for Ushahidi, will deliver a keynote titled "Social Entrepreneurship: What Can We Do Now?" at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, at McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive. Ushahidi, which means "testimony" in Swahili, is a Web site that Kobia and others developed to map reports of violence following the 2008 national election in Kenya. Al-Jazeera has been using the same technology to report on the crisis in Gaza.

A final keynote, titled "Backing Out of a Dead End Street: Humanitarian Exit Strategies," will be delivered by Dirk Salomons, director of Columbia University's Humanitarian Affairs Program, at 7 p.m. in McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive.

The conference on "Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid: Sovereignty, Accountability and Effectiveness" will hold daily panels on those three sub-topics. On Saturday, Jan. 24, panelists from Refugees International and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will discuss the successes and failures of the humanitarian response to last year's Cyclone Nargis in Burma/Myanmar.

The Northwestern University Human Rights Conference works out of Northwestern's Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies. NUHRC receives funding from a wide variety of administrative offices, academic departments and schools at Northwestern that helps to defray the costs of undergraduate delegates from Stanford, Harvard, Brown, Macalaster College, Indiana University and many other institutions.

For information and a schedule, visit the conference Web site at http://www.nuchr.net.
Topics: Campus Life