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Probing human rights issues in the 21st Century


Zoe Satherley
2 August 2006
What kind of vision for humanity and the world is necessary for the harsh realities of the 21st Century? What connects and sustains action with vision? How is the vision of human rights activated in the individual and in society?

These are just some the soul searching, yet tough, questions posed in a new book co-edited by award-winning Southern Cross University academic, Dr Baden Offord, being launched during the Byron Bay Writers Festival, which runs from August 3 to 6.

Dr Offord, Associate Professor in Cultural Studies and Director of the University’s Centre for Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, has co-edited the book with Dr Elisabeth Porter, a former Southern Cross University lecturer and now Research Director of INCORE (a joint project of the United Nations University and the University of Ulster and an international centre of excellence for the study of peace and conflict).

Their book, Activating Human Rights (Peter Lang European Academic Publishers), will be launched by Southern Cross University Chancellor, The Hon John Dowd and Austcare Ambassador for Protection, in the Lakehouse pavilion at the festival on Saturday, August 5, at 1.15pm.

Dr Offord and Dr Porter said the purpose of their book was to probe key pressing questions around human rights and a vision for the future of human society and in doing so, offer contemporary perspectives on what inspires human rights thinking as well as providing examples of how human rights are practically activated in specific contexts.

“The vision, language and culture of human rights have become integral to the survival of the individual, community and society in the twenty-first century,” Dr Offord said.

In the introduction to their book, the authors write: “The vision and activation of human rights points to the importance of what moves us to think, reflect and act on human rights law, culture, education, principles and values.

“The 21st Century challenges the vision of human rights. The war in Iraq, terrorist bombings in Washington, Bali, the Middle East, Madrid, London and elsewhere, the continuing rise of poverty and destruction of the environment, the inequalities of globalisation, the advent of greater surveillance by governments, the devastating consequences of the tsunami, and more – all contribute to uncertain times.

“Certainly, in the wake of the 20th Century, which itself was characterised by genocide and violent conflict, the 21st Century faces these and new challenges that require clear, thoughtful, intelligent responses to a range of human rights issues and problems.

“Our purpose in this book is to invoke and explore the lived connections between our humanity and inhumanity, between action and thought, and between the universal and particular. We propose that it is through understanding diverse perspectives on human rights that we are able to get beyond narrow and restrictive interpretations of human rights discourse to acknowledge lively connections between theory and activism, and between ideal and reality.”

One of the contributing authors to the book, Professor Monica McWilliams, formerly Professor of Women’s Studies and Social Policy at the University of Ulster and now Chief Commissioner for Human Rights in Northern Ireland states: “I was pleased not only to contribute to this collection but to use it in my new role as Chief Commissioner for Human Rights.”

Caption: Dr Baden Offord

Media photo opportunity: Activating Human Rights will be launched by Southern Cross University Chancellor, The Hon John Dowd, at the Byron Bay Writers Festival on Saturday, August 5, at 1.15pm in the Lakehouse pavilion.