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McCain Institute Event Commemorates 75th Anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Human rights defenders and support organizations convened at the McCain Institute. Click here or the image above to watch the event.

 WASHINGTON, D.C.–  The McCain Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) recently hosted an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During a series of panel discussions, human rights defenders in exile discussed the challenges they face, and support organizations highlighted the support mechanisms available to them. The event aimed to bridge the gap between defenders’ struggles and the organizations that offer support.

“As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, we honor the principles of justice, equality, and dignity for all – reflecting the values championed by Senator McCain and embodied by the human rights defenders we are proud to support at the McCain Institute,” said McCain Institute Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Farkas. “While we celebrate our defenders’ achievements and recommit to our shared cause, let’s ensure that every voice is heard, and no one is ever silenced. Human rights defenders will always find an ally in the McCain Institute.”

As the late Senator McCain wrote in a 2017 op-ed, “Human rights exist above the state and beyond history. They cannot be rescinded by one government any more than they can be granted by another. They inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be abridged, they can never be extinguished.”

The McCain Institute’s Human Rights and Freedom program provides transitional assistance to human rights defenders who have been forced to flee their homes or to work underground due to harassment, intimidation, or violent threats. Most recently, the program has supported 88 human rights defenders, including a Ukrainian nonprofit documenting war crimes, a Burmese activist, an award-winning photographer from Kashmir, an Iranian cartoonist, a Rwandan journalist, a women’s rights activist from Afghanistan, a Tanzanian journalist, a Malaysian blogger, and activists from Uganda, Jordan and Burundi.

 Speakers at the McCain Institute-hosted event included Jamila Afghani from Afghanistan, Founder, Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization and the first beneficiary of the McCain Institute Human Rights Defenders program; Ginna Anderson, Associate Director, Center for Human Rights, American Bar Association; Gerardo Berthin, Vice President of International Programs, Freedom House; Nadine Hoffman, Deputy Executive Director, International Women’s Media Foundation; Sarah Margon, Director of Foreign Policy, Open Society Foundations; Elisa Massimino, Executive Director, Human Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law Center and McCain Institute board member; Binalakshmi Nepram from Manipur, India, Founder, India’s Control Arms Foundation and the Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network; Wai Wai Nu from Myanmar, Founder & Executive Director, Women Peace Network in Myanmar; and Zerxes Spencer, Director of Fellowship Programs, National Endowment for Democracy.

“We will not be able to stop the struggles of human rights defenders unless we address the root causes of their exile in their home countries,” said Wai Wai Nu, Founder & Executive Director, Women Peace Network in Myanmar. “We’re fighting for the greater cause.”

“I think that Sen. McCain would feel right at home in this room… He always wanted to meet with the people who were standing up for others… often at great personal risk,” said Elisa Massimino, Executive Director, Human Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law Center and McCain Institute board member.


Publish Date
December 18, 2023