[VIRTUAL] Impact of Human Rights Defenders in Defending Rights

Join us for an awe-inspiring discussion on human rights defenders, democratic struggles and social change.


The non-violent struggles and perseverance of human rights defenders around the world have brought in positive changes in societies around the world. Yet, their conscientious efforts to uphold social justice and civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights of people often put them at considerable risks for arbitrary detentions, judicial harassment, travel bans, and revocation of their citizenship, to name a few consequences. More attention is needed for the global impact and consequences of their work. This panel will unpack the crossroads and challenges faced by activists as they contribute towards bringing social change as well as broader perspectives on democratic governance and constitutional reforms. Panelists include:
·Mary Lawlor (UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders) will explain the UN mandate to protect human rights defenders based on decades of experience in protecting the front line defenders of rights around the globe
·Marcus Brand (Head of Myanmar Program of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance - IDEA) will share his experiences of democratic governance, constitutional reforms and democratic defenders
·Peter Biar Ajak of South Sudan and Erendro Leichombam from Manipur, India, both Harvard alumni and rights defenders, will share their personal experiences as rights defenders and consequent imprisonments.
 Speaker Profiles        
Mary Lawlor - the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders
Mary Lawlor is the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, where she has adopted a people-centered approach to the mandate. Mary founded Front Line Defenders in 2001 to focus specifically on the protection of human rights defenders at risk. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, Mary had a key role in the development of Front Line Defenders into the prominent international organization it is today. Mary Lawlor became a Board member of the Irish Section of Amnesty International in 1975, was elected Chair from 1983 -1987 and its Director from 1988. Currently, she also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), School of Business, Trinity College Dublin. She is a member of the Advisory Board of both the School of Business of Trinity and the Centre for Ethics in Public Life, School of Philosophy, University College Dublin. Among her awards are the French insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur and the Franco-German Award for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. She was awarded Honorary Doctorates in Law from University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. 


Marcus Brand – Country Director, IDEA Myanmar
Marcus Brand is the Country Director of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Myanmar since September 2020. 
He was the Senior Expert of the OSCE office for Democratic institutions and Human Rights. He has served as the Senior Advisor on Democratic reform and Sustainable Development in Ukraine from 2015 -19, where Brand led UNDP’s work on democratic reform. He has significant experience working on democratic governance, constitutional and rule of law reform in Myanmar. Brand has worked with various organizations to design and implement their governance programming. He has more than 20 years of experience working with the United Nations, the OSCE, the EU and other entities, and has lived and worked in Thailand, Nepal, Poland, Sweden, Kosovo, the United States, and Ukraine. Brand has a doctoral degree in international and constitutional law and has authored and published a number of articles and studies on constitutional change, international conflict and sustainable development.

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Sponsored by Harvard Women for Defense, Diplomacy and Development (W3D), Harvard Alumni for Global Development (HAGD), Alumnae-I Network for Harvard women (ANHW) and Harvard Kennedy School Women's Network (HKSWN).