UAB to create Institute for Human Rights

By on July 16, 2014

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees on June 13 approved a proposal by the University of Alabama at Birmingham to establish the UAB Institute for Human Rights.

The Institute for Human Rights will employ innovative technologies and scientific methods to integrate existing UAB and community strengths to create and foster new research, policy solutions, outreach activities and educational programming relating to all aspects of human rights, including training programs in such areas as diversity awareness, sexual harassment prevention and effective communication in the workplace to business, industry and government entities.

“This will become an internationally recognized institute that promotes and seeks to protect human rights from the local to the international level,” said Provost Linda Lucas. “The Institute will explore several areas of human and civil rights, including history, justice, public health, the environment and education.”

The permanent location will allow scholars, educators and activists to collaborate on initiatives designed to promote and protect human rights in an increasingly complex and globalized landscape. The College of Arts and Sciences will take a lead role in facilitating the universitywide interdisciplinary research center with collaboration from partners in and outside of UAB.

“We are honored to work on this initiative with major partners including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Birmingham Consortium for Higher Education, as well as UAB’s Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Sparkman Center for Global Health, among others,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Palazzo.

The city of Birmingham, which recently facilitated a yearlong commemoration of the seminal events of the civil rights movement, will also play a key role.
“On the heels of 50 Years Forward, the creation of an Institute for Human Rights at UAB is a timely and important step in further establishing Birmingham on the world stage as a city where difficult issues are openly discussed, and we all are inspired to lead the ongoing struggles against injustice,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell. “I look forward to seeing the city and UAB continue to work together to move our next generation forward.”

More than 60 years after the adoption of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the gap between rights conferred by law and the daily realities for many around the globe continues to grow. In fact, says Palazzo, more than one-third of the world’s population lives under authoritarian rule, and serious human rights violations continue in multiple locations around the globe.

“This is important work that needs special attention and specific focus,” Palazzo said. “With Birmingham as the nexus of the U.S. civil rights movement, we are already an international destination for those seeking to learn more about human rights, particularly via the resources and programming of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Our unique history and invaluable partners in this initiative will allow us to realize a broad range of positive outcomes from the work that will transpire in the coming years.”

Among those outcomes, the Institute will provide a framework for faculty members, students and community members that: inspires new scholarship, discovery and knowledge; attracts world-class scholars, researchers and students passionate about human and civil rights issues; enhances experiential learning opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students; provides a location where scholars and practitioners may collaborate to identify problems and develop solutions; increases the level of academic engagement both in the teaching of, and in learning about, human and civil rights; identifies and nurtures future leaders in the field; and leverages existing research, scholarship and teaching to provide improved workplace environments, economic development opportunities through the creation of possible human resource-based startup companies, and philanthropic sponsorship of Institute-related activities.

UAB’s new anthropology chair is the first faculty member attracted by the creation of the Institute for Human Rights.

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