Head of Amnesty International to Speak at NUI Galway

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The head of Amnesty International, Ms Irene Zubaida Khan, will deliver a public lecture at NUI Galway on Wednesday, 17 September, at 2.15pm in the Aula Maxima. Ms Khan was appointed Secretary General of Amnesty International in 2001, becoming the first woman, Asian and Muslim to lead the human rights organisation. Her lecture will be entitled 'At sixty, is it time for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to retire?'. Ms Khan has broadened the work of Amnesty International in areas of economic, social and cultural rights. She has led high level missions to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel/Occupied Territories, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Spain, Thailand, the Darfur region of Sudan, and Nepal. Deeply concerned about women's human rights, she initiated a process of consultations with women activists to design a global campaign by Amnesty International against violence on women, which was launched in March 2004. The event is being hosted by the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway. Dr Kathleen Cavanaugh, a lecturer with the Centre, says Ms Khan is an inspiring individual: "She brings with her a wealth of experience, both personal and professional, which has helped to shape and direct the movement. There are huge challenges facing the human rights regime in the wake of the so-called 'war on terror'. Despite early criticisms, Irene was steadfast in her arguments that international civil society must not be consumed by the politics of fear, and she has led Amnesty's efforts to recapture this human rights versus security debate". In 1980, Ms Khan joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and worked in a variety of positions at Headquarters and in field operations to promote the international protection of refugees. From 1991 to 1995 she was Senior Executive Officer to Mrs. Sadako Ogata, then UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Appointed as the UNHCR Chief of Mission in India in 1995, Ms Khan was the youngest country representative at that time, and in 1998 headed the UNHCR Centre for Research and Documentation. She led the UNHCR team in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia during the Kosovo crisis in 1999, and was appointed Deputy Director of International Protection later that year. Ms Khan studied law at the University of Manchester and Harvard Law School, specialising in public international law and human rights. She is the recipient of several academic awards, a Ford Foundation Fellowship, the 2006 City of Sydney Peace Prize, the Pilkington 'Woman of the Year' Award 2002, and the John Owens Distinguished Alumni Award of the University of Manchester. She has been awarded honorary doctorates by Ferris University (Japan) and Staffordshire University (UK). Ms Khan has been voted one of the 100 Most Influential Asians and one of the 100 Most Influential Muslims in the UK.
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