Human Rights In A Populist World
Protecting people’s rights to education is now more important than ever
Distrust of the government and its bureaucracies is inherently harmful
The United States’ acceptance of the “extreme norm” is detrimental to progress
John Williams, head of NYU’s International Relations program, sponsored and invited Kate Gilmore, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, to speak at the event “Human Rights in a Populist World” which took place at 19 University Place, room 102, on Mar. 26, 2019. Within the first few sentences of her presentation, Gilmore posed a question to the crowd: have we thought of the privilege we must have to be able to sit at a higher learning institution listening to her speak?
Although education is seen as a fundamental right in the United States, it is treated differently in other areas around the world.
Gilmore cited Brazil as her first example. After the election of a far-right leader, Brazil’s military police raided approximately 20 universities. Their main target? Curriculum and material that promoted democracy, activism, and anti-fascist ideology. All around the world education is being attacked in order to blindside individuals to the injustices that take place in their very country. Gilmore passionately believes that in order to stop the worst crimes against humanity, those of us in places of educational privilege such as the U.S. must now more than ever protect the rights of those in places where education is under attack. It is then and only then can we truly progress in our fight for human rights.
However, individuals who do live in educationally privileged areas face their own problems — the government. In recent years, there has been an upward trend in distrust towards governments and institutions. Even the UN is not immune to this scrutiny.
The distrust Gilmore touches on stems from uncertainty that our leaders can cababily handle the changing times. For example, rather than denouncing Al-Qaeda for 9/11, the US declared a total war on terror, upping surveillance which thrives on stereotypes. The handling of that particular situation in a modern context was not a simple regression to outdated tactics, but an act that divided the country. Even organizations such as the World Health Organization are subjected to distrust; when Gilmore recently spoke to some members within the WHO, she learned that the WHO’s main concern was trying to manage the level of distrust people had in health science and vaccines. In spite of this, Gilmore does not blame the people — when the government has failed its constituents time and time gain, this reaction towards the government is only natural.
Gilmore summed everything best in her own words: “Nobody’s hope can be rooted in the hopelessness of someone else”.
Further expanding on the topic, Williams asked Gilmore how detrimental the recent phenomenon of accepting the “extreme norm” is.
Gilmore traced the “extreme norm” phenomenon to education. Accepting the extreme norm is detrimental to the advancement of both the truth and the science that validates the truth. Gilmore said we have the tools at our disposal to discern what is true from what is false; however, the blind acceptance of false claims lessens our desire to educate ourselves on various issues. The lack of motivation behind self-education means that we have lost the ability to critically think about issues all around the world, and that is what poses the greatest detriment to progress.
This report was compiled by Anabelle Ortiz on March 26th, 2019 and edited by Jamin Chen.