Conferences & Symposia

The University of Dayton, through the Human Rights Studies program, has organized major local, national and international conferences focusing on the rights of the vulnerable and exploited: children, women, migrants, refugees and trafficked persons. Many of these conferences have led to sustained initiatives.

Publications & initiatives

Much of our research and many of our conferences have produced both academic publications and sustained community initiatives:

  • The 2001 conference on the rights of the child produced an edited book (Children’s Human Rights: Progress and Challenges for Children Worldwide, Mark Ensalaco and Linda Majka eds. Rowman and Littlefield, 2005) containing  chapters from five UD faculty and seven external contributors from Europe, North America and Latin America.
  • The 2002 conference on peace and justice, conducted in partnership with the United States Institute for Peace, assembled researchers, educators and practitioners from human rights studies and peace and conflict resolution studies to develop interdisciplinary research strategies.
  • The 2009 conference on human trafficking assembled elected officials, representatives of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and area social service and victims’assistance organizations to develop a regional strategy to confront human trafficking in Ohio.  The conference was covered in an article in Observer/Guardian London.


Collaboration at local, national and international levels

Human Rights Studies faculty at UD collaborate in conferences, programs and other events that give positive impact at a local, national and international level:

  • Local: Abolition Ohio. At the request of local and state law enforcement agencies and social service organizations the Human Rights Studies program took a leadership role in the creation of a regional anti-trafficking coalition – Abolition Ohio -- under the auspices of the US Department of health and Human Services Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking. Abolition Ohio is chaired by a member of the Human Rights Studies faculty and meets monthly on the university campus.  Additionally, the HRS faculty and students were was instrumental in the advocacy effort that led to the enactment of Ohio Senate Bill 235 which made human trafficking a criminal offense in Ohio.
  • National: United States Institute for Peace. In 2001 the HRS program, in collaboration with the USIP, conducted a major national conference (No Peace without Justice) that explored the synergies of human rights studies and peace/conflict resolution studies.  The conference was funded by the USIP and resulted in the creation of an innovative Peace and Global Security concentration in UD’s International Studies program.
  • National: Center for Victims of Torture. In 2008 the HRS program, in collaboration with the Center for Victim’s of Torture, organized an event (American Voices for American Values: the Campaign to End Torture) to advocate for a presidential executive order on prisoner treatment, torture and cruelty. At the conclusion of the university’s president signed a declaration appealing for that executive order along with university faculty, staff and students as well as member of the Dayton community.  President Obama signed an executive order on prisoner treatment in 2009.
  • International: The Inter-American Institute for Human Rights. In 1999 the newly created HRS program, in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights convened an international conference (Human Rights in the Americans on the Eve of the 21st Century) to explore NGO strategies to anticipate emerging human rights issues in the aftermath of the conflicts in Central and South America in previous decades.  Representatives of human rights NGOs from all five Central American republics and Mexico attended the conference.  Subsequently, at the request of Juan Mendez, then director of the Institute, the HRS program and the Institute submitted a major grant proposal (unfunded) to the United States Agency for International Development to establish a university/NGO consortium to train NGO leaders and develop the capacity of Latin American human rights NGOs.  USAID ranked the joint University of Dayton-Inter-American Institute for Human Rights proposal second behind the American Bar Association.
  • International: Catholic Relief Services. In 2012 the HRS program entered into a multi-year partnership with Catholic Relief Services under the auspices of the Scholars in Global Solidarity initiative.  CRS has invited the university to participate in the SGS initiative in recognition of the Human Rights Studies program’s achievements in the areas of human rights education and research.  Under the SGS initiative, four university faculty members will interact with and advise CRS professional staff working in Africa and Latin America.


The Archbishop Oscar Romero Human Rights Award & Symposium

The number of distinguished human rights advocates who have come to the university to accept the Archbishop Oscar Romero Human Rights Award attests to the international acclaim of the university’s human rights initiatives.  Established to honor an individual or organization whose work has contributed substantially to the promotion of the dignity of the human person and the alleviation of the suffering of the human family, the Award has been bestowed 6 times since 1999. Award recipients include:

  • Juan Mendez for his work with Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights
  • Casa Alianza, the Central American affiliate of Covenant House, for its defense of Central American street children
  • Radhika Coomaraswamy, for her work as UN special rapporteur on violence against women
  • Juan Guzman for his courageous prosecution of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet
  • Bernard Kuchner for his humanitarian work with Doctors without Borders
  • The department of Migration and Refugee Services of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for its work with migrants, refugees and trafficked persons

The Archbishop Romero Human Rights Symposium, conducted on the occasion of the Award ceremony, is a public dialogue among distinguished human rights scholars and advocates about innovative approaches to urgent human rights and humanitarian issues.