The Communications Office Photos by Sarahi Apaez
Choi Auditorium filled with people and a guest speaker up front

Organized by faculty and students from the Department of Diplomacy & World Affairs, the annual program takes place March 25–29 this year and features a dynamic series of events highlighting issues in the global community.

Schedule of Events

The Department of Diplomacy & World Affairs (DWA) presents an exciting lineup of events, world-class speakers, and an art exhibition that are all designed to raise awareness on global issues. This year's UN Week theme is “Human Rights Defenders.” All nine events, held in locations across campus and virtually, are free and open to the public.

DWA has organized an annual UN Week for almost 20 years, says Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs Laura Hebert. In earlier years, the programming was limited mostly to one keynote speaker and a panel event featuring alumni of Occidental’s Kahane UN Program. Beginning in the spring of 2017, the Kahane endowment allowed DWA to expand UN Week considerably, and the department has sought to generate campus-wide conversations around UN-related ideas, norms, and practices—particularly related to social justice issues.

“This year, with even well-established human rights principles under threat in the US and around the world, the Kahane UN Program advisory committee decided to spotlight ‘Human Rights Defenders’—those who individually or in concert with others are actively involved in ensuring the respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights,” Hebert says.

The advisory committee, which includes the director and assistant director of the UN Program, led the planning of several of the week’s events. This includes the March 25 keynote event with Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Human Rights Council’s first-ever appointed independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I firmly believe UN Week is a fantastic jumping-off point for students interested in becoming global change makers.
             –Molly Sparrow ’24

In recent years, Oxy students have been empowered to organize events on their own as well. The planning of the art exhibition and panel discussion on ‘Art, Truth, and Memorialization,’ the UN trivia night, the screening of How to Survive a Plague, the model UN mini-conference, and the “Exploring Human Rights Defense” roundtable are all student-led.

Molly Sparrow ’24, a member of the DWA Majors Association, has assisted with planning UN Week for the past two years. She says she is always impressed with what her fellow students come up with.

“Planning UN Week has allowed me to develop strong time management, communication, and delegation skills that I will take with me into my future career,” she says. “I have enjoyed the connections that I have made and seen other students make with people in the human rights and UN spheres and how events have synthesized and expanded my and other students’ interests.

“I firmly believe UN Week is a fantastic jumping-off point for students interested in becoming global change makers.”

three seated students, one holding a mic and asking a question

Schedule of Events

Monday, March 25

12–1 p.m., Choi Auditorium: “Art, Truth, & Memorialization”
A conversation on the role of art in truth-telling and resistance with Gail Kennard, vice president of the City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission, and Brenda Perez, founder of Restorative Justice for the Arts. There will also be a week-long art exhibition in the Johnson Hall Global Forum and Library entrance showcasing past student protests.

5:15–6 p.m., Johnson Hall Global Forum: Pre-keynote Reception

6–7:30 p.m., Choi Auditorium: Keynote event – “Fundamentalisms, ‘Queerness’ and Other Vexing Issues in the UN: Advancing Human Rights in Times of Crisis
A presentation by and conversation with Costa Rican lawyer Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the former UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, and former member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Madrigal-Borloz is also a senior visiting researcher at Harvard University and was a former legal director of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Tuesday, March 26

6 p.m., Choi Auditorium: UN Trivia Night!
The DWA Majors Association (DWAMA) hosts a UN-themed trivia night open to all Oxy students. Prizes will be given to the winning teams!

Wednesday, March 27

12–1:15 p.m.: “Defenders Fighting Extremisms: Activism in ‘Multilateral’ Spaces”
Zoom Event - Meeting ID: 817 0017 0298, Passcode: 232540

This remote event will feature human rights defenders who are fighting against efforts at the UN, the African Commission, and the Inter-American Commission to control bodily autonomy, reproductive and sexual rights, and the rights of women and LGBTIQ people (among others), and attempts to close down civil society space and promote autocratic governance. The event will be moderated by Cynthia Rothschild, director of the Kahane United Nations Program at Occidental.

  • Mirta Moragas: (Paraguay) Lawyer, feminist activist and human rights advocate; director of policy and advocacy, Synergia Initiatives for Human Rights; regional coordinator of the Campaign for an Inter-American Convention on Human Rights and Reproductive Rights 
  • Varyanne Sika: (Kenya) Feminist, writer and researcher; expert in development, human rights and gender. Focuses on advocacy at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights; formerly of the Coalition of African Lesbians
  • Naureen Shameem: (Canada/US/Pakistan) Feminist activist and human rights lawyer; executive director, The Noor Network; board member, Women Living Under Muslim Laws. Focuses on investigating and challenging global anti-rights and anti-democratic movements

6 p.m., Choi Auditorium: Film Screening,How to Survive a Plague
How to Survive a Plague is a touching and powerful documentary about the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the work of key activist groups ACT UP and TAG.

Thursday, March 28

12–1:15 p.m., Johnson 203: Model UN Mini-Conference
Come collaborate and compete with other students to solve pressing issues of humanitarian worker safety in conflict zones. Open to all majors. No prior Model UN experience necessary!

5–7 p.m., Johnson Hall Global Forum: UN Program Alumni Panel
Featuring Fall 2023 Kahane UN Program participants and alumni from previous years. The panel will be followed by a reception in the Global Forum.

Friday, March 29

12–1:15 p.m., Johnson Hall Global Forum: “Exploring Human Rights Defense: Perspectives from the Occidental Community”
This panel discussion will spotlight human rights defenders from the Oxy community who grapple with the intersections of development, local and global norms, and human rights.