MA in Human Rights 20th Anniversary


The MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights was established in 1995 in collaboration with staff at Amnesty International.  The original aim of the programme was to provide formalised training for human rights professionals.  It uniquely combined an interdisciplinary critical study of human rights with a focus on the skills for securing human rights in practice by drawing on the insights of practitioners in the field.

Twenty years later, there are more than 700 alumni of the MA programme working around the globe in a wide variety of roles. Both the innovative nature of the MA programme and the achievements of our graduates warrant celebration. To mark this occasion, a celebratory conference was organised to bring together alumni and former faculty, and to reinvigorate the MA programme.

The conference took place on Friday 6 November 2015. The programme featured exciting panels of alumni and faculty to reflect on contemporary challenges in the field of human rights.  A reception to celebrate the achievements of alumni followed.  The reception  featured some musical interludes as well from our multi-talented current students and alumni!

Read the conference report [PDF]

Read the Special Issue of the Alumni Newsletter

Buy the conference publication, Contemporary Challenges in Securing Human Rights

Read the conference publication, Contemporary Challenges in Securing Human Rights


12:00 -13:00 Registration and Welcome Lunch

13:00 -13:15 Welcome and Introduction – Professor Philip Murphy (SAS, University of London), Professor James Manor (SAS, University of London) and Dr. Corinne Lennox (SAS, University of London)

13:00 -14:15 Plenary: “The UK: a friend or foe of human rights today? Roundtable on selected contemporary human rights issues”

Chair: Dr. Corinne Lennox (SAS, University of London)

Ms. Bethan Lant (Praxis Community Projects) - “The UK’s Approach on Migration”

Mr. Patrick Canagasingham (Oxfam International) - “The UK’s International Development Policies”

Ms. Smita Shah (Centre for Access to Justice and the Bar of England and Wales) - “Legal Aid Changes and the Impact on Human Rights”

14:15 -14:30 Break

14:30 -15:30 Parallel workshops A

1.            “The Power of Images for Securing Human Rights”

Chair: Dr. Lars Waldorf (University of York).  Speakers: Ms. Gita Sahgal (Centre for Secular Space); Ms. Genna Naccache (SAS, University of London); Mr. Christian McLaughlin (SAS, University of London).

This workshop will explore the use of film and photography in different aspects of human rights campaigning.  Participants will be invited to reflect on iconic images that communicate human rights themes and the messages they give.  How images are selected for human rights campaigns will be discussed.  A case study on using film for community-based advocacy will also be shared.

2.            “New Strategies for Protecting Human Rights Defenders”

Chair: Professor Paul Gready (University of York). Speakers: Ms. Anastasia Denisova (Civic Assistance Committee for Refugees and Forced Migrants); Ms. Elizabeth Openshaw (RedR UK and Psychosynthesis and Education Trust); Ms. Catherine Klirodotakou (Womankind Worldwide)

New strategies and solutions are required for constantly evolving obstacles hindering the crucial work of human rights defenders. This workshop will bring together experts in the field to share their experiences and strategies, including working under authoritarian regimes, working with community-based organisations, and reflecting on some of the psycho-social dimensions of protection.

15:30 -15:45 Break (Refreshments served)

15:45 -16:45 Parallel workshops B

1.            “The Power of Campaigning: New strategies”

Chair: Mr. Abe Ncube (Paiwand). Speakers: Ms. Bridget Burrows (ActionAid) and Ms. Joanna Ewart-James (Walk Free)

Achieving change, both locally and internationally is essential in securing human rights.  This workshop has something to offer for everyone, from seasoned campaigners to advocacy amateurs.  Participants will discuss new strategies being used by NGOs in contemporary campaigning, from the local level to the digital age.

2.            “How to Successfully Build and Manage a Human Rights NGO”

Chair:  Ms. Laila Sumpton (Most Mira and Plan UK). Speakers: Ms. Saiqa Ali (Southern Women’s Aid Network); Ms. Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren (Free Tibet and Tibet Watch); Ms. Sue McMillan (Most Mira and Havasupai)

Have you ever wondered what it takes to found and manage a Human Rights NGO? From engaging key stakeholders to accessing funding, a range of skills and strategies are required to run a successful and well-respected NGO. Our experienced alumni will uncover some of the challenges and opportunities they have encountered in their work in creating new NGOs and running small NGOs.

17.00 -17:30 Alumni feedback session – Dr. Corinne Lennox (SAS, University of London), Dr. Damien Short (SAS, University of London)

Closing remarks

17:30 -21:00 Reception

Music: a performance by MA alumni and friends

All conference attendees will receive a complimentary copy of a new edited book with contributions by alumni and former or currently faculty on Contemporary Challenges for Understanding and Securing Human Rights in Practice published by the School of Advanced Study.

All conference attendees will receive a complementary copy of a new edited book with contributions by alumni and former or currently faculty on Contemporary Challenges for Understanding and Securing Human Rights in Practice, published by the School of Advanced Study.

All are welcome!  For those who are not alumni or who are prospective students, this is a great opportunity learn more about human rights and the MA programme.

Please register in advance online here.

Please post your photos, stories and greetings to fellow alumni on our 20th anniversary Facebook page.