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Release: Immediate

UI College of Law to host children's rights conference March 14-15

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- James Weill, general counsel for the international child advocacy group Children's Defense Fund, will be the keynote speaker for a national conference on the human rights of children at the University of Iowa College of Law Friday, March 14 and Saturday, March 15.

Weill is the featured speaker for a two-day conference, "International Human Rights at the Grassroots Level: Putting International Standards to Work for Our Children," sponsored by the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights in cooperation with the UI International and Comparative Law Program, the Stanley Foundation, the Iowa Division of the United Nations Association-USA, and ChildRights International.

The conference, which is open to the public, is intended to stimulate international human rights action at the local level.

Several prominent human rights activists and international law scholars will gather at the College of Law to discuss the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child and how the convention affects work by advocacy groups on a community level.

The Convention, ratified by the U.N. in 1996, outlines several provisions of international standards of behavior toward children, spelling out guidelines covering child labor, education, legal protections, discrimination, freedoms and other issues. The agreement, adopted by 187 countries, is the guiding principle for children's rights groups such as UNICEF.

Burns H. Weston, Bessie Dutton Murray Professor of Law at the UI and conference co-chair, said the Convention is a model when it comes to outlining human rights.

"If the world lived by the rights spelled out in this Convention, the world would be a truly wonderful place for everyone," said Weston, who is also associate dean for the International and Comparative Legal Studies at the UI.

Barbara Frey, executive director of the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and a co-chair of the conference, said the series of panel discussions is intended to help build a common agenda between international human rights activists and local human rights activists.

The conference will give children's and juvenile justice advocates, as well as teachers, daycare workers and other professionals who work with children a broader framework for their work, Frey said.

"This conference is one way for us to make an explicit connection between the concerns for human rights that people in the Midwest traditionally have had with the standards for human rights emphasized in international law," Frey said.

The conference begins at noon March 14 with sessions until 5 p.m. Evening activities -- a reception, dinner and the keynote address -- begin at 5:30 p.m.

On Saturday, sessions begin at 8:30 a.m. and the conference concludes at 5:45 p.m.

All sessions take place at the Boyd Law Building. The dinner and keynote address will be held at the Iowa Memorial Union

In addition to Weill's address, the conference will also honor Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, for his work on behalf of children's rights.

All sessions are open to the public but registration fees are required. General registration is $20; the dinner and keynote address is $18. The general registration fee is waived for students.

The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights is a consortium of human rights activists in several Midwestern states. The group was founded as an effort to heighten awareness of human rights and to serve as a resource for legal research, programming and litigation surrounding human rights issues.

Weston and Marcella David, associate professor of law at the UI, are two of the co-founders of the Coalition.

To register, contact the University of Iowa Center for Conferences and Institute, 249 Iowa Memorial Union, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1317; telephone (toll-free): 800-551-9029; fax: (319) 335-3533.