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Release: Immediate

UI committee begins plans for 50th commemoration of human rights

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa will mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during the 1998-99 academic year with a series of campus and civic activities being developed by a new multidisciplinary committee.

Most will be open to the public and many will extend beyond the UI campus.

The committee, which met for the first time in February, is currently discussing proposals for events. The committee is seeking comments, suggestions and support from interested people and groups.

Burns H. Weston, Bessie Dutton Murray Professor and Associate Dean for the International and Comparative Law Program at the UI, said the golden anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a significant event in world history.

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has had a profound and very real impact not only on international law, but also on the lives of human beings the world over," Weston says. "The Declaration is one of the true successes for human rights in the last 50 years.

"We hope the University, surrounding communities and people of Iowa will join in celebrating the Declaration's milestone, and also join in helping to ensure that its influence continues into the future."

Spelling out freedoms, legal protections and other guidelines that signatory nations have pledged to follow, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is among the most influential instruments of international law of the last half century. The declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948.

The UI will serve as a resource institution for the national and regional activities that will be conducted to commemorate the Declaration. Those resources include the Roy J. Carver United Nations Documents Collection, a microform collection of all the available documents created by the UN since its founding in 1945.

The collection was purchased through a gift of the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in April 1994 .

Proposed activities, intended for the fall 1998 semester or the 1998-99 academic year include:

-- Inviting a human rights luminary, such as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to campus for either a major event of the celebration, as part of a conference, or as part of a human rights lecture series;

-- Topically oriented panel discussions with international civil servants, governmental representatives, scholars, and activists from the Non-Governmental Organizations community (for example, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights);

-- Collegiate and departmental projects and events, including curricular initiatives of one sort or another, cross-departmental and otherwise;

-- Articles and symposia in UI publications and journals, such as Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems (TLCP is a six-year-old student-faculty international and comparative law journal published by the College of Law. A tentative title for the fall 1998 issue is, "The Universal Declaration at Fifty: The Next Half Century");

-- Publication of essays or articles about human rights in the fall 1998 issue of the Iowa Review;

-- A book of commissioned essays to be published by the University of Iowa Press;

-- Explorations of curricular approaches to teaching human rights at the K-12, undergraduate, graduate and law school levels;

-- Cultural events at Hancher Auditorium, the University Theatres, the University of Iowa Film Series, the University of Iowa Art Museum, University of Iowa School of Music, and others;

-- Programming on WSUI-KSUI and other radio and TV stations;

-- Activities of local civic institutions and associations, such as the Iowa Division of the United Nations Association-USA and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council.

Activities will be funded in part by the Levitt Distinguished Speakers Endowment of the College of Law, the University of Iowa, and other sources as they become available.

For more information contact James Leaven, Division of Sponsored Programs, 100 Gilmore Hall, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1320, (319) 335-2128; e-mail: