29 November 2011
Press Release

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Annual United Nations Student Conference on Human Rights on Theme ‘Discrimination

and Human Rights Defenders’ to Be Held at Headquarters, 30 November - 2 December

Approximately 700 high school students from the United States, Canada, France, Mexico and Romania will participate in the fourteenth annual United Nations Student Conference on Human Rights from 30 November to 2 December under the theme Discrimination and Human Rights Defenders.

The three-day conference is being organized by the Department of Public Information as part of the commemoration of Human Rights Day, which is observed annually by the United Nations on 10 December, and the tenth anniversary of the Durban conference (the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance).  The student conference is an integral part of the United Nations international human rights education programme for high school students.

The opening day of the conference takes place at the United Nations International School, where students will be welcomed by the school’s Principal and Executive Director as well as student leaders of the school’s Human Rights Committee.  Participants will also be addressed by a panel of human rights experts on the main conference theme and on each of the four subthemes selected for the conference:  racial discrimination; discrimination against persons with disabilities; discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS; and discrimination against women.

  On 1 and 2 December, students will meet at United Nations Headquarters and will be addressed by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović.  “Millions of people suffer discrimination every day simply because of who they are.  It is up to each of us to take action to realize a world where all are born free and equal.  The conference is a great opportunity for young people to discuss how they can make a difference,” says Mr. Šimonović.

At United Nations Headquarters, students representing close to 40  New York City public schools and schools in Wyoming and Winnipeg, Canada, will be linked by videoconference to their counterparts in Memphis, Tennessee; Toulouse, France; Mexico City; and Tărgu-Mures, Romania to share their research on the various conference subthemes.  The United Nations Information Centre in Mexico City is organizing a parallel regional student conference with participants from 19 countries in Latin America.

Each videoconference site will also develop, via group discussion, a series of project proposals which students will be encouraged to implement in their schools or local communities.  The project proposals will be presented to and critiqued by the panel of experts on the final day of the conference.

The conference is being organized in collaboration with the following partners:  the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Associated Schools Project (ASPnet), Canada; Amnesty International USA; the New York City Department of Education; non-governmental organizations – Global Education Motivators and InterConnections 21; the United Nations International School; and the Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn.

The student conference will be webcast live on the United Nations website at www.un.org/webcast.  For additional information on this conference and on the United Nations Department of Public Information’s education outreach programmes, contact Yvonne Acosta, Chief, Education Outreach, tel.: 1 212 963 7214, e-mail:  acostay@un.org; or Bill Yotive, Manager, Global Teaching and Learning Project, tel.: 1 212 963.1400, e-mail:  yotive@un.org.

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For information media • not an official record