The Donia Human Rights Center, housed in the International Institute at the University of Michigan, presents a lecture by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The lecture is part of the center’s Distinguished Lecture Series, a prestigious venue for renowned scholars and practitioners who have made significant contributions to the advancement of human rights in the world.

His lecture, “Global Challenges to Human Rights Today,” takes place on Wednesday, November 6, at 4:00 pm in Weiser Hall, room 1010, 500 Church Street, Ann Arbor. This event is free and open to the public.

Al Hussein will address his concerns about the threats to global stability posed by such forces as racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and authoritarian leaders, and he will argue that the safety of humanity will be secured only through vision, energy, and generosity of spirit. According to Al Hussein, “Silence does not earn you any respect—none,” and only through civic activism can we ensure equality and justice.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan is the former United Nations (U.N.) High Commissioner for Human Rights, having served from 2014 to 2018. He was the first Arab and Muslim to hold the post. Known for his outspoken criticism of fascism, religious radicalism, and threats to civil liberties growing in countries around the world, Al Hussein is a powerful advocate for human rights and open societies. In his speaking engagements, Al Hussein draws from his career in diplomacy, and as the Human Rights Chief, to address the geopolitical climate, relations in the Middle East, and the current challenges to human rights.

At the U.N., he called upon powerful and small states alike to secure human rights in their own countries and internationally, drawing notable attention to the atrocities committed in Syria, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, to the treatment of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. His principled approach to his role became most evident when he announced that he wouldn’t seek a second term due to the trying task of dealing with governments and the limited power of the U.N. Security Council. In his final U.N. address, Al Hussein shared his concern about the threat to global stability posed by increasing nationalism, and warned world powers against undermining civil liberties.

A veteran multilateral diplomat, Al Hussein was Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. from 2000 to 2007 and again from 2010 to 2014. From 2007 to 2010, he was Jordan’s Ambassador to the U.S. and served as the country’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N. with the rank of Ambassador from 1996-2000. An expert in the field of international justice, Al Hussein was a central figure in the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), chairing the complex negotiations to establish the exact terms of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. He was subsequently elected the first president of the governing body of the ICC in 2002, and grew it into the internationally recognized court that it is today.

Al Hussein has been active on many legal issues, including international law, post-conflict peacebuilding, international development, counter nuclear terrorism, and women’s development. Following allegations of widespread abuse being committed by U.N. peacekeepers, Al Hussein was appointed by Kofi Annan as Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. His report on this subject was the first comprehensive strategy for the elimination of sexual exploitation and abuse in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

He recently pledged to be an International Gender Champion, committed to advancing gender equality in the office of Human Rights. In 2018, the International Women's Health Coalition honored him with its Visionary Leadership Award. He was also the Stockholm Human Rights Award recipient in 2015 and winner of Foreign Policy's Career Diplomat of the Year Award in 2018.

In 1989, Al Hussein received his commission as an officer in the Jordanian desert police (the successor to the Arab Legion) and served until 1994. He spent two years as a political affairs officer for UNPROFOR, the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia, before starting his diplomatic career.

Al Hussein holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University, a PhD in history from Cambridge University, and was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Law by the Southern California Institute of Law for his work on international justice.

The Donia Human Rights Center is pleased to present this lecture in conjunction with the following co-sponsors: Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, College of Literature, Science and the Arts, Department of History, Department of Sociology, Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum, Global Islamic Studies Center, Institute for the Humanities, International Policy Center, King•Chavéz•Parks Visiting Professors Program, Law School, Middle East Studies Department, Office of the Vice Provost, Program in International and Comparative Studies, and Rackham Graduate School.


Nataša Gruden-Alajbegović

The Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC), housed within the International Institute, is a forum for intellectual exchange on issues around human rights among scholars, practitioners, students, and the broader public. DHRC aims to promote a deeper understanding of human rights issues in the contemporary world and to equip constituents with the tools to tackle challenging human rights problems around the world.