The Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee invites you to an International Virtual Symposium on “COVID-19: Human Rights and International Cooperation”

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COVID-19 first appeared in China and soon became a global pandemic, but the polities of East Asia have been relatively successful in containing it.  Some African states adopted harsh measures to suppress the pathogen while others drew on experience with AIDS and Ebola to mount effective responses.  Although a wealthy and technologically developed country, the U.S. has been notably ineffective in responding to the pandemic.  This symposium will explore these contradictions and complexities.  It will discuss the decline in positive international cooperation and the rise in exploitation of the pandemic to do harm. These recent trends put all of humanity at risk.  


Friday, April 30



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8:30                 Welcoming Remarks


8:45-10:45      Controlling COVID-19 in East Asia


“From Sick Man of Asia to Sick Uncle Sam”

Marta Hanson, Associate Professor, Department of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University 


“One Country, Two Approaches in Responding to COVID-19: Mainland China and Hong Kong Compared"

Chunyan Ding, Associate Professor, School of Law, City University of Hong Kong


“History, Democracy, and Science in the Republic of Korea’s Response to COVID-19”

Juhwan Oh, Professor, College of Medicine/Hospital, Seoul National University


10:45-12:00    Roundtable -- International Cooperation in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Will Nationalism and Securitization Eclipse Real Global Solidarity?


Facilitator: Julia Hall, human rights lawyer and Expert on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Amnesty International--International Secretariat, London


Opening Remarks: “Global Solidarity versus Nationalism: Reflections on International Cooperation in COVID-19 Response”

Rajat Khosla, Senior Director, Research, Advocacy and Policy, Amnesty International—International Secretariat, London


Opening Remarks: "Exceptionality: A Typology of COVID-19 Emergency Powers”

Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Regents Professor, Law School, University of Minnesota; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


12:00-1:00       Lunch Break


1:00-3:00        Pandemics, Health and Human Rights in Africa


COVAX, TRIPPS and AstraZeneca: Challenges Facing African Countries in Responding to COVID-19”

Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi, Executive Director, African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, Kenya


“Public Health, Politics, and Human Rights in Sierra Leone: Encounters with an Ebola Epidemic (2013-2015) and a Coronavirus Pandemic (2020)”

Tamba M’bayo, Associate Professor, Department of History, West Virginia University  


“Weaponizing COVID-19 as a Pretext for Human Rights Violations in Africa”

Mausi Segun, Executive Director, Africa Division, Human Rights Watch


3:00                 Closing Remarks


All events are free and open to the public


Sponsors: Alison Des Forges Memorial Committee; University at Buffalo: Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy; Confucius Institute; Department of Comparative Literature; Gender Institute; Humanities Institute; James Agee Chair in American Culture; Office of Global Health Initiatives, School of Public Health and Health Professions; Office of the Vice Provost for International Education


This symposium honors the life and work of human rights activist Alison Des Forges (1942-2009).


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