2023 Symposium

This year’s symposium took place Saturday, March 4th at UCLA Law and explored the intersection of the international human rights framework with the domestic legal, political and social landscapes in the United States.

We offered a particular emphasis on critical perspectives, as well as the struggles of impacted communities advocating for social justice and their human rights.

Our symposium occurred in constellation with a number of events taking place around the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ visit to UCLA in March 2023. For more information on those events, please click here.

Watch the Full Livestream Recording

Opening Keynote

The Inter-American System and the Obligations of States

Julissa Mantilla, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

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panel 1

The United States and the Human Rights Project Writ Large

This panel explored the real and perceived gaps between U.S. civil and constitutional law and international human rights protections, including those arising from the Inter-American System. The panel considered the reasons for these gaps, including how U.S. exceptionalism has created obstacles to greater U.S. accountability within the international human rights framework. 

The panel also unpacked whether the human rights frame can be wielded to liberatory and emancipatory ends, engaging with fundamental critiques of human rights including: that it is reinscribed into structural hierarchies of power and inequality; bound up with liberal democracy and neo-liberalism; and rooted in structural legacies of colonialism, settler-colonialism, the slave trade and empire.  

UCLA School of Law is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider. This session is approved for 1.25 HOURS of general MCLE credit. 

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MCLE Readings

panel 2

The Struggle for Human Rights in the United States

The human rights practitioners and advocates on this panel discussed the rights-based social movements they work with and how those movements for social justice intersect with the human rights frame. They discussed the benefits of human rights discourse and using international human rights mechanisms. 

In the process, we hoped to answer the following questions: what are the short and long-term strategies for using international human rights mechanisms to achieve social change? Which international human rights mechanisms have proven effective in these struggles? How has the use of the Inter-American System for Human Rights served as a tool in this struggle? 

UCLA School of Law is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider. This session is approved for 1.25 HOURS of general MCLE credit. 

Watch Panel 2




MCLE Readings

MidDay Keynote

Strategies and Limits for the IACHR in the Face of Human Rights Challenges in the US: The Case of Police Violence

Margarette May Macaulay, Commissioner with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

This keynote focused on the findings of the 2019 IACHR Report on Police Violence in the US and its possible follow-up approaches to catalyze civil society, human rights defenders, and other relevant actors in the US to advance rights protections and prevent backlashes. 

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Student Paper workshop

Back Again: How Airborne Strikes Against al-Shabaab Further U.S. Imperialism

This presentation focused on U.S. human rights violations abroad. Student Steffi Colao combined legal, empirical, and historical viewpoints to critique the U.S. airborne strike campaign against al-Shabaab. She argued that present U.S. intervention in Somalia reiterates longstanding imperialist strategies. As legal critique of airborne strikes has become an insufficient constraint on the U.S. government’s use of the tactic, Colao offered a historical critique to supplement advocacy for ending the policy. 

*This workshop will take place in Room 1420.*

Student Author

  • Steffi Colao, J.D. Candidate, UCLA School of Law


Student Paper

panel 3

The United States and Human Rights Accountability

This panel explored different mechanisms for holding rights violators accountable within the US, including government entities and private actors, and the myriad challenges to ensuring accountability. In particular, the panel examined how a transitional justice framework might be utilized to address racialized and other inequalities within the U.S., what options exist to address the rights violations of migrants in U.S. custody, and how corporate actors can be held accountable for human rights abuses committed abroad.

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Closing Keynote

Leveraging US Civil Society and Academia to Promote Human Rights in the Americas: The Role of the IACHR

Roberta Clarke, Commissioner, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

This speech examined the role of US civil society and academia in promoting human rights in the Americas, as well as the current mechanisms and potential strategies of the IACHR to support these efforts.

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Poetry Reading

Karen McCarthy Woolf’s Fulbright research Un/Safe is a poetry-photo-lyric, travelogue and meditation on the US as a settler nation. She read poems written while in residence at the Promise Institute that explore barbed wire, gentrification and carceral economics as state violence against black, brown and working-class bodies. 

Watch the Poetry Reading


With Thanks to Our Co-Sponsors:

American University Clinical Program Logo
Northeastern Law Logo
U. Penn Transnational Legal Clinic Final
Logo: Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs

And Thanks to Our Co-Hosts: