Global rights summit to unite activists in demand for UN action this week against worst abusers

NEW YORK, September 17, 2011 – A coalition of human rights NGOs will hold a major summit in New York on September 21-22, 2011 to impress upon world leaders gathering for the UN General Assembly that “human rights are universal.”

We Have A Dream: The Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution will be held next to UN Headquarters in New York at the same time as the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly and the 10th anniversary commemoration of the UN’s Durban conference on racism, discrimination and xenophobia.

“More than sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promised a world free from inhumanity, fear and intolerance, authoritarian states around the world continue to use widespread violence and hatred against their own citizens,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, one of 20 human rights groups organizing the summit.

“Our summit will address the full array of human rights concerns, demanding that countries comply with their international legal obligation to respect freedom from torture, arbitrary detention, and censorship, and to put an end to discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual preference,” said Jared Genser, founder of Freedom Now, another co-sponsor.

“The global diversity of our participants demonstrates that the claim of fundamental human rights is universal, and not—as gross violators often argue—limited to particular nations and cultures,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based co-sponsor.

Bringing together prominent dissidents and human rights activists from countries with some of the most abysmal human rights records—including China, Syria, Sudan, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran—the conference will produce draft UN resolutions for world leaders to adopt on governments that commit genocide, torture, discrimination, and systematically violate civil, religious and political freedoms.

Mariane Pearl, an author and vocal advocate for the rights of women in conflict zones, and the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, will headline the summit’s session on empowering women.

The stellar line-up of summit presenters also includes Yang Jianli, a senior Chinese human rights activist and veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising; Rebiya Kadeer, the voice of China’s oppressed Uyghur minority; Jacqueline Kasha, a courageous defender of LGBT rights in Uganda;Grace Kwanjeh, a Zimbabwean women’s rights activist tortured by the Mugabe regime; Ahed al Hendi, a Syrian writer jailed for opposing the Assad regime; and John Dau, a survivor of genocide in Sudan.

Prominent dissidents, former prisoners of conscience, and cyber-activists from Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Vietnam and Burma will also participate.

“We will be providing a platform for some of the world’s most courageous champions of human rights, to ensure their vital voices will be heard by world leaders gathered for the General Assembly and the Durban racism conference,” said Lantos Swett. “Each summit participant was chosen because of the compelling personal story he or she has to tell, emblematic of the larger suffering of their people. Overcoming imprisonment, exile and torture, they will be coming together to work toward the shared dream of a world where persecution based on one’s beliefs or origins is consigned to the dustbin of history.”

For more information about the Summit, including the entire list of participants, please visit us online at Regular updates will be provided on Facebook (“Like” us a t and Twitter (follow @wehaveadream_GS).

For interview requests and related inquiries, please contact Ben Cohen, the summit’s Media Relations Director in New York:, tel: 917 302 0194.

UN Watch