A Lecture by Bennett Freeman, Chair of the Advisory Board of Global Witness and Former Deputy Assistant of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
The year 1995 was a turning point in the history of human rights. Three separate events triggered action to address mass atrocities, oppression of women, and corporate responsibility in ways that reflected and reinforced the emerging role of non-state actors alongside states in creating new standards and mechanisms.
In July of that year, the Srebrenica massacre—the genocidal killing of more than 8,000 Muslims— gave new impetus to the international community’s efforts to bring perpetrators to justice and to prevent such atrocities in the future.
Two months later, in September, then-First-Lady Hillary Clinton called on the world at the UN Women’s Conference in Beijing to “let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all."
That November, Ken Saro Wiwa, the writer and environmental activist who campaigned against the pollution and exploitation of the Niger Delta by western oil companies, was executed by the Nigerian government amid international outrage.
To mark the 20th anniversary of these three landmark events—and to gauge the progress that has been made since—Bennett Freeman delivered this lecture “Righting the Balance for Human Rights: State and Non-State Actors Since 1995.”
Freeman has been directly and indirectly involved in these and other key human rights challenges over the past two decades, as he has worked at the intersection of governments, international institutions, multinational companies, investors, NGOs, and trade unions to improve corporate conduct and to promote human rights and sustainable development around the world.
This lecture was recorded at UC Berkeley's Social Science Matrix on October 27, 2015.