About

The Symposium on Strength and Solidarity for Human Rights is a multi-year project to provoke new efforts and energy across the field of human rights to build organizational strength and increase mutual solidarity.

As states retreat from their responsibilities to protect rights, the need for cross-cultural, intergenerational, multi-identity, and all-class participation in defense of human rights has become critical.

We need shared language and common frameworks in order to be more effective allies. We need open conversations about power and deference to those on the frontlines to renew our struggles and fortify relationships. We need robust connections among our organizations to maintain and increase mutual support.

To that end, the Symposium on Strength and Solidarity for Human Rights seeks to be a source of ideas and energy within the global human rights movement. From now until 2025, we’re convening frontline activists, organizational leaders, scholars, and movement builders in complex conversations. And we’re drawing on those conversations to produce a wide range of written and digital materials exploring ideas about building respectful organizational culture, structuring governance and funding, deploying the language of rights, and establishing a rigorous practice of solidarity.

Our Approach

Institutional health and mutual solidarity are critical to the success of human rights work. In order to achieve this, we: 

BUILD SPACES OF TRUST that allow leading members of human rights organizations and movements to make an honest appraisal of the human rights sector, and their role within it

MODERATE COMPLEX CONVERSATIONS so that participants of all origins can speak and collaborate with safety and ease

CONNECT SYMPOSIUM PARTICIPANTS with opportunities to strengthen their relationships and interrogate questions about the health and resilience of both movements and organizations

FOCUS ON SOLIDARITY AND DEFERENCE as powerful tools in multi-generational, multi-cultural and multi-class struggles for human rights

FOSTER CONDITIONS TO NURTURE OPTIMISM AND CREATIVITY because hope and invention are fundamental to every struggle

Our Principles

Our approach to building strength and solidarity within the human rights field is defined by the following principles:

Deference

demonstrating self-awareness and humility about all that we do not yet know, and following the lead of those on the front lines of struggle

Collaboration

cultivating opportunities for shared discovery, co-creation and iterative design throughout all aspects of our work

Provocation

being willing to question past assumptions, lean into uncomfortable debates and consider alternative approaches to established ideas

Our Team

CHRIS STONE   Principal Moderator 

Chris brings decades of experience in justice sector reform, good governance, and innovation to his role as principal moderator of the Symposium. Chris is professor of practice of public integrity at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. He previously served as president of the Open Society Foundations (2012-2017), Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice and faculty director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at the Harvard Kennedy School (2005-2012), and president of the Vera Institute of Justice (1994-2004).

KATE O’REGAN   Moderator

Kate O’Regan is the inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court (1994-2009). In the mid-1980s she practiced as a lawyer in Johannesburg in a variety of fields, but especially labour law and land law, representing many of the emerging trade unions and their members, as well as communities threatened with eviction under apartheid land laws. Since 2009, she has served as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia (2010-2016), and as a member of the boards or advisory bodies of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and equality.

INNOCENT CHUKWUMA   Moderator

Innocent Chukwuma is a globally renowned advocate for human rights and good governance, and he is an expert at moderating complex conversations. When Innocent is not collaborating with the Symposium, he oversees grantmaking for The Ford Foundation in West Africa, working to ensure that all people have equal access to economic and social opportunities. Prior to his work at Ford, Innocent founded the CLEEN Foundation to promote public safety, security, and accessible justice in West Africa. Under his leadership, the foundation was the first African NGO to be awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2006. Innocent has also held various posts within the Civil Liberties Organization, Nigeria’s first human rights organizations and as a result of the work received the Reebok International Human Rights Award in 1996.

NANI JANSEN REVENTLOW   Moderator

Nani Jansen Reventlow is a recognized international lawyer and expert in human rights litigation responsible for standard-setting freedom of expression cases. She is the founding Director of the Digital Freedom Fund; the architect of Catalysts for Collaboration, promoting interdisciplinary work on digital rights; a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School and an Adjunct Professor at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government. Nani contributes incredible technical acumen and creativity to The Symposium. Previously, she oversaw the litigation practice of the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) globally (2011-2016), and is widely recognized for obtaining the first freedom of expression judgment from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2015 and from the East African Court of Justice in 2016.

AKWE AMOSU   Program Director, Moderator

Akwe’s career has spanned journalism, advocacy, and philanthropy. She comes to the Symposium from the Open Society Foundations where she served most recently as Chief Integration Officer, after earlier stints as the Regional Director for Africa and Director for Africa Advocacy. Akwe began her career in African journalism, moving to the Financial Times, and later to the BBC World Service where she regularly produced and hosted live news and current affairs for an Africa-wide audience of 18 million. She left the BBC to join the team building the allAfrica.com news site and later served as head of communications at the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa before joining OSF in Washington, DC.

CATE BROWN   Program Manager

Cate has worked at the Symposium since its origin in 2018, first serving as a graduate research assistant during her tenure at Columbia University | SIPA, and later joining as the Program Manager in May, 2020. Cate brings years of experience in cross-cultural facilitation and communications to her work with the Symposium. She spent three years working as an international educator for Where There Be Dragons in Southeast Asia and the Middle East and then transitioned into a learning and advocacy role with Mercy Corps’ office in Jordan. She has previously interned with Human Rights Watch and Visualizing Palestine where she combined the power of data and design to advocate for rights.

ANNELEN MICUS   Head of Programmes of The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights

Dr. Annelen Micus is the Head of Programmes of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford. In this role, Annelen seeks to enrich students’ exposure to human rights research and practice and to foster the exchange between human rights practitioners and academics – a goal closely aligned with the diverse participation and multidisciplinary pedagogy of the Symposium. Annelen’s personal research focuses on transitional justice, as well as business and human rights issues. She is currently working on a project aimed at assisting the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace in addressing pressing questions such as how to operationalise the principles of victim participation and restorative justice. Previously, Annelen worked the Lawyers’ Collective “José Alvear Restrepo” (CAJAR), and as a Legal Advisor at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

RUTH KELLY   Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Ruth Kelly is responsible for developing curricula and materials for the Symposium, as The Fund for Global Human Rights’ postdoctoral research fellow at The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights. Since 2016 Ruth has been working with artists, activists and academics from Bangladesh, Uganda and the UK to explore how art, storytelling and leisurely, playful interaction can help activists reimagine justice. For example, she has used the process of telling and reimagining traditional stories – from the European folktale Red Riding Hood to the Buganda origin story Nambi and Kintu – to explore questions related to gender, agency, and the nature of political authority. Ruth is currently deputy chair of the Electoral Reform Society in the UK. She has also worked with ActionAid, Oxfam, UNDP and the European Commission, on projects related to economic justice and tax, trade and investment law and policy.

PETER COCCOMA   Audio and Music Producer

Peter is the audio and music producer for our podcast, Strength and Solidarity. When he’s not editing on our behalf or composing our beloved theme song, Peter works with film, music, and audio for a variety of clients and personal projects. He has directed documentary, experimental, and music videos that have been shown at film festivals around the world. He’s composed music for independent films as well as radio shows from This American Life, Gimlet, and more. As a musician, Peter has toured internationally with various artists and continues to make records with Alpenglow. His work has been featured in Pitchfork, The Guardian, Paste, and other publications. His forthcoming solo album is an instrumental record for electronics and strings that he wrote while living on an island in Lake Superior.

FAQs

How can I join The Symposium on Strength and Solidarity for Human Rights?
Joining The Symposium on Strength and Solidarity is easy – Join us by participating in any of our ongoing conversations about the health and renewal of human rights struggles and the structures that support them. Read more about our current areas of interest under Ideas, or look for upcoming events


What is an open event?
We host several open events each year: online conversations, webinars, and COVID-willing, perhaps something in-person. For a complete list of upcoming events, please visit Open Conversations.


What is an invitational event?
Invitational events are among our smallest and most demanding conversations. We convene several invitational workshops each year, each assembling a group of 25-30 people who often share something in common or could learn from each other’s struggles. In order to ensure that invitational events capture a depth of content as well as a diversity of perspectives, we actively curate each participant list from within our broader community. To learn more about invitational events or request an invitation, visit Invitational Events.


Is there a fee to participate in The Symposium?
No, the full costs of our program are covered by the generous support of The Ford Foundation and The Oak Foundation. To learn more about their portfolio of work, please visit their respective sites.


Who are The Symposium moderators?
Moderators are active members of The Symposium community. We recruit moderators from among those who have participated in recent conversations and meetings of the Symposium. We look for agile facilitators, active listeners, and intuitive collaborators. Our moderators work in teams at each event, and train together annually.


Questions about an upcoming event?
Please email conversations@strengthandsolidarity.org.


Is Symposium participant data protected? How can I remove my name from the list?
Yes. All of our data protection procedures are GDPR compliant and we will seek permission from every participant in order to retain and use their data.