For the past 6 months, I had the privilege of facilitating dialog between 25 global young leaders who were selected into the 2013 class of McGill Echenberg Fellowship. This week, we converged in frigid Montreal for 4 days of intense dialog and debate on democracy, rule of law, human rights and the fragility of freedom.
The Fellows originate from 20 different countries, and the diversity of thought, processes, perspective, and culture really showed. I was extremely honored to have the opportunity to be their facilitator and I now count them among the closest of my colleagues. We had a challenging time while discussing extremely difficult issues and the experience challenged each of our preconceived notions of what it means to be a human rights activist. This is a question that can’t be sufficiently explored in 4 days, but it is a perfect opening to what I hope is a lifetime of dialog around the difficult concept of human rights.
One final conclusion that we did come to was that human rights are universal. We may all be working at different corners of the human rights struggle, but if we truly subscribe to the notion that human rights are truly universal, then we have to work to protect ALL human rights. Not just some. And as young leaders, it is my hope that they come out of this conference with the understanding that being a human rights leader, by default, requires you to rise several levels above conventional discourse. It requires all of us to go all in, without question, without prejudice, and without partiality.