USC holds first human rights conference

The Student Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy, an anti-genocide coalition, hosted its first annual Human Rights Conference on Saturday, which included participants from USC and other regional universities. The conference aimed to address issues of human rights in developing countries and promote humanitarian goals across the world to help end genocide.

The conference included speeches, workshops, presentations on activism and a documentary screening and was funded by USG and the Jewish World Watch.

“We have been working on this for a while now,” Darcy Gleeson, a STAND activist and writer for the Daily Trojan, said. “I hope that today everyone leaves with a greater understanding of [world] conflicts and how they are directly a part of [these conflicts]. We are a part of a chain that has a big effect on people.”

There were two workshops by the Jewish World Watch and iEmpathize. The JWW workshop was conducted by Mike Brand, director of policy and programs at JWW, and Noa Oldak-Moradian, a program associate at JWW. They deliberated on strategies of effectively engaging Congress to fight genocide and discussed the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Brand and Oldak-Moradian also brought up the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act and other methods used to connect citizens with government agencies working on such issues.

JWW also made an appeal to the students to support their cause by tweeting to the state senators to sponsor their initiative.

Guido Hajenius, iEmpathize’s Southern California Office Engagement Coordinator, discussed how social media can be used as a platform for activism to evoke empathy and empower people to eradicate child exploitation. Hajenius observed that throughout the world, the millions of cases of sexual violence against children and that juvenile exploitation is not only criminal but has cultural implications as well.

“If we are not going to engage other people in this initiative, we are not going to solve this problem,” Hajenius said. “The key thing about empathy is that when you are relating to the suffering of others, you are identifying them to be your equal level, which means everything.”

The conference also featured a workshop about student activism by former STAND President Francesca Bessey.

The event ended with the screening of the documentary film When Elephants Fight. The film focuses on the controversy over mineral-rich soil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the civil war that has brought poverty, war and corruption to the Congolese while corporations, nations and armed groups have made billions sustaining today’s technology. A noted social activist and filmmaker, Michael Ramsdell, was present to discuss the documentary afterward.

Manaswini Tummala, a senior majoring in international relations and economics, said that the conference was effective in not just raising awareness for activism, but also as a potential networking event for people who are considering a career in the field.

“Such conferences show you that there are alternate career paths that you can take after college, working for the society and non-profits,” Tummala said. “More importantly, they show you how to connect with a lot of people within your workspace and still make a difference.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misquoted Mike Brand as saying “The development on campus is a really great example of grad students and GAPA coming together to work on such important issues. The modern workers are working hard to get this bill introduced in the Senate.” The quote has been removed. The students are working together on important issues and GAPA is an example of grass-roots advocacy. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.