Awarding ceremony

Venice the centre of the most prestigious European human rights master’s programme

11 October Oct 2019 1725 11 October 2019
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As of tradition the graduation ceremony of the European Master's Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation (EMA) has taken place in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. EMA is the first master’s programme funded by the EU. 41 universities located in all EU member States are part of the programme. EMA is promoted by Global Campus of Human Rights, a network of more than 100 universities worldwide which offers training in the fields of human rights and democratisation

In the magnificent Scuola Grande di San Rocco, in Venice, where Tintoretto was called to paint his most famous painting cycle with scenes of the Old and New Testament, the ceremony of the awarding of the EMA diplomas, academic year 2018/2019, was held on the 29th of September 2019. The event also marked the inauguration of the academic year 2019/2020. 90 students were awarded the master’s diploma and 90 other students, who are going to start the 2019/2020 academic year, were also present.

Manfred Nowak, Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights, the largest institution in the world offering postgraduate education in the fields of human rights and democratisation, which is also a network of more than 100 universities worldwide, welcomed graduates, students, professors and partner organisations, as well as Veronica Gomez, Global Campus Council Chair, and Maria Laura Picchio Forlati, Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Manfred Nowak addressed the students pointing out that they are not only EMA master’s students, “but also members of an incredible network of more than 100 universities worldwide”. In fact, as Manfred Nowak went on to explain, “after a transition period of many years, initiated by the EU in 2012, the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC), with headquarters in Venice, founded in 2002 by 15 European universities, last February became the Global Campus of Human Rights, with Venice as its international headquarters. Veronica Gomez, Global Campus Council Chair , said that Global Campus of Human Rights’ partnerships are an expression of the universality of human rights. She also mentioned the EU, as the main funder and supporting organisation of the Global Campus of Human Rights.

Founded in 1997, thanks to the vision of 10 pioneer universities, EMA is the first master’s programme funded by the EU. Today EMA counts on the participation of 41 prestigious universities and centres for human rights, located in all EU Member States. EMA is both a residential and an exchange programme. In the first semester, from September to January, master’s courses are held at Global Campus of Human Rights’ headquarters, while the second semester is organised in one of the 42 universities located in the Member States.


Students at the graduation ceremony

Paolo Romor, Councillor for Educational Policies, Municipality of Venice, partner of Global Campus of Human Rights, said that in Italy, differently to other places in the world, human rights, such as equality and freedom, are safeguarded, in areas like education and health. Human rights, he pointed out, should not be taken for granted. Venice has been for centuries an example of dialogue between cultures.

Michael O'Flaherty, commented on this year’s title of the Venice Biennale: “May we live in interesting times” , by saying that we can live in better times, “times of hope”, and that young people graduating today will be the guardians of this future.

Then Jean-Paul Lehners, Chair of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe, remarked that, although the roots of racism go far back in time, the tragic thing is that Europe is not yet immune to the most violent and extreme forms of racism. “My organisation”, he concluded, “has been working for 25 years tyo fight against this phenomenon”.

Lotte Leicht, Director, Human Rights Watch EU advocacy and Brussels office, made a heartfelt contribution by giving examples of common people who become extraordinary the moment in which they fight for and defend the human rights of their own communities. She encouraged students and graduates to listen to personal stories, to be brave and make the difference.

The ceremony was accompanied by the notes of Musicians for Human Rights, an international network of musicians committed to the promotion of human rights, coordinated by the Executive Director, Julian Fifer.


Musicians for Human Rights. Yasemin Sannino (centre), Voice

The keynote speaker Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, talked about the risks and challenges that young people face today from many points of view. He told students not to give up and unite, bringing their education and values together, to make the world a better place.

During the ceremony Nnimmo Bassey, 2010 laureate of the Right Livelihood Award , also known as the alternative Nobel Peace Prize, that this year celebrates its 40th anniversary, spoke about the partnership between the Rights Livelihood Foundation and the Global Campus of Human Rights. The Rights Livelihood Foundation is a Swedish institution that on the 25th of September this year in Stockholm, awarded Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara), Guo Jianmei (China), Greta Thunberg (Sweden) and Davi Kopenawa / Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil).

Milen Kidane, EMA alumna 1999, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF Nigeria, is the winner of the first EMAlumni Award, an award which she accepted on behalf of the children she helps. The award, which was introduced by Véronique Lerch, President of the EMAlumni Association, and given to Milen Kidane by Manfed Nowak, is a glass sculpture called “Collective Memory”, donated by artist Koen Vanmechelen and Fondazione Berengo.

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Milen Kidane, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF Nigeria, receives the EMAlumni Award from Manfred Nowak, Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights

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