Venice School of Human Rights

Programme 2015

Human Rights as our Responsibility


After an introduction on general challenges, three topics have been selected to be examined in depth:

Programme of the general introduction:

Business and Human Rights

States, international organisations, companies and civil society agree that there is hardly any more important topic in a globalised world than business and human rights. Major companies contribute to human rights implementation with different methods and means following the set of Ruggie principles. However, there are still many open questions in particular how to connect the human rights implementation with successful business models meeting the necessities of global demands and local necessities. In 2015 there will be a new impetus towards transforming the Ruggie Principles into binding rules. The EU will discuss a new business and human rights agenda and the United Nations will use its mechanisms to clarify the content of existing obligations.

EIUC in the framework of its Venice School will contribute to this process by bringing together politicians, business, academia and civil society discussing the hot topics of the BHR-agenda. The week from June 29 to July 4th will in presentations, workshops and discussions highlight avenues for the a better grounding of the topic in business and politics alike taking into account the requirements of productions cycle, trade, investments etc. An introduction into the human rights situation in June as a general introduction as well as the present state of BHR agenda sets the stage for an intensive exchange between presenters and participants. 

The Venice School is aiming at developing a new regular platform for business and human rights which can be used to exchange views in a new format using the competencies and global network of the Global Campus and EIUC. 

Programme of Cluster A: Business and Human Rights

Technical Progress and Human Rights

Throughout history, there has always been a link between technical progress and human rights. The invention of printing was instrumental in achieving religious freedom and freedom of expression. The Enlightenment in Europe and the nineteenth century held the hold that the development of the sciences would contribute to man’s freedom. Today, the vision is more nuanced. With Hiroshima, distrust took hold and the success of the precautionary principle attests to this. The consequences of progress on human rights are appreciated in a more ambivalent way.

The purpose of this cluster is to take stock of the situation. To this end, two areas have been selected: medical progress and IT development. Modern medicine has resulted in a remarkable increase in the length and quality of life. But developments in the field of procreation have caused us to question our view of filiation and of the family more generally. The existence of advanced and expensive medical technologies underlines the problem of equal access to health care. As for computer science, the trend of general access to data encroaches on the sphere of private life and individual freedom when this data is used for social control purposes.

A thorough study of these issues will be facilitated through lectures and practical seminars. An in-depth analysis will be conducted on the topic of health care access which will be compared to intellectual property and on the answers that the EU tries to provide with the collection of information in order to fight against crime and terrorism.

The section on medicine will be taught by Henette-Vauchez professor at the University of Paris X-Nanterre and the one concerning data protection by Professor Wolfgang Benedek from the University of Graz. Judge Albie Sachs from South Africa will deal with practical cases related to health care access faced to the intellectual property and Professor Emilio De Capitani, former head of the Libe Committee of the European Parliament, will address the current challenges facing the EU in the field of data protection. Finally, Professor Stefano Rodotà will provide an overview of the topics in question with specific views on transhumanism.

Programme of Cluster B: Technical Progress and Human Rights

Gender based Violence and Gender (in-)Equality: from ‘CEDAW’ to Istanbul and beyond

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time. Deeply rooted in stereotypes and widespread social practices, GBV reinforces gender inequalities and causes devastating damage to victims, particularly to women who are disproportionately affected, to families and societies.

The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), often described as the international ‘Bill of Rights’ for women, has been instrumental in sparking a number of key developments internationally. Though the Convention does not mention violence as such, some of its clauses are obviously connected with violence. Indeed, General Recommendations 12 and 19 focus on the very issue of violence against women. In the latter, the CEDAW Committee argued convincingly that GBV ‘is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women's ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men’. It calls upon States to take ‘appropriate and effective measures to overcome all forms of gender-based violence, whether by public or private act’, hold relevant statistics and report on the phenomenon. 

Advancing the relevant international normative framework at inter-governmental level and its incorporation at national level constitutes a significant development since then: the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1994. A number of landmark initiatives were also taken internationally: In 1994, the Organisation of American States (OAS) signed the Inter American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Belem Do Para Convention). The African Union adopted, in 2003, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

At European Union level, European Institutions –European Parliament, European Commission, Council and European Court of Justice- have taken key decisions aimed at combating and eradicating the phenomenon. Furthermore, the European Gender Equality Institute and the Fundamental Rights Agency are actively engaged in a number of EU-wide studies, mapping exercises and methodology analyses. The role of European Institutions has been instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the realities of women’s lives and setting the agenda for gender equality and women empowerment, including for combating GBV. In 2011, the Council of Europe adopted the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). This Convention is the first legally binding instrument in Europe and worldwide that has a comprehensive and refined array of clauses on Gender Violence, not only imposing criminalization of various behaviours by domestic law, but also making a clear cut connection between GBV and structural imbalance of power along gender lines. It also foresees the possibility of third parties (non Council of Europe Member States) to sign or accede the Convention. The Istanbul Convention entered into force in August 2014.

Although significant progress has been achieved, GBV is still an under-reported phenomenon, far from being eradicated. All post-2015 national and international policy agendas need to take this reality into account.

Programme of Cluster C:Gender based Violence and Gender (in-)Equality: from ‘CEDAW’ to Istanbul and beyond