On February 15, SAR presented on academic freedom in the Americas before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Sucre, Bolivia.
In January, Scholars at Risk accepted an invitation to be a part of a panel in a thematic hearing before the IACHR on “Reports of Restrictions and Reprisals Against Academic Freedom and University Autonomy in the Region.” The hearing – which was proposed by our Venezuelan colleague organization Aula Abierta – marked the first time that an IACHR panel had ever allocated a thematic session specifically to the issue of academic freedom. SAR, Aula Abierta, and the Human Rights Research and Education Center at the University Ottawa, sent representatives to appear on the panel.
In addition to the opportunity presented by the hearing itself, the trip to Sucre allowed SAR to bring together several colleagues for a workshop to establish a regional academic freedom monitoring and advocacy hub in the Americas. The workshop occurred over the course of the afternoons of Thursday and Friday, February 14-15. Nine guests attended in person, and four remotely, representing Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela. The workshop established that the hub will function as a platform for information sharing, awareness raising, network building, and ultimately producing advocacy and change. Potential projects include: Intensive monitoring and advocacy focused on Brazil, Nicaragua, and Honduras; development of an expanded network within the Americas, aimed at identifying advocacy opportunities, including test cases appropriate for amicus briefs and similar interventions; development of targeted advocacy and values promotion work with our Venezuelan partners, aimed at rebuilding that country’s severely damaged university space; and analysis and advocacy focusing on sexual harassment and sexual assault on campuses in the Americas.
The success of the events in Sucre are a testament to both the strong partners SAR has engaged throughout the hemisphere, and to the desperate need for more to be done to protect the higher education space. We invite the comments, ideas, and partnership of scholars interested in getting involved in the Americas Academic Freedom Hub, and helping to move this important work forward.