NUCHR involves local organizations in closing days

NUCHR’s opening banquet on Thursday featured Lt. Colonel Phil McIntire, U.S. Navy Lt. Thomas Gary, and Naval Reservist Marc Fisher. They spoke of their experiences working on peacekeeping missions in Iraq and Kosovo.

Melody Song/The Daily Northwestern

NUCHR’s opening banquet on Thursday featured Lt. Colonel Phil McIntire, U.S. Navy Lt. Thomas Gary, and Naval Reservist Marc Fisher. They spoke of their experiences working on peacekeeping missions in Iraq and Kosovo.

Suyeon Son, Reporter

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The 2013 Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights wrapped up Saturday night after three days of panels, experiential learning trips and talks focusing on this year’s topic, “Human Rights and International Peacekeeping: from Military Intervention to Local Anti-Violence Efforts.”

Keynote speaker Tom Oliver, founder and CEO of the World Peace Festival, rounded out the three-day conference at McCormick Tribune Center with the video “Peace Starts With Me,” a 2011 project by the PUMA.Peace initiative focusing on individuals as the catalysts of change.

“It’s one thing to talk about problems in a room full of college students,” said Hallye Webb, one of two NU delegates, who had not been involved with NUCHR before the conference. “It’s another to get to talk to real people who’ve been involved with everything.”

With hundreds in attendance for the 10th annual conference, delegates from universities around the country engaged with student leaders and experts in the field. The speakers were chosen after the panel topics were decided, NUCHR co-director Ayanna Legros said.

“Whether it’s a humanitarian aid crisis, whether it be a civil war, whether it be a question of natural resources, there’s always some kind of mediation that needs to occur,” the Weinberg senior said. “How we go about that as American citizens is something that always needs to be in question.”

On Friday, delegates visited various Chicago neighborhoods to meet with site directors at Cure Violence, a nonprofit organization that prevents crime through peaceful intervention.

The trip included a speech from keynote speaker Tio Hardiman, director of Cure Violence Illinois. He introduced a special guest, Rico Johnson, who had recently joined the Cure Violence team after being in prison since 1970. He was released this past summer.

“It was incredibly inspiring to hear him talk,” said Webb, a Communication sophomore. “All the technology that’s come out that we’ve taken for granted is so foreign to him. And now, out of prison, he wants to make a difference in the community that he knows.”

Webb, a theater and English major interested in using the arts for social change, said her creative perspective on peacekeeping played very well with other delegates’ concentration in international relations or politics.

Paul Bourdillon, the other NU delegate, also brought an unusual outlook to the table.

“I have a somewhat extensive background in environmental justice and food issues, which is why I applied (to be a delegate) last year,” said the Weinberg senior and second-year conference delegate. “I wanted to come back this year, even though I don’t have a formal background in peacekeeping, because I think it’s applicable to all issues.”

For Yu Sun Chin, NUCHR’s logistics chair, it was the panel involving social therapist Dove Pressnall that struck a chord. The Medill sophomore said Pressnall’s use of multimedia tools such as video to provide therapy to trauma and war victims was in line with what she eventually wanted to do as her career.

“The committee did a great job of bringing intelligent and diverse speakers who were very obviously well versed in their fields,” Webb said. “NU is a fairly small school, so there’s not a whole lot of opportunities to meet completely new people all the time. It was so cool to see a roomful of new faces.”

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