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Empowering Humanity: Upholding Rights and Dignity in the Fabric of Democracy

ACG’s philosophy of “to serve and not to be served” embodies the values of humanity and inclusivity. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Demos Center at Deree – The American College of Greece, part of the ACG Institute for Hellenic Culture and the Liberal Arts, has organized a series of 5 events for the first annual Focus: Human Rights program. The first of these events, entitled “Human Rights and Dignity: Creating a Climate for Vibrant Democracy,” took place on Thursday, February 22, 2024, at The Demos Center in Plaka, Athens.

This event featured two speakers, both of them experts in the field of Human Rights. Ms. Leda-Panagiota Alepi, a policy advisor with expertise in development and human rights, especially in Asia and Africa, spoke first, followed by Dr. Matilda Chatzipanagiotou, a Constitutional and Human Rights Lawyer, who emphasized the importance of dignity and respect for all human beings.

Both speakers highlighted the importance of preserving space for the “endless” other in our mindset and in every closed system we may belong to. They encouraged attendees to embrace unity by acknowledging the existence of perspectives different from our norms and way of being. As Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, mentioned in 2014, “Human rights are not country-specific.” Therefore, in this concept of the “empty space“ lies our acceptance and openness to new possibilities, ideas, and contexts. Ms. Alepi drew from her experience the distinction between hearing and actively listening to another person’s story, as well as the lack of awareness of individuals about their rights. In addition, Dr. Chatzipanagiotou urged participants to engage with legal texts, newspapers, and books in order to broaden their knowledge and inspire them to do what they can to protect human rights.

Following the presentations, there was a discussion with students, including students from the Education Unites Scholarship Program for Refugees, regarding various contexts, possibilities, and practical applications of human rights principles. In conclusion, significant progress has been made in human rights protection since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, yet there remains room for improvement in our rapidly changing modern societies. The series Focus: Human Rights will present programs each spring semester addressing this challenge, looking at human rights from political, social, sustainability, and business perspectives, as well as looking at the organizations and courts that work to uphold and spread human rights.