04 November 2022
Salón de Grados
On 4 November, the University celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Human Rights Institute, an academic and political commitment that was born with the aim of making Deusto, and hence, the Basque Country, a benchmark for education, research, transfer and social awareness in the promotion and protection of human rights. With this event, Rector José María Guibert wanted to reaffirm his commitment to "continue trying to generate a culture of human rights both in the Basque Country and, to the best of our ability, in the international community".
The Institute was founded in November 1997, symbolically coinciding with the date of Pedro Arrupe's birth (14 November) and the fateful day (16 November) on which the martyrs of the UCA in El Salvador were assassinated. Today, 25 years later, the Institute reflects and highlights, as Rector Guibert said, "Deusto's commitment to human rights, peace and civic values and, in short, to social justice, a hallmark of the University and the Society of Jesus".
In this regard, the Director of the Human Rights Institute, Gorka Urrutia, recalled the centre’s main research areas: International Humanitarian Aid, international human rights protection, international migration, cultural diversity and social cohesion, minorities, coexistence, peace and conflict resolution. These are issues on which, as he pointed out, there is unfortunately still a lot of work to be done, as "there are still great injustices to be tackled in these and other areas".
1,000 human rights specialists
However, he also expressed his satisfaction with the University's contribution in this field. During this time, more than 1,000 people have passed through the Institute's classrooms (doctoral and postgraduate programmes) to learn about human rights and specific topics such as humanitarian aid, migration, conflicts, indigenous peoples' rights, public policies and their practical implementation.
Furthermore, the Institute has contributed to many academic activities, research, publications and conferences through social impact and public awareness-raising. "And all these activities - as Gorka Urrutia explained- have been carried out within the framework of the so-called philosophy of the two shores, in the here and there; in the Global North and the Global South. These link the various worlds in which we find ourselves: the Basque Country, Europe, Guatemala, Colombia, Latin America, Africa".
In his presentation, he also highlighted the relevance of "those flesh and blood people who, despite the difficulties they face, are free to fight for social justice and claim that human rights are either universal or they are not". In this regard, "I believe that our task as an Institute is to continue to combine this commitment with the academic rigour that characterises us", he declared.
A vulnerable group
Rector José María Guibert also regretted many of the structural injustices in which we are still anchored, political schemes in which people are not free to seek refuge or better living conditions outside their country of origin, which cause infinite suffering and constant violations of the rights of many human beings. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, a top-level institutional and academic speaker, gave a lecture in which he spoke about the current international situation of a vulnerable group such as migrants.
Hence, he addressed the new and old challenges in the protection of the human rights of these people in a troubled world that is committed to closing borders when faced with the increase in forced displacements due to multiple causes. He also presented content from the recent Rapporteur's reports on the impacts of the pandemic, the protection challenges arising in the context of climate change or human rights violations at borders, an analysis of the deplorable trend of legitimising "pushback" practices through the introduction of laws and government decrees; practices which, in his opinion, continue to seriously impede the enjoyment of the human rights of migrants crossing international borders.
The Basque Government’s support
The issue of migrants is an area of political and personal concern and preoccupation for the Basque president Iñigo Urkullu, who often refers to everyone's responsibility and solidarity towards them in his addresses. He did so today as well: "We share the vision of Human Rights and Migration. Migrations that, in most cases, do not respond to a free choice, but to forced displacements due to war, hunger, environmental degradation or the systematic violation of rights.
He stated that we, in the Basque Country, are well aware of this reality, as many Basques have had to emigrate for economic, social or political reasons. It is also a land of hospitality. A historic experience that allows it to share the following commitment: "This is a land with equal rights, duties and opportunities for all people who live here, regardless of their culture or where they were born or where they come from". Full speech.
Jose Maria Guibert went on to say that, in addition to being the only Human Rights Institute (HRI) in the Basque Country, the Institute is the second in Spain after the UC3M HRI, which was set up in 1993. Both, together with the University of Valencia's subsequent HRI, are the three benchmark centres in Spain, which are officially referred to, for example, for the elaboration of the Government's next Human Rights Plan. Likewise, numerous collaborations, consultancies and reports have been and continue to be carried out at the Basque Government’s request, without forgetting its contribution to the public policies of various Basque institutions (provincial and local councils), or of the State (such as the current project of the Spanish central government and the FEMP "Municipalities for Tolerance").
In the international sphere, special mention should be made of the agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for over 20 years to jointly develop the Training Programme for Indigenous Leaders of Latin America at Deusto, where more than 100 indigenous leaders have received specialist training. He also recalled the numerous publications that Deusto has dedicated to human rights, peace and reconciliation. In particular, the specific collection of Cuadernos Deusto de Derechos Humanos, which obtained the FECYT (Special Foundation for Science and Technology) seal of academic quality last year and has just reached its 100th issue.
This and many other activities have enabled the Institute to belong to, and in some cases to create, a number of international reference networks. These include the IMISCOE network of excellence on Migrations and social integration in Europe, which is also one of the origins of the UNIC European University of which Deusto is a member; or the AHRI, the Association of Human Rights Institutes, which plans to hold its next assembly and conference at Deusto from 7 to 9 September 2023, an internationally renowned academic event in which the central theme will be: the situation of human rights defenders.
This long list of activities require everyone's support - institutions, governments and society at large - to contribute to what Deusto has set itself as a challenge: "Educate and generate knowledge to transform society, and do so in terms of justice and respect for human rights," concluded Deusto’s Rector.