Ghent University celebrates 70 years of human rights

Get Up, Stand Up! Ghent University celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Ghent University is a socially committed university. We pursue a human rights policy that reflects on the effect that our activities may have on society and that we try to optimise the positive effects and minimise the potentially negative impact. Just think of our policy on transgender people, our clear stand against racism, or the human rights assessment of our international cooperation.

From 3 to 10 December 2018, the Get Up, Stand Up! campaign will be running on all our campuses. With it, Ghent University celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The aim of this campaign is to encourage people to critically reflect on human rights. This does not only involve thinking about the relevance of human rights, but also about how we ourselves interpret these rights. It is about how the rights of others sometimes justify limiting our own rights. And about how our society creates its own cultural interpretation to the universal rights that belong to every human being.

“The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also a holiday for Ghent University.  Human rights are currently under threat across the globe, also in 'Western' countries. We are rightly concerned about populism and the incitement of hatred in (world) politics. But whether human rights reach their 100th birthday depends first and foremost on ourselves. Human rights are for and by people. They must be supported across society, at all levels and in all organisations: they do not just involve parliament and government, but also cities, companies, associations, schools, and of course universities.”

Professor Eva Brems, Human Rights Centre

Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was established on 10 December 1948. It was one of the first achievements of the United Nations (UN) in the aftermath of the Second World War and was mainly promoted by Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of American president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was nicknamed the 'First Lady of the world' because of her commitment to universal human rights. In other words, human rights as we know them today have only existed for approximately 70 years.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958 on the tenth anniversary of the UDHR

The UDHR is merely a 'declaration'. It does not legally bind a country, it is not a treaty. Yet it is an enormously authoritative text, both from a moral and political standpoint. Today, international organisations (the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe) and individual states are increasingly inclined to include human rights in legally binding texts and to link economic sanctions and sometimes even military interventions to serious human rights violations.

Get Up, Stand Up!

Human rights are not carved in stone: they are an ambitious and demanding discourse that requires constant attention. Only a few rights - such as the convention against torture - have an 'absolute' value. In some cases, it is not possible to fully respect human rights, because one right conflicts with another. Most human rights therefore leave room for weighing up interests, and for considering contextual factors. And where there is room for interpretation, there is room for discussion.

During the campaign week, we challenge you to think about statements on security and privacy, migration and identity, freedom of expression, women's rights and climate change.

Do you dare to weigh the pros and cons of these propositions? Does a simple 'yes' or 'no' suffice when this answer may curtail someone's rights? Are you able to assess the consequences of both viewpoints?

“The university is the perfect place to question much, if not everything. It is no coincidence that Ghent University's motto is 'Dare to think'. But it doesn't stop there. If you really want to change society, change the world, leave your mark on the future and truly transform things, then you have to have the courage to speak out. And you need to allow yourself to be contradicted. Because it is only by putting out thoughts into words, by speaking out and contradicting each other that we can avoid getting stuck in our way of thinking. After all, just because others would rather not hear it, doesn’t mean it should not be said. Right?”

Rik Van de Walle, rector Ghent University

Show your true colours and share your opinion with #GetUpStandUp18.

Human rights day on Monday 10 December 2018

Not entirely convinced by your own opinion or how you got it? Want to know more about human rights and join in the debate? Then the concluding debates on our Human Rights Day may help you out.

In five panels, we will discuss current issues and the role human rights play in them.


  • The debates are free for everyone to follow. Reservations are not required, so feel free to stop by and leave whenever you want.
  • Place to be: in the Aula at Volderstraat.
  • We begin at 12:30 and continue non-stop until 21:30.


  • 12.30: Human rights in the city and at the university
  • 14h: Human rights in unexpected contexts
  • 16h: Human rights and migration in Belgium
  • 18h: The EU and fundamental rights: the chapter on migration
  • 20h: Concluding panel: ’70 year of human rights'

Classes and other activities

Between 3 and 7 December, all classes will also be devoted to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone is welcome to attend classes and participate in numerous activities.

Tuesday December 4

GRILI (Ghent Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute) -HRC (Human Rights Centre) seminar focussing on the Global Compact for Migration (prof. Trom Ruys en prof. Ellen Desmet)

  • 12.00 - 13.30, Campus Aula, Voldersstraat 3 (Faculteit Recht en Criminologie), Facultaire Raadzaal
  • Those planning to attend are kindly invited to signal this to Kristien Ballegeer, via

Public lecture: Addressing Mistreatment of Older Adults from a Human’s Right Perspective (prof Marie Beaulieu)

  • Een lezing door Prof. Marie Beaulieu (Université de Sherbrooke, Canada. Prof. Beaulieu is hoogleraar aan de Universiteit van Sherbooke. Sinds November 2010 bekleedt ze de Leerstoel “Ouderenmis(be)handeling”, financieel ondersteund door de Québecse regering. Sinds juli 2017 is ze codirectrice van het WHO collaborating Centre “Age-friendly communities and Elder abuse and Neglect”. In haar 30-jarige onderzoekscarrière focuste ze voornamelijk op volgende onderwerpen: de aanpak van ouderenmis(be)handeling, veiligheidsgevoel bij ouderen, ethiek, ouder worden  en het levenseinde.
  • 19.30 - 21.30, Campus UZ Gent, Corneel Heymanslaan 10 (Faculteit Geneeskunde en Gezondheidswetenschappen), aud P8 (entrance 25).
  • Inschrijven voor 2 december via:
  • Contact:

Thursday December 6

Panel debate: Turkey before the European Court of Human Rights

  • Sprekers: Riza Türmen (former European Court of Human Rights Judge for Turkey), Erol Onderoglu (Reporters Sans Frontières), Walter Van Steenbrugge (straf- en sportrecht), Eline Kindt (Liga voor Mensenrechten), Jenny Vanderlinden (Amnesty International).
  • 19.00 - 21.30, Campus Aula, Paddenhoek, filmzaal
  • Contact:

Friday December 7

Advanced Human Rights (prof. Eva Brems)

  • Open lecture: ‘Human Rights in Belgium’ door dr. Eline Kindt (Liga voor Mensenrechten)
  • 10.00 - 11.00, Campus Aula, Universiteitstraat 4, aud B
  • Contact: