Representatives from six Latin American countries met with more than 30 people from Northern Arizona University on Dec. 5 for a daylong event at the university to examine human rights issues and challenges they are facing in their countries.
The NAU discussion, which was sponsored by the Center for International Education (CIE) and the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER), was part of a larger weeklong Human Rights Across the Americas, Western Hemisphere program through Global Ties Arizona’s (GTA), International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Dec. 1–5.
“NAU’s Center for International Education was happy to collaborate with CHER on hosting the Human Rights Across the Americas group of international visitors,” said Melissa Armstrong, CIE director of interdisciplinary global programs. “The intercultural exchange of people and ideas is important for creating robust and diverse perspectives on our campus.”
The representatives were part of the 33rd international delegation that GTA brought to the state in 2022 through the IVLP, which supports U.S. public diplomacy and further U.S. foreign policy objectives.
“Global Ties Arizona is proud to implement the International Visitor Leadership Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, and [it] thanks Northern Arizona University for being a key partner and supporter of IVLP and for its ongoing partnership with Global Ties Arizona to connect Arizona and the world,” said Kristin Allen, executive director of GTA.
Hailing from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela, the representatives discussed issues that included the role of governments, civil society, and international bodies—such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States—in promoting and protecting human rights, preventing abuses, enacting laws, and developing policies.
They also explored human rights issues related to freedom of expression, children’s rights, women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, religious rights, the protection of racial and ethnic minorities, and freedom from torture and abuse.
Last May, CHER also welcomed to campus an IVLP group of 14 doctors and medical professionals from around the world focused on global health security.
Organizers of the recent event for CIE and CHER included Armstrong; Samantha Sabo, associate professor for the Department of Health Sciences and CHER; Janet Yellowhair, research coordinator for CHER; and Tara Bautista, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Services.
The delegation met with representatives from CHER at the NAU Applied Research and Development building, including Sabo; Amanda Pollitt, assistant professor in health sciences and CHER; Alexandra Samarron Longorio, senior research coordinator; and Yellowhair.
“We are so fortunate to have such a partnership with Global TIES Arizona and the NAU Center for International Education to bring powerful international delegations to the Center for Health Equity Research,” Sabo said. “We found common passions and partnerships with the human rights delegation from Latin America and hope to continue dialogue across the health and human rights of indigenous, LGBTQ and immigrant and migrant peoples—we left inspired to be better and do more.”
In the afternoon, Human Rights Across the Americas also offered a roundtable discussion, with 29 participants attending either in person at the NAU International Pavilion or online.
Moderated by Robert Neustadt, professor of Spanish and Latin American Students in the Department of Global Languages and Cultures, the event included a dialogue with distinguished professionals from seven countries in Latin America working on human rights issues.
“This human rights group specifically brought a unique understanding of complex cross-border issues that helped us level up our social justice knowledge,” Armstrong said. “Without doubt, CIE will continue to support bringing international visitors to our campus via Global Ties Arizona programs as it is a win-win for all of us.”
The GTA project illustrates strategies NGOs, advocacy groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies use to formulate, champion and influence human rights policy in the U.S. and its foreign policy.
“As our nation’s premier professional exchange program for the last 82 years, the IVLP helps strengthen U.S. engagement with countries around the world and cultivate lasting relationships by connecting current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term visits to the United States,” Allen said.