March – May 1999

Human rights violations have affected human existence in all regions of the world since the beginning of recorded history. Class and slavery in ancient Greek and Roman societies, the caste system in India, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Holocaust in Europe are a few of the most dramatic examples.
After the end of World War II, and not long after the formation of the United Nations, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On December 10, 1948, the Declaration was adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights encompasses broad rights including the right to life, equality before the law, freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to work. It had a powerful impact on the recognition of the importance of human rights within the global community. However, the implementation of such rights across national borders remains a serious problem because of the recognition of national sovereignties and the reluctance of nations to interfere in the internal affairs of others.

The last fifty years have witnesses gross human rights violations. The genocide in Rwanda and Cambodia, the condition of Afghan refugees, the “disappearance” of political activists in Argentince in the 1970’s and the recent massacre in Koxovo are but a few examples of violations that haunt the world community. The violation of the rights of one individual or group in a single region affects us all. World peace and stability cannot be achieved without universal respect for human rights. Today’s human rights violations, in the words of May Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, “are the causes of tomorrow’s conflicts.”

This exhibition was part of the University of Iowa’s year-long, cross-disciplinary program, Global Focus: Human Rights 98. This exhibition was prepared by James Julich, Dean Koster, Afeworki Paulos, Timothy Shipe, Edward Shreeves and Kathy Wachel, with assistance from Jim Cheng, Ellen Hammond, Michael Levine-Clark, Eeva Nikkanen-Hoch, Cynthea Mosier, Chris Hunt and Stephanie Oliver.