Discussing conference on ‘Human Rights in a Time of Populism’

Gerald Neuman

Gerald L. Neuman, co-director of the Human Rights Program (HRP), discussed HRP’s upcoming conference on Friday and Saturday titled “Human Rights in a Time of Populism.” Photo by Phil Farnsworth

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Gerald L. Neuman, co-director of the Human Rights Program (HRP), and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School, discussed HRP’s upcoming conference, “Human Rights in a Time of Populism,” with Natalie McCauley, J.D. ’19.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, takes place this Friday afternoon and Saturday on Harvard Law School’s campus.

So Professor, to start us out: What is this conference about?

We plan to discuss the current rise in populism: What are its causes? What are its effects? What implications does it have for the international human rights system? And how should the international human rights system respond?

We don’t expect the answers to these questions to be the same for every country, and that’s one of the things we’re going to be discussing.

We’ll have more than a dozen leading experts coming from as far away as The Philippines and as near as our own university. There will be specific discussion on the United States, Poland, Southeast Asia, Turkey, and Latin America, as well as cross-cutting themes.

I should clarify what I mean by populism. Political scientists offer different formulations for the notion of populism, as we’ll be discussing. The phenomenon of concern here is a kind of politics that employs an exclusionary notion of the people- the “real people,” as opposed to disfavored groups that are unworthy. Populist leaders then claim to rule on behalf of the “real people,” whose will should not be constrained.

“Human Rights in a Time of Populism” begins on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and extends through Saturday in the Kirkland and Ellis Classroom of Langdell Hall. For information on the speakers, and to RSVP, please visit: For those unable to make the conference, videos of the panels will be available on Human Rights Program’s YouTube channel; a publication will also follow the conference as a resource.