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Koen Vanmechelen invited for closing speech at High Level Conference on the Global State of Human Rights, Venice (IT), 24th May 2024

On 24th May, artist Koen Vanmechelen is invited by Global Campus of Human Rights as a speaker at the High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Rights at the UNESCO Regional Office for Science and Culture in Europe, in the magnificent Palazzo Zorzi, Venice. The conference, organized by the Global Campus of Human Rights, in partnership with Right Livelihood is dedicated to addressing critical issues surrounding human rights worldwide. Vanmechelen will share his insights in a closing speech, hereby concluding a roundtable debate with international human rights defenders and researchers. Vanmechelen’s speech is linked to his present participation to the biennial of Venice with the project ‘Looking for the Ark’.

Human Rights challenges


Critical human rights issues around the world will be addressed during the High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Rights on 24th-25th May, with insights on redefining the concept of exile for human rights defenders, the protection of human rights in times of war conflict, and the application of human rights to address urgent environmental issues. The conference brings together international experts, addressing challenges faced by human rights defenders on the front lines and provides a unique platform for in-depth dialogues aimed at developing concrete actions for the advancement of human rights around the world.



Panel discussion and closing speech by Koen vanmechelen


The panel discussion will open with welcome speeches by Manfred Nowak, secretary general of the Global Campus of Human Rights, Gunilla Hallonsten, chair of the board of directors of Right Livelihood, and Wally Merotto who is attending on behalf of the UNESCO office. Prominent guests are expected to attend, including Matteo Mecacci, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (Odihr); Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Chiara Adamo who heads the European Commission's Gender Equality and Democracy Section; and Olof Skoog, EU Special Representative for Human Rights.


 “In many countries, human rights defenders face increasing challenges due to reduced civil liberties, increased conflict, and intensified persecution. The High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Rights brings together distinguished speakers from the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and the European Union, along with worthy Right Livelihood awardees and a group of human rights defenders forced into exile because of the persecution they face in their home countries.” — Manfred Nowak, secretary general of Global Campus


Through the lens of human rights, the dangerous intersection of conflict and environmental crises will be addressed, with the goal of redefining the concept of exile and exploring pathways for planning its conceptual aspects.


On the second day of the conference, Saturday, May 25, the discussion continues in Venice Lido, 9 a.m., at the Global Campus venue in the Monastery of San Nicolò. This day includes, in addition to speeches by institutional guests, the participation of numerous human rights defenders.


In addition to stimulating discussions, attendees will enjoy cultural performances, with besides a speech from Koen Vanmechelen about art and human rights and his current Biennial project,  poetry and music by Lisette Ma Neza, and a dance performance choreographed by GC alumnus Kosta Karakashyan. 



Worldwide Campus


Vanmechelens invitation builds further on the ongoing collaboration of the artist with the Global Campus. Already in 2021, during the 58th Venice Biennale ,Vanmechelen heralded the birth of the Human Rights Pavilion, an evolving artwork that takes shape over the years, as it travels the world, initiating conversation about art and human rights, between different disciplines. This year,Vanmechelen returns to the 60th Biennale with a captivating artistic experience, inviting contemplation on our shared humanity and the future of our planet. His monumental installation, ‘Looking for the Ark’ is a philosophical depiction of the resilience and vulnerability of life. Vanmechelen translates his vision into a diptych - a child and an ark - (inter)connected across two different locations; the Venice Pavilion at the Giardini and TESA 99 at Arsenale Nord.


General information


High Level Conference on the

Global State of Human Rights

24-25 May 2024


Discussion Panel and closing speech by Koen Vanmechelen

24th May 2024

17:00h – 18:45h



Palazzo Zorzi, UNESCO, Castello 4930

Fondamenta San Severo, Venice




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