Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein challenges us to defend human rights. I am eager to hear his perspectives on realizing the vision to which NAFSA aspires in our Strategic Plan: "enlightened international relations, a globally engaged citizenry, and a more peaceful world."

Having served 4 years as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, he understands the possibilities of action and the hypocrisy of inaction in defense of universal human rights. He believes in the fundamental premise of the universality of human rights, which is based on a respect for human equality and dignity.

At a time of rising nationalism and resurgent xenophobia, it is refreshing to hear strong support for human rights. Gracious in his manner, he is sharp in his criticisms. Critical of the powerful, he is frank in his assessments. Human rights are a dimension of the theme of social justice that is woven throughout the plenary sessions.

We met years ago, when we were both working on policies to improve United Nations peacekeeping. I was impressed with his thoughtfulness and seriousness of purpose. It was not enough to want to do good; you needed to understand what to do and how to do it. His practical idealism continues to be motivated by his desire to provide real help to real people.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is the Wednesday Plenary Speaker at the 2020 NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo.