Annual Colloquium on Human Rights Foreign Policy

National governments play a primary role in shaping human rights policy from both a national and global standpoint. The Colloquium on the Role of Government Departments in the Formulation and Implementation of Human Rights Considerations in Foreign Policy is the annual highlight of our activities.

Our most recent colloquium was held in May 2009 at The Hague. The upcoming meeting will be held in Vienna in May 2010. >> Learn more!

What is the Annual Colloquium?

Since 1977, the American Association for the International Commission of Jurists has hosted a yearly colloquium for heads of governmental departments from over 25 countries.

For two days, officials active in the field of human rights gather to exchange views and best practices as well as to explore innovative ways in which to tackle vital and frontier human rights challenges of our time.

Held in a different host city each year, the colloquium aims to equip officials to return to their respective governments with a greater understanding of the human rights challenges ahead, fresh ideas for solutions, renewed enthusiasm for their unwavering commitment to human rights ideals, and greater confidence to make these ideals a reality.

Why the Annual Colloquium?

One of the hallmark strenghts of the Annual Colloquium convened by the American Association for the International Commission of Jurists is its informal nature. The “informal informal” forum for exchange facilitates a candid dialogue on frontier issues concerned with national and international human rights policies.

The invitation to participate in this informal intergovernmental forum was a result of a more active participation of my country in the human rights field. Personally, I benefited greatly from the off the record, frank and informal talks during those few days. The collegial atmosphere was more that of a think tank than of governmental representatives, providing me with an exposure into the human rights debate that I could not get anywhere else. … Mr. Butler’s vision, long before the idea was generally accepted by governments, has now become an annual forum nobody wants to miss.

Carol Krieger (Luxembourg) attended the Colloquium in 1991-1994.

Twenty years ago, human rights was a rather novel element in the making of foreign policy and those responsible for an integrated approach to both had to firmly stand their ground. In some administrations, human rights policy officers constantly felt tested, if not besieged. At Chatham House and later sessions we relished the idea of being among like-minded thinkers. We eagerly discussed the nuts and bolts of our daily chores, and freely shared our aspirations and frustrations. Not only did we educate each other … but we gave to each other something we hardly received from elsewhere: validation!

Toine van Dongen (Netherlands) attended the Colloquium in 1983-1986.
Toine is now the Dutch Ambassador to Sweden.

The international human rights world is life at its most dynamic; over the last decades, the international system to protect and promote human rights has changed nearly beyond recognition. In these turbulent times, we had few anchors and poles of stability: One of them was Bill Butler.

Dr. Christian Strohal (Austria) attended the Colloquium in 1986-1988, 1994-2000.