A leading figure in Amnesty International’s mission to protect and promote human rights is set to share his expertise with students at Kingston University. Stephen Bowen, director of campaigns at Amnesty International UK, will combine his existing role at the organisation with teaching on the University’s MA in Human Rights, which begins in September.
Mr Bowen has been responsible for a series of high-profile campaigns in the United Kingdom, including Stop Violence Against Women and Control Arms. He said the new Kingston University degree would enable such causes to become more widely understood. “Human rights are one of the most potent forces for change in today’s world. During my career I have been at the heart of real-life situations with people whose lives are being compromised, whether that has been under military occupation in Gaza City or running human rights workshops in Cambodia. I have been impressed by the diversity of knowledge and skills I have seen demonstrated by human rights personnel but there are still many challenges to overcome and that’s why Kingston’s new course is vitally important,” he said.
The MA will equip students with the skills needed to take roles in human rights’ organisations, mastering media relations, public campaigning and lobbying. It will also give existing human rights’ practitioners the opportunity to undertake research in their specialist fields. Mr Bowen said he hoped the course would help students play an active part in stamping out discrimination. “There has been a transformation in this field during the past 50 years. The number of human rights organisations and the respect they’re held in by governments and the world’s population has grown. At the same time, the skills needed to become an effective human rights champion have become more diverse,” Mr Bowen said. “If the challenge of the 20th Century was to set standards for human rights, the challenge of this century is to realise them.”
A qualified barrister, Mr Bowen was appointed legal adviser to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in 1993, before joining the United Nations two years later. He was legal adviser on the United Nations’ mission to Sarajevo during the Balkans conflict, later returning to Bosnia as chief human rights officer for the UN’s post-war peacekeeping mission. Mr Bowen became programme director for the International Human Rights Law Group, before moving to Amnesty International in 2001.
Course director Philip Spencer said Mr Bowen was an extremely experienced human rights campaigner. “Attracting someone of Stephen’s calibre is a major coup for Kingston University. He is as good as they come in this field and students will benefit from the wealth of knowledge he has gained in dealing with key international human rights issues,” he said.