Human Rights and Global Justice Initiative

About the Initiative

Human rights and global justice are under threat in nearly every part of the world. From human trafficking, to instability in post-conflict zones, to mass incarceration in the United States, striving for the human rights of global citizens remains one of our most pressing social, political, and economic issues. This initiative is the result of the hard work of a dedicated group of scholars and practitioners focusing on education and action with the goal of eradicating violations of human rights and securing justice worldwide.


This initiative makes George Mason University (GMU) – a campus dedicated to social justice and human rights issues in both word and action – its home. We are planning the following programs and welcome potential partners:

Upcoming Programs

  • Symposium/Workshops/Panel Discussions on Human Rights and Global Justice: to discuss the cutting-edge research on human rights and global justice and to address some of the world's most pressing social problems
  • International Human Rights and Global Justice Conference: to bring academics, policy-makers and practitioners together to contribute to the innovative study of large-scale human rights and global justice issues
  • International Activist/Advocate Network: to establish a community dedicated to connecting and bolstering scholars, practitioners, and other stakeholders committed to justice work
  • An online platform or community for social justice and human rights activists and advocates around the world: to provide a clearinghouse for cutting edge research and evidence-based best practices
  • Continuing education and post-graduate CEU or credit-based courses/summer programs: to offer an opportunity for social justice and human rights activists and advocates to advance their careers

Upcoming Events:

Resistance and Resilience: Student Activism and Well-Being

  • Thursday, April 8, 2021, 4pm - 5:30pm ET

Recent Events:

Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti Inspires GMU Community to Change the Narrative Around Race and Legal Reform
This past October 8, 2020, members of the George Mason University (GMU) community explored the role of race in the origin of the criminal legal system from Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. Her keynote address, part of the Human Rights and Global Justice Initiative’s inaugural symposium, “Race, the Origin Story of the Criminal Legal System, and the Future of Reform,” examined the “role race plays in the stories we tell about the criminal legal system…how so much of our narrative of crime is rooted in the deeply corrosive, deeply destructive, and deeply false myth of Black dangerousness.” Over 100 attendees took part in the virtual event held in partnership with the School of Integrative Studies, the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Social Action and Integrated Learning (SAIL), Leadership Education and Development (LEAD), and the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. A post-keynote question and answer session with Dehghani-Tafti and breakout groups moderated by members of the GMU community were held to further explore themes of the keynote address, including racial justice; legal reform and restorative justice; domestic and international activism; and change-making and well-being.
As pointed out by Dehghani-Tafti – “There is no logical reason other than explicit and implicit racial biases that would explain a system that incarcerates Black people at a rate that makes them six times more likely to end up in prison than their white counterparts.” She emphasized – “This bias, whether you call it unconscious or systemic, has deeply profound consequences because once people internalize this myth of Black criminality, once they’re caught in this bias feedback loop, they come to see any racially discriminatory action they undertake not as discriminatory, but as rational.” One alternative to the current legal system, as noted by Dehghani-Tafti, is a shift to restorative justice, which “creates empathy, it creates a space where people can see each other’s dignity.”
Community members should take steps right now to not only push for policy change, but, according to Dehghani-Tafti, to “identify every instance in which the false narrative of Black dangerousness is woven into the system, even in instances of progressive reform.” Dehghani-Tafti encouraged students to “honestly deconstruct the stories we’ve been told about race and to begin telling new ones.” Efforts such as this “will shape not just the future of criminal justice reform, but our entire country.” On what GMU students, specifically, can do to change the narrative, Dehghani-Tafti encouraged students to embrace their own “skills and interests.” She urged students to “protest, write, research, go into law enforcement with an anti-racism lens, educate yourself, talk to your friends. Every action we do has a ripple effect. Pick the three things that you think that you can handle doing and do those with gusto…Every single thing you do matters.”
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Cher Weixia Chen
Associate Professor, School of Integrative Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Enterprise Hall 430


Dr. Cher Weixia Chen

Associate Professor, School of Integrative Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Dr. Susan Hirsch

Professor, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution


Dr. Graziella Pagliarulo McCarron

Assistant Professor, School of Integrative Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences