Human Rights Institute Conference • Friday, March 24


Turning on the tap and getting clean water to quench our thirst, wash our bodies and cook our food cannot be taken for granted. The United Nations has declared that access to safe and sanitary water is an inalienable human right, yet more than one in 10 people around the world—about 663 million people—lack access to sanitary water. This global crisis is evident locally and around the world in communities facing contamination, infrastructure problems and water scarcity. Together, we can end this threat to human survival.

The Human Rights Institute at Kean University's 10th Annual Conference on Human Rights, Half Empty: The Depths of the Global Water Crisis, will explore these issues on Friday, March 24. On-site check-in for registered guests will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Wilkins Theatre lobby. Speakers include CNN Hero Doc Hendley, “Lost Boy of Sudan” Salva Dut​, and water policy expert Robert Glennon. International activist, author and film producer John Prendergast, Kean’s Anne Evans Estabrook Human Rights Senior Fellow, will emcee the conference. For more information or to register, visit

“Our annual international conference on human rights not only brings human rights issues to people’s attention, it issues a call to action to the participants and educates them in ways that they can change the very world in which we live,” said Dawood Farahi, Ph.D., president of Kean University. “By sharing examples of their own experiences in the front lines of the global water crisis, each of this year’s speakers will challenge an audience of more than 900 high school and college students, educators, and human rights and environmental justice advocates to answer the Human Rights Institute’s call to action.”

Founder and president of Wine to Water and a 2009 CNN Hero Doc Hendley will be a featured speaker. At 30 years old, this bartender-musician started raising money to ease the global water crisis the best way he knew how––by pouring wine and playing music. What started with local wine tastings and a simple donation jar at the edge of the bar evolved into Hendley's Wine to Water foundation. To date, Hendley and members of his charitable organization have worked to dig, repair and sanitize drinking wells for more than 25,000 people in refugee camps across five countries and have distributed water and chlorine tablets to people living inside United Nations' dangerous "no-go" zones.

Salva Dut​,​ founder and senior advisor for Water for South Sudan, will share his personal story of fleeing Sudan as one of “The Lost Boys of Sudan” during the two-decades long civil war. On that flight he experienced many harsh conditions including food and water deficiency, along with disease, wild animal and military attacks. Dut’s humble character inspires audiences to support Water for South Sudan’s mission of service to the people of South Sudan.

Robert Glennon, Regents’ Professor and Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy at Rogers College of Law of the University of Arizona, rounds out the conference speakers. He is one of the nation’s preeminent experts on water policy and law and an award-winning author of several books, including Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It. Glennon and two of his co-authors from the Hamilton Project explored new solutions to fix federal and state laws that are contributing to water shortages in California and many other western states. Their report received national attention and is considered a game changer in water policy moving forward.

During the conference, the Human Rights Institute Awards will be presented to local, regional and national change makers.

This year, a virtual reality experience - charity: water's film, The Source - will be offered on Kean’s Union campus the week leading up to the Human Rights Institute conference. Using a virtual reality headset, participants will step into the world of 13-year-old Selam for nine minutes and experience the moment her Ethiopian village gets clean water for the first time. The charity: water virtual reality experience will be available Tuesday, March 21, through World Water Day on Thursday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and again after the conference on Friday, March 24, until 3 p.m.

The Human Rights Institute at Kean University was conceived in 2010 by President Farahi to broaden the University’s longstanding efforts to raise awareness of human rights issues locally and worldwide. The Institute and its gallery were formally opened in a ceremony featuring Kerry Kennedy, co-founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. Each year, the Human Rights Institute Conference serves as a call to action to participants to help educate and change the world.

There is no cost to attend Kean's Human Rights Institute conference, but online registration is required. Educators are encouraged to bring their students. Space is limited.

Answer the call to action. Register now at

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