Mandeville Lecture

Navi Pillay - Current Migration Challenges: A Human Rights Perspective

The twentieth Mandeville Lecture Current Migration Challenges: A Human Rights Perspective was delivered on Thursday 9 June 2016 by the South-African Former UN High Commissioner and human rights advocate Navi Pillay.The ceremony took place in the auditorium of Erasmus University Rotterdam. In her lecture Pillay addressed challenges regarding the current refugee crisis. Erasmus University Rotterdam had awarded an honorary doctorate to Navi Pillay because of her lifelong fight against inequality, injustice, and the violence perpetrated against vulnerable groups, including anti-apartheid activists, political detainees, and women.

Navi Pillay received the additional decorations belonging to the honorary doctorate by Kristin Henrard, professor of Human Rights and Minorities of Erasmus School of Law (ESL), and Karin Arts, professor of International Law and Development, of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS). Both of them delivered the laudation.

In his introduction, Rector Magnificus Huibert Pols referred to Mahatma Gandhi and praised the courage of Navi Pillay.

Besides the honorary lecture, there was a Masterclass for talented students with Navi Pillay. 

The voice of the victim everywhere

Navanethem ‘Navi’ Pillay, a trailblazer in human rights law, was born to a humble Indian family in apartheid South Africa.  Her first hand experiences with the repression and institutionalised discrimination of the apartheid regime did not only pose enormous obstacles to her aspirations for further education and a meaningful career, but also instilled in her a deep felt need to fight these injustices. 

First black female judge

In the end she beat all odds and, in 1967, became the first black woman in South Africa to set up her own law practice. She defended anti-apartheid activists, and sought to protect the rights of political prisoners. Remarkably, in 1973, she succeeded in obtaining legal representation and basic amenities for the inmates of Robben Island. In 1995, when the first democratic government was formed in South Africa, Nelson Mandela nominated Pillay as the first black female judge in the Supreme Court. In the same year she joined the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Since then Pillay has become one of the world's leading advocates in the field of human rights. She was appointed as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2008, a position to which she referred as: "the voice of the victim everywhere”.  

Navi Pillay - UN News Centre Interview

About the Mandeville Lecture

The twentieth Mandeville Lecture is an initiative of Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Rotterdam business community (Club Rotterdam) and the Erasmus Trust Fund, united in the Bernard Mandeville Foundation. The Mandeville Lecture is named after the Rotterdam-born philosopher and physician Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733). It is a token of appreciation for the recipient’s significant social achievements. Previous laureates include Jean-Claude Trichet, Jeroen van der Veer and Carla Del Ponte. It is the first time a formal honorary doctorate is awarded on the occasion of the Mandeville Lecture.