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Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Whither Human Rights?

Entry Author:
Gabriel Velez, Ph.D.
Marquette University


Systemic racism, health inequities, and other disparities are prominent in the public eye, but how are they connected to human rights? Many organizations and practitioners are seeking to understand how to frame equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) as a part of human rights initiatives. This session addressed this issue through three interrelated components: An academic leader provided an overview of connections between EDI and human rights; representatives of scientific organizations including the American Psychological Association, the American Political Science Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science discussed their organizational efforts to address EDI with a human rights lens; and an applied practitioner explained how on-the ground EDI work can be based upon a human rights framework.





  • Human rights, civil rights, and issues related to EDI are integrally interrelated, but also this intersection is inadequately addressed across systems, institutions, and society.
  • Human rights violations often take root in places and spaces that have ignored or outright denied diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Dignity is the fundamental building block to any peaceful society.
  • Psychology and political science both have numerous inherent intersections with human rights, but these could be strengthened through a greater genuine attention to EDI internally within professional  organizations and also in the work done by scientists in these fields.
  • Violating human rights of historically marginalized groups often entails denying those with marginalized identities the path that they deserve to live free, live with liberation, and to live with dignity.
  • Scientific organizations must first be reflective and take concrete action to research and address EDI internally within their institutions and professions.
  • There is optimism in regard to these issues with a more prominent role for groups having people in office that represent their constituency and collaborations between academia and community through collaborative and community/university partnership models.



  1. To do meaningful work related to human rights and EDI, scientific organizations must be intentional and genuine, and look beyond simply checking boxes to focus on impact on diversity, inclusion, equity, and belongingness.
  2. Scientists and scientific organizations must be open to taking a critical look at how science as a whole needs to repair and rebuild trust with communities.
  3. The culture and climate of scientific disciplines and their associations must be free from harassment, discrimination, racism, and bias so that scientists can enjoy the full realization of the right to science and equal protection for all.
  4. Being truly committed to advancing human rights for all means engaging each other in science in strategic ways that seek to bring out transformational change, while also being attentive inwardly to the professional culture and climate for scientists and students in scientific disciplines.
  5. EDI in terms of human and human rights is a multi-layered, complex issue that requires a multidisciplinary solution, with multiple disciplines working together to understand how to dismantle oppressive systems and recreate them in a way to powerfully create together a new world anchored in human rights.


Key Words

  1. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  2. Systemic inequity
  3. Scientific organizations