FORGE 2023


Theory of Change Behind FORGE: Looking Back to Look Forward

by César Rodríguez-Garavito

In his opening remarks, César Rodríguez-Garavito set out the goals for the four days of the FORGE conference. Inspired by the theme ‘looking back to look forward,’ he explains that the program intends to create a space for imagining the future of the fields of human rights and global justice. César calls for the fields to move beyond the ‘endtimes’ rhetoric to free up space for renewing the language, the practice, and the promise of human rights.


The Inner Life of the Future: Governing with Collapse and Transformation In Mind

by Jonathon Rowson

Jonathan Rowson explores the inner life, mindsets and lenses that will help us to govern through collapse as we look into the future. He explores the metacrisis as a historically specific threat to truth, beauty, and goodness caused by our persistent misunderstanding, misvaluing, and misappropriating of reality. After exploring morality, politics, laws, more of the human in human rights, and current reckonings, he poses key governance questions like “how should transnational civil society coordinate to nurture cognitive and emotional abilities of our species in a way that might save civilization from itself?”.


Indigenous Wisdom for an Ailing Planet

by Patricia Gualinga

In this talk, Patricia Gualinga, Director of International Relations for the Kichwa People of Sarayaku, introduces the concept of Kawsak Sacha, also known as the living forest. In recent decades, the Sarayaku Indigenous people have proposed Kawsak Sacha as a response to the environmental, political, and spiritual crises. To learn more about Kawsak Sacha, visit:


For The Living

by Ayisha Siddiqa

For the 24-year-old Pakistani human rights and climate defender, poetry represents hope. Ayisha begins her talk with a reflection about the power and necessity of poetry and art within the human rights and global governance context. She then performs her original poem titled “For the Living."


Extracts from The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

by Maïmouna Jallow

Maïmouna performs extracts from Lola Shoneyin’s, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, a powerful tale of deception, betrayal, love, and friendship. The story on the surface is about a polygamous man and his four wives, but through the women’s monologues we explore the burdens society places on women and the cunning ways in which they try to escape from the confines of poverty and patriarchy. Maïmouna uses the performance adaptation as a way to address sexual and reproductive health rights.


Reinventing Democracy from the Bottom Up

by Ricken Patel

Drawing from his experience in online organizing and “witnessing the wisdom and the madness of crowds,” Ricken explores how culture and emotion are at the heart of how we operate and are central to the challenges facing democracy today. Ricken describes the ‘trigger spilar’ through which polarization and extremism intensify, and then explores the ‘wisdom spiral’ through which we can practice mindfulness and search for learning within adversity.


Renewing Democracy & Pushing Back Against Authoritarians

by Ivan Krastev

Ivan explores the renewal of democracy sought to offer a fresh diagnosis of “why it has become so difficult to keep democratic institutions working as they are supposed to.” The central theme of the talk is the important role of conceptions of the future within democracy, and the ways in which current views of the future pose challenges to democracy. 


Evidence for Hope

by Kathryn Sikkink

Despite various significant wins and positive long-term trends, a pervasive feeling across the human rights movement is that ‘everything has been getting worse.’ Turning to psychology, Kathryn explains a series of biases that leave us prone to feelings of hopelessness. Kathryn explores how to measure these psychological biases and calls for “reasoned, well-informed, patient hope.”


Unmasked: Seaweed King 

Performed by Kevin A. Ormsby
Choreographed by Chris Walker

Unmasked: Seaweed King is a dance performance depicting a sort of phoenix rising from the ashes, addressing human impact on the environment via Afro-Caribbean mas performance traditions. Seaweed King was first developed in 2016 in collaboration with Laura Anderson Barbata for a transdisciplinary expedition project merging scientific, environmental, and artistic research around ocean conservation and climate change. 


More Than Human Rights

by César Rodríguez-Garavito

César proposes the term ‘more than human rights’ to expand the discourse about rights beyond the human. The ‘more than human rights’ approach takes inspiration from the ‘humbling sciences’(biology, botany, ecology) and from indigenous knowledge, that have long understood and acknowledged humans’ innate embeddedness in the biosphere. Learn more at   


International Justice in a Challenging World  

with Judge Hilary Charlesworth

Hilary’s pivotal 1991 article, Feminist Approaches to International Law, helped to shift the field toward a feminist lens on international law issues. After exploring role of feminist thearoy and international relations, the conversation turns to her role at the International Court of Justice. The Court is now set to issue an advisory opinion regarding States’ obligations in respect of climate change, and they hope to receive many helpful and high-quality submissions.


Your Word Against Mine? Language, Expertise & Trust in the Making of the Oceans Treaty

by Siva Thambisetty

By providing a first-hand account of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty negotiations, Siva offers insights into how the minutiae of international treaty-making can represent significant wins for global justice, and reflects on the contingencies and realities of global governance processes. Siva explains the inner workings of the BBNJ Treaty process to demonstrate how specific individuals’ approaches and decisions can lead to key successes. 


75 Years On: The Pathway to Solutions Through Human Rights 

by Volker Türk

The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an opportune rallying point to build a renewed consensus on our commitment to the resolution of today’s global human rights crises. The scale, complexity and speed of today’s crises require a shift from business-as-usual; framing new narratives, drawing fully on expertise from other disciplines, seeding collaborations, and thinking critically and creatively about our ways of working. 


Comments on 75 Years On: Pathway to Solutions through Human Rights

by Philip Alston

In offering some closing remarks, Philip reflects on Volker Türk’s presentation and connects his responses to some of the themes of the conference. Volker had said that the human rights movement needs to “frame new narratives, draw fully on perspectives and expertise from other disciplines, experiment with novel tools, and seed innovative collaborations”—this is, Philip said, exactly what FORGE has begun to do.