A conference sponsored by the Constitutionalism and Rule of Law (CAROL) Policy and Practice Lab at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and The Law School at the University of Notre Dame, with participation by invitation only. For more information, contact Mike Giles.

This conference will explore and extend the work of the Commission on Unalienable Rights (COUR), an independent and nonpartisan body convened from 2019 through 2020 and composed of academics, philosophers, and practitioners. Its charge was to provide the US State Department with advice on human rights grounded in the nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On August 26, 2020, the Commission issued its final report, a document approved unanimously by all 11 COUR Commissioners that has since been translated into seven languages. We bring the work of the Commission into sharper focus and into dialogue with a broad range of interlocutors, including critics and including scholars and jurists from outside of the United States. The conference features an innovative and focused format that reflects this ambition, boasting five keynote addresses, a response from a member of the Commission, and a subsequent panel discussion. The objective for this arrangement is to foster substantive, balanced, engaged, and probative discussion of key ideas and issues generated by the Commission’s report.  We aim to generate an atmosphere of free inquiry, civil and collegial discourse, and lively intellectual exchange. 

Our Theme: Human Rights

Human rights - what they are, and what they demand of us - are among the most celebrated yet contested ideals of liberal democracy. The Constitutionalism and Rule of Law (CAROL) at the University of Notre Dame proudly presents its inaugural conference, entitled “Inalienable Rights and the Traditions of Constitutionalism,” to address these monumental questions. This conference will feature compelling talks, earnest discussion, and a warm intellectual community, all on the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame. 

Our Focus: The COUR Report 

This conference will explore the work of the Commission on Unalienable Rights (COUR), a body convened from 2019 through 2020 and composed of academics, philosophers, and practitioners. Its charge was to provide the U.S. government with advice on human rights grounded in the nation’s founding principles and international principles of rights. On August 26, 2020, the Commission issued its final report, a document that was signed and approved unanimously by all 11 COUR commissioners and that has since been translated into seven languages. 

Rooted in American founding principles and informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December 1948, the Commission’s report addresses key foundational principles and places them within a broad international context. This conference brings together the work of the Commission into sharper focus and broadly examines several key themes from the Commission’s report, including the nature of inalienable rights, the legacy of the American political tradition, the American commitment to international human rights, and the place of human rights in foreign policy. The COUR report is not the endpoint but a launchpad for further consideration about the meaning and importance of rights.

Our Format: Innovative Public Discourse

CAROL conferences aim to enrich public discourse and foster innovative research on human flourishing, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. In an age when most citizens listen only to people with whom they already agree, we present a truly unique and public-spirited conference. The conference features a number of wide-ranging views on human rights across the political spectrum. Our ambitions are big: foster a public discussion that is thorough and deep, while yet wide-ranging and accessible to anyone who wants to understand how rights relate to law and human flourishing. The format of the conference reflects this distinctive ambition of the CAROL lab and the Kellogg Institute.  

In the spirit of promoting public discourse, the conference will feature five keynote addresses which will present broad principles and ideas for the audience’s consideration. Each keynote will be followed by a panel of experts who take up a major question, and engage it from a wide variety of viewpoints. These keynotes and panels will be followed by a public Q & A for Commission members: a chance to ask them questions and learn about what guided their proposals. In short, the conference presents a unique opportunity to encourage public discourse on the place of human rights in a constitutional order.

We have assembled a truly impressive schedule of keynote speakers and panelists. 

Keynote Presenters

Respondents from the Commission on Unalienable Rights

Panelists

Notre Dame Faculty
  • Diane Desierto, Professor of Law and Global Affairs and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
  • Randy Kozel, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Academic Affairs and Diane and M.O. Miller II Research Professor of Law
  • Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Dan Philpott, Professor of Political Science  and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
  • Emilia Justyna Powell, Associate Professor of Political Science, concurrent Associate Professor of Law, and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
  • Clemens Sedmak, Professor of Social Ethics and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
Theme 1 

Overview commentary of the Commission on Unalienable Rights final report, with a particular focus on nationalism and human rights; constitutional traditions and international law.
Keynote Speaker: Joseph Weiler (New York University)
Respondent: Hamza Yousef Hanson (US Commission on Unalienable Rights)
Panelists: Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen (The Sorbonne), David Moore (Brigham Young University), Gresa Caka–Nimani (Constitutional Court of Kosovo)
Moderator:  Clemens Sedmak (University of Notre Dame)

Theme 2

What is natural law and why does it matter for (inalienable) rights? What is the role of natural law in the context of a diversity and pluralism of constitutional traditions and understandings of rights?
Keynote Speaker: Robert George (Princeton University)
Respondent: Meir Soloveichik (US Commission on Unalienable Rights)
Panelists: Jane Adolphe (Ave Maria University School of Law), Nigel Biggar (Oxford University), Carlos Bernal (University of Dayton School of Law)
Moderator: Randy Kozel (University of Notre Dame)

Theme 3

Human dignity, diversity, and tolerance in the United States; conflicts, tensions, and reconciliation in the American experience.
Keynote Speaker: Martha Minow (Harvard University)
Respondent: Jacqueline Rivers (US Commission on Unalienable Rights)
Panelists: Robert Destro (Catholic University of America), Ganna Yudkivska (European Court of Human Rights)
Moderator: Daniel Philpott (University of Notre Dame)

Theme 4

The method and approach of the Commission report applicable, or adaptable, to different constitutional traditions and their relationship to international human rights?
Keynote Speaker: Sherman A. Jackson (University of Southern California)
Respondent: Chris Tollefsen (US Commission on Unalienable Rights)
Panelists: Yahya Cholil Staquf (Nahdlatul Ulama), Asifa Qureshi (University of Wisconsin Law School), Seth Kaplan (Johns Hopkins University)
Moderator: Emilia Justyna Powell (University of Notre Dame)

Theme 5

The Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights:  Where do we go from here?
Keynote Speaker: Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard University)
Respondent: Kenneth Anderson (US Commission on Unalienable Rights)
Panelists: Peter Paczolay (European Court of Human Rights), Alexandra Huneeus (University of Wisconsin Law School), Aaron Rhodes (Senior Fellow, Common Sense Society; President, Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe)
Moderator: Diane Desierto (University of Notre Dame)

Sunday, November 14

14:00 – Welcome and Introduction
Paolo Carozza, (Director of the Kellogg Institute and member of the Commission on Unalienable Rights)

THEME I: Overview commentary of the Commission on Unalienable Rights final report

14:15 – Theme I Keynote
Joseph Weiler (New York University), keynote presenter
Hamza Yousef Hanson (Zaytuna College, US Commission on Unalienable Rights), respondent

15:30 – Break

15:45 – Theme I Panel Discussion
Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen (The Sorbonne), panelist
David Moore (Brigham Young University), panelist
Gresa Caka–Nimani (Constitutional Court of Kosovo), panelist
Clemens Sedmak (University of Notre Dame), moderator

17:00 – Break 

18:00 – Dinner (for invited guests)

THEME II: Natural law and its role in understanding human rights

19:30 - Theme II Keynote
Robert George (Princeton University), keynote presenter
Meir Soloveichik (Congregation Shearith Israel, US Commission on Unalienable Rights), respondent


Monday, November 15 

08:30 – Welcome and introduction 

THEME II (continued)

08:45 – Theme II Panel Discussion
Jane Adolphe (Ave Maria University School of Law), panelist
Nigel Biggar (Oxford University), panelist
Carlos Bernal (University of Dayton School of Law), panelist
Randy Kozel (University of Notre Dame), moderator

10:00 – Break 

THEME III: Human dignity, diversity, and tolerance in the United States

10:15 – Theme III Keynote
Martha Minow
(Harvard University), keynote presenter
Jacqueline Rivers (Harvard University, US Commission on Unalienable Rights), respondent

11:30  – Break

12:00 – Lunch 

13:30 – Theme III Panel Discussion
Robert Destro
(Catholic University of America), panelist
Ganna Yudkivska (European Court of Human Rights), panelist
Daniel Philpott (University of Notre Dame), moderator

14:45 – Break 

THEME IV: The Commission report, international human rights, and constitutional traditions

15:00 –  Theme IV Keynote
Sherman A. Jackson
(University of Southern California), keynote presenter
Chris Tollefsen (University of South Carolina, US Commission on Unalienable Rights), respondent

16:15 – Break

16:30 – Theme IV Panel Discussion
Yahya Cholil Staquf
(Nahdlatul Ulama), panelist
Asifa Quraishi-Landes (University of Wisconsin Law School), panelist
Seth Kaplan (Johns Hopkins University), panelist
Emilia Justyna Powell (University of Notre Dame), moderator

17:45 – Break

18:00 – Dinner (for invited guests) 

1930 - Cultural Event 


Tuesday, November 16 

08:30 – Welcome 

THEME V: Where do we go from here?

08:45 – Theme V Keynote
Mary Ann Glendon
(Harvard University), keynote presenter
Kenneth Anderson (American University, US Commission on Unalienable Rights), respondent

10:00 – Break

10:15 – Theme IV Panel Discussion
Peter Paczolay
(European Court of Human Rights), panelist
Alexandra Huneeus (University of Wisconsin Law School), panelist
Aaron Rhodes (Common Sense Society, Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe), panelist
Diane Desierto (University of Notre Dame), moderator

11:30 – Break

11:45 – Plenary Session and Final Comments
Peter Berkowitz (Hoover Institution - Stanford University), panelist
David Pan (University of California, Irvine), panelist
Vincent Philip Muñoz (University of Notre Dame, panelist
Paolo Carozza (University of Notre Dame), moderator

13:00 – Lunch & Departures

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