Jane Connors (pictured centre), Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and the inaugural UN Victims’ Rights Advocate, was awarded an honorary PhD this week at the School of Law’s graduation ceremony.
Ms Connors has devoted her career to human rights and women’s rights, as a lawyer, and academic and a senior international civil servant. After completing her studies at the Australian National University, Ms Connors became an esteemed legal academic, including 13 years at SOAS, the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. During that time Ms Connors established herself as a leading voice on women’s rights and human rights. She has published extensively on these topics, and she continues to be invited to contribute to the leading and most prestigious collections and textbooks in this field.
Ms Connors has always been deeply committed to both the academic and practitioner ways of protecting and promoting human rights. From 1996 to 2002, she served as Chief of the Women’s Rights Section, Division for the Advancement of Women, of the United Nations. She subsequently moved to Geneva, where she took up a number of positions at the UN Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, including as Director, Research and Right to Development Division. During this time Ms Connors devoted her career to the practical protection and promotion of human rights.
At the same time, Ms Connors raised a family, often taking her young daughters with her to conferences and on field trips. At a time when many women were unable or unwilling to take their families with them to work, Ms Connors normalised combining a high-flying career and motherhood, setting an example and paving the way for other women in this field.
Ms Connors currently is the first UN Victims’ Rights Advocate. In that role she has created and taken forward a coordinated and strategic response to victim assistance. In this role she works with victims in conflict and post-conflict societies, seeking to address their needs by engaging with their lived experience. She also works with government institutions, civil society, and national and legal and human rights organizations to build networks of support and to help ensure the full effect of local laws, including remedies for victims.
Throughout her work Ms Connors has remained dedicated to teaching and mentoring. She provides expertise and advice to human rights defenders around the world. Despite her extensive work commitments, Ms Connors has served as Chairperson of the global network Keeping Children Safe, Board and Advisory members for key human rights organisations and projects, and as Professor in Practice at the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security. She has inspired and helped generations of activists, practitioners and academics. We are privileged and proud to have had Ms Connors partner with the University of Reading on research projects, speak at our events, and generously give guest lectures to our students.