Celebrating Professor David Fisher: universalism versus relativism in the human rights discourse

with Elena Namli, Hans Ingvar Roth, Joakim Nergelius and Jarna Petman

Stockholm Centre for International Law and Justice invites you to the seminar

Celebrating Professor David Fisher


Universalism versus relativism in the human rights discourse

Professor David Fisher retires this year from Stockholm University. His research fields include human rights, conflict of laws and outer space law. This event is in celebration of him. We hope that as many of you as possible will be able to attend. David Fisher obtained his B.A. 1978 (Fordham), J.D. 1981 (New York Law School), jur dr 1990 (Stockholm) and was promoted to professor international law 2005 (Stockholm).

The event centres around the universal versus cultural relativist debate, i.e. whether one should strive for human rights standards applicable to all humans or if the account should be taken to differences in culture, history and societal factors. One may also discuss human rights as a means of dealing with diversity within a society, and how much account should be afforded to individuals and groups with distinct beliefs, traditions and preferences. Here one could compare John Locke’s weaker and Roger William’s stronger approach to what extent a majority should accommodate the preferences of religious minorities. The speakers of this panel will shed light on these different views on these matters.

Speakers and panelists

Elena Namli is professor of ethics at the faculty of theology, Uppsala university. Her field of expertise is social ethics, political ethics and ethical theory. Currently, she is conducting research on the political potential of soft legal positivism. Among her publications are Human Rights as Ethics, Politics, and Law (2014); Future(s) of the Revolution and the Reformation (2019); and Etik (2019).

Hans Ingvar Roth is professor of human rights at the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Stockholm University. He has previously worked at the Ministry of Justice and for the OSCE. He has authored the monographs “Mångfaldens gränser” (2010), “Är religion en mänsklig rättighet?” (2012), “När Konfucius kom till FN” (2016) and “Peng Chun Chang, Intercultural Ethics and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (2016).

Joakim Nergelius is professor at Örebro University, where he was the first professor in law. Previously he was an associate professor in constitutional law at the University of Lund, associate professor in comparative law and EU law at Åbo Akademi. He has also worked at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). He has authored “The Relationship Between National Constitutional Courts and the EU Court of Justice – A Matter of Growing Importance in Times of a “Rule of Law Battle” (2020) and “EU:s rättighetsstadga 20 år: Vad har den åstadkommit?” (2020)

Jarna Petman is Associate Professor in public international law at Stockholm University. She was one of the three founding members, and then the Deputy Director, of the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights at Helsinki Law Faculty. A former member of the European Committee of Social Rights, she is currently one of the Commissioners of the International Commission of Jurists. She has acted as legal expert for the various ministries and the Parliament of Finland. She has authored “Human Rights and Violence – the hope and fear of the liberal world” (2017), “Resort to Sanctions by Not Directly Affected States” (2000) and “Autonomous Weapons Systems and International Humanitarian Law” (2017)

After the seminar there will be a reception.

Registration (voluntary): scilj@juridicum.su.se, latest the same day