Reflecting on the Student Conference in Kyrgyzstan on 'Just Transition': A Transformative Learning and Bonding Experience for 30 Students from Around the World

“The duty of being optimistic and the power of solidarity to advance an equitable global order”: Despite the bleak global landscape marked by a deep backslide in human rights and democracy, hope and resilience emerged as powerful themes shared by Global Campus students at the recent Conference on ‘Just Transition’. The event encompassed essential components of truth, justice, and reconciliation.

Held in Bishkek and Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan from June 17 to 21, and curated by the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, the conference provided a unique platform for learning, discussion, and connection. It focused on transitions from dictatorships or authoritarian regimes to democratic structures, examining the facilitators and obstacles of genuine transitions.


The students, representing over 20 nationalities, presented historical and contemporary case studies on transitional justice processes. They found commonalities across different geopolitical contexts, discussing topics such as the role of political dynasties in Southeast Asia, the misuse of constitutions and democratic frameworks by authoritarian regimes in Latin America, and the factors explaining the failure of democracy in Afghanistan. Debates addressed the challenge of establishing official truths during reconciliation processes, the crucial role of civil society in promoting justice for minorities, the consequences of transitioning to democracy without justice, the impact of weaponized memories of past conflicts, and how participatory filmmaking can contribute to transitional justice.


Students explored how quickly democracy can be destroyed and the rule of law harmed, while recognizing that building these institutions takes generations. Their research highlighted how autocrats misuse democratic structures and human rights to gradually dismantle well-functioning democracies, as noted by Manfred Nowak, Global Campus Secretary General, in his opening speech.


A final lesson learned at the conference is that no nation exists in isolation: problems can be simultaneously local, national, and influenced by external factors. The consequences of violations of the rule of law, chaos, disorder, and bad governance can spread widely. Therefore, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach is crucial. This is exactly how the Global Campus of Human Rights steers its human rights education across its eight Master’s programs.

A big thank you to the staff of the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, the main organizer of the program, the students, and the faculty from the eight Global Campus regional academic hubs (Africa, Arab World, Europe, South East Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, and Asia Pacific) who challenged students in critical thinking and were also challenged by them.

Below, a video prepared by the students that captures the special moment of a very formative academic and bonding experience.

Credit: Rizky Ashar, GC Asia Pacific (APMA) student.

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