Calling on an audience of human rights leaders, scientists, government officials, and students to “stand up for what [you] believe in, with a passion,” environmental rights defender and IIE-SRF alumnus Alfred Brownell of Liberia delivered the keynote address at the October 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science, Technology and Human Rights Conference, held in Washington, D.C. In his remarks, Brownell underscored the need for more collaboration between science and technology experts and human rights organizations and stressed the importance of science-based information for activists seeking to implement change at the local, national, and international levels.
Brownell, a legal scholar and environmental lawyer, recalled from personal experience the importance of working with the scientific community to support conservation efforts in his home country of Liberia, where vast expanses of rainforest have come under threat of exploitation by companies seeking to harvest the land’s natural resources. Brownell and his colleagues “decided to turn our anger into action, combining our knowledge and experience of science, natural resources, and the law” to found the grassroots organization Green Advocates, which has preserved more than 500,000 acres of land that is valued for its biodiversity, Carbon sequestration and cultural importance to indigenous communities.
Brownell undertook IIE-SRF fellowships from 2017 to 2018 at the Northeastern University School of Law, where he presently serves as Associate Research Professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence. He was the inaugural IIE-SRF Beau Biden Scholar, a distinction awarded annually to an IIE-SRF fellow who embodies the legacy of the former Attorney General of Delaware in pursuing justice and safeguarding vulnerable populations. Brownell is also a recipient of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize for his work strengthening legal protections for Liberians and the environment.
The three-day AAAS conference addressed the important role that scientists, engineers, and health professionals have played in promoting and protecting human rights. The conference also featured a panel discussion on IIE-SRF’s Partnerships for Scholar Advancement (PSA) initiative, a network of partner organizations and individuals committed to providing IIE-SRF fellows and alumni with opportunities for career advancement and professional development during and after their fellowships. IIE-SRF’s Olga Gregorian and PSA Volunteer Mentors Florence Chaverneff, Sloka Iyengar, and Michael J. Martin shared how they have been able to support scholars through PSA and discussed opportunities for providing more effective advising networks for threatened and displaced scientists.
IE-SRF values its ongoing collaboration with the AAAS On-call Scientists program, whose volunteer scientists have fulfilled more than 70 requests since 2015 to review research samples submitted by applicants to IIE-SRF.