Human Rights students addressed by distinguished Commonwealth figure, Vijay Krishnarayan
- Thursday, March 12, 2020
Roehampton’s students of MA Human Rights and International Relations and LLM Human Rights and Legal Practice recently enjoyed a lecture from Vijay Krishnarayan, the retired Director General of The Commonwealth Foundation.
In the first of what is hoped to become a series of lectures, Vijay Krishnarayan addressed the complexities of realising human rights and legal empowerment, with particular reference to legal remedies employed in Kenya following post-election violence in 2008, and supported by the Foundation.
The Commonwealth Foundation is the Commonwealth’s agency for civil society, and exists to support people’s participation in democracy and development among its member nations. Vijay served two terms as Director General of The Commonwealth Foundation, the maximum allowed, and stood down last June. Under his leadership the organisation became one of the Commonwealth’s most respected inter-governmental bodies with a programme focused on sustainable development goals and inclusion.
Throughout Vijay’s high profile, 35 year career he has supported civil society organisations all over the world. Born in London to parents who came to Britain from Trinidad and Tobago as part of the Windrush generation, Vijay’s family returned to the Caribbean in the 1970s where he attended school. He then came back to the UK to take a degree in Urban and Regional Planning at Oxford Polytechnic, now Oxford Brookes University. Although he never worked as a planner, it ignited his interest in the environment and its political economy, which led to him helping establish an Environment Team at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in the early 1990s.
After a spell volunteering with his wife in Belize for VSO, Vijay became increasingly interested in the collaborations needed between civil society and governments to achieve sustainable development outcomes. A subsequent job with the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, working in St Lucia and Trinidad, gave Vijay a deepened appreciation of the importance of policies, institutions and capacities as levers of development.
Vijay eventually returned to the UK, and in 2006 was appointed Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, a role he held for six years before being appointed Director in 2012.
Roehampton's Dr Jennifer Melvin, senior lecturer, commented: 'It was a joy to have Vijay Krishnarayan teach on my module, Human Rights Campaigning and Advocacy as part of our MA Human Rights and International Relations and LLM Human Rights and Legal Practice. His vast knowledge and experience supporting civic voices in the pursuit of development is invaluable to the promotion of human rights and the learning of our students'.