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Ideas of human rights in the Americas have been rooted in humanitarian, as well as geopolitical, concerns since the early twentieth century. This talk examines the repercussions of the foundational declarations of the Organization of American States (OAS) on human rights in 1948, and the projection of US Cold War concerns of containing socialist regimes into the OAS and the Inter-American System. The talk will focus on the emergence of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC), created in 1959, and the final exclusion of Cuba from the OAS in 1962. It will argue that both the IAHRC and the OAS in their early stages of progressive institutionalization were informed by US-led Cold War geopolitical and humanitarian concerns that contributed to shaping their present form.

Juan Pablo Scarfi is currently a Fullbright Fellow at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín, and a Research Associate at the Argentine National Research and Technological Council (CONICET). He received his PhD in 2014 from the University of Cambridge and has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University, UCL Institute of the Americas in London, and the Université Paris 3, Sorbonne Nouvelle.  Professor Scarfi is the author, most recently, of The Hidden History of International Law in the Americas: Empire and Legal Networks (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).