2024 SAR Global Congress in Vilnius: Uniting the Academic Community Against Threats

On June 25-27 the 2024 SAR (Scholars at Risk) Global Congress took place at the European Humanities University in Vilnius, Lithuania, bringing together hundreds of scholars, human rights defenders, and activists to discuss and defend academic freedom around the world.

A Crucial Step in the Fight for Academic Freedom

The congress featured presentations by 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, and Dr. Ian Bickford, president of the American University in Afghanistan. Panels discussed the situation of academic communities in Afghanistan before and after the 2021 crisis, the international academic freedom monitoring system, “Courage to Think” dialogues with at-risk scholars from Yemen and Ethiopia, EHU’s experience as a Belarusian university in exile, supporting higher education activities in Gaza crisis, representation of at-risk scholars in UN and regional formats, academic freedom resistance in Russia and beyond (with a particular focus on academics at risk due to their opposition to the war in Ukraine), and other topics (to learn more about the program, click here).

The congress brought together over 60 speakers and 240 members of the academic community from universities and organizations across Europe, America, Africa, and Asia.
During the congress, the SAR “Courage to Think” award was presented to Ukrainian scholars for their courage and defense of academic values during wartime. The event was organized in partnership with the European Humanities University (EHU) and also featured an exhibition by EHU professor emeritus Aliaksandr Kalbaska, “The Impossible Dream,” which depicts the closure of the European Humanities University in Minsk and its relocation to Vilnius in 2004-2006 (the exhibition and EHU history can be explored in a virtual tour here) .

The 2024 SAR Global Congress was a significant step in the fight for academic freedom worldwide. Science-based societal development is essential for human rights and a more just world for all, and the congress helped to raise awareness of the growing threats to academic research and scholar safety, while also uniting the international community in the fight for freedom of knowledge.

To learn more about the Scholars at Risk network and their work to protect threatened scholars, click here:

Event sponsors:

Vilnius City Municipality; Mellon Foundation; Charina Endowment Fund; Charles Koch Foundation;  European Union; Freedom House; Fritt Ord Foundation; Gerda Henkel Foundation; Henry Luce Foundation; Microsoft Corporation; National Endowment for Democracy; National University of Ireland, Maynooth; New York University; Open Society Foundations; Vivian G. Prins Foundation; Wiley Impact Fund | Winston Foundation, as well as EHU donors: European Commission, Nordic Council of Ministers, Lithuania and Sweden.