Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture
The Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture honors the memory of the late Marek Nowicki (1947-2003), an eminent international human rights activist and defender. The two annual lectures, one held in Budapest and one in Warsaw, are funded by the Open Society Institute.
Appointed an expert on human rights by the Polish parliament, Nowicki co-authored the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and helped shape the Polish Constitution. Nowicki wrote extensively on the history and the philosophy of human rights, he co-created documentaries and educational programs, and he spoke passionately on rights and freedoms, thus contributing his expertise to numerous international organizations. He was instigator and supporter of human rights movements in authoritarian countries and new democracies—especially Poland and the other post-Soviet states. Until the end of his life, Nowicki continued to give lectures to audiences all over Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, where his character and charisma made him a trusted leader, and a symbol in the non-violent fight for individual rights and dignity.
Marek Nowicki studied nuclear physics in the 1960s, while passionately helping to popularize mountaineering among student groups in Poland. In the years 1972–'81, Nowicki worked for the Mathematics and Physics Department of Warsaw University. In 1980 and '81, he was active in the "Mazowsze" chapter of the NSZZ Solidarność movement. During martial law, Nowicki was detained by the Polish authorities. In December of 1982, Nowicki co-founded the underground Helsinki Committee of Poland. After the fall of Communism, the members of the Committee, under Nowicki's leadership, established the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. The Foundation has flourished into one of the most active and experienced non-governmental organizations in Europe today. Nowicki presided over the organization until his premature death in 2003.