Monday, August 20, 2018
On September 13-14, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia, the Coca-Cola company will host the Engaging Business Forum Representatives from NGOs, the UN, and business leaders will spend two days discussing issues such as corporate responsibilities to human rights defenders and fair wages in the supply chain.
Here's the description of the Forum from the organizers:
"The Engaging Business Forum series provides a unique opportunity for a candid discussion between business leaders and other experts on the importance of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the challenges faced by business in demonstrating respect for human rights in their business operations. At this year’s forum, participants will come away with a deeper understanding of collaboration through partnerships to address business and human rights trends and developments. A variety of cutting-edge issues in this important field will be covered from different viewpoints."
Registration is open and is available here.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
Some women, through the example of their own lives, inspire us to put down our iphones and demand more of ourselves than just tweeting here and there. Arvonne Fraser, who passed away on August 7 at age 92, was just such a person. Early on, she ran her husband's successful political campaigns and headed his staff while he was served as mayor of Minneapolis and later in Congress. All the while, she took individual actions to change the culture, including bringing gender equity to his staff. By the 1970s, she wanted to step out of the limited role of political wife and helpmate. She served as national president of the Women's Equity Action League, which focused on economic equity for women. Fraser also recognized clearly that women's rights are human rights. Under President Carter, she served as director of the Office of Women in Development at the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
In a 2011 interview reflecting on her career, Fraser bemoaned the obscurity of women's history: "We just have to get more of this history down because I'm a firm believer that progress generates progress . . . [and] the lack of women's history disempowers women."
Though we mourn her passing, Fraser's impact can live on in our own actions and the power of her history to inspire and teach. It's up to us to take up the baton. In announcing a celebration of her life scheduled for August 30 in Minneapolis, Fraser's family wrote, "If you want to honor Arvonne, please don't send flowers or cards. Instead, go out and organize for a cause, donate to and volunteer for candidates, read the news and talk to your family, friends and neighbors and elected officials about important issues."
Thursday, August 16, 2018
The ACLU has published its report on Judge Kavanaugh's record in the area of civil rights and civil liberties. The report addresses human rights issues from pp. 4-9. Based on this detailed analysis, the ACLU summarizes Judge Kavanaugh's record as follows:
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Challenging a Climate of Hate - As the Federal Government Steps Back, State and Local Governments Must Step In
JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School & Director, Human Rights in the U.S. Project, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
This year’s rally drew far fewer participants than last year, meaning fewer messengers of racism and hatred. Opponents of hate, including organizers from around the country, were there in numbers that dwarfed rally attendees, highlighting a vigilant rejection of public demonstrations of hate. This is critical because we know that hateful rhetoric is deeply connected to increased hate violence and racially motivated intimidation.
The violence that took place in Charlottesville last year drew global attention. The UN CERD Committee weighed in, calling on the United States to take action to “address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations,” and promote understanding, tolerance, and diversity between ethnic groups.” In domestic circles, President Trump was also much maligned for his failure to immediately condemn the violence or to show leadership amidst the racial turmoil. This year, the President again failed to condemn the actions or messages of white supremacists.
One year after Charlottesville, the current administration continues to fan the flames of the hate. Trumps’ rhetoric is infused with racism and discrimination – not surprising, as he has derided African Americans and expressed deep anti-semitism for the entirety of his professional career. His Administration’s policies have put racism, as well as anti-immigrant and anti-muslim sentiment into practice. The travel bans and efforts to separate immigrant children from their families are just two of the most egregious examples.
Less attention has been paid to how the Administration is dismantling programs designed with the express purpose of preventing bias, discrimination, and hate. The Trump budget proposal for 2019 effectively eliminates the DOJ Community Relations Service, which was created by the 1964 Civil Rights Act to do just that. CRS does not prosecute or investigate acts of hate, it is focused on affirmative efforts to build community and tolerance, and combat discrimination. As civil rights groups have noted, the loss of CRS will negatively impact communities most vulnerable to hate crimes and bias. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights criticized the cuts, highlighting how they “reduce the federal role even in serving as a critical backstop against harm to vulnerable Americans.”
Eliminating racial discrimination, preventing acts of hate, bias, and discrimination, and promoting tolerance are GOVERNMENT obligations. These are obligations the United States has formally committed to by ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination in 1994, and which the current administration has chosen to ignore. While the U.S. was due to report on its CERD compliance last year, the Trump Administration has obstructed further scrutiny of its human rights record by ignoring even its basic obligation to produce a report for review by UN experts.
As the federal government flouts its human rights obligations, it is imperative that states and localities step in to respond to the climate of hate, bias, and intimidation unfolding across the United States. Indeed, human rights obligations apply not only to the federal government, but to states and localities as well.
The CERD Committee has offered significant guidance on ways that the United States can make good on its human rights commitments and address the persistence of discriminatory attitudes and outcomes through law and policy reform. The Committee has called on the United States to strengthen and expand existing mechanisms to monitor human rights at the federal, state, and local levels. The CERD has also emphasized the importance of awareness-raising, and the collection of disaggregated data collection in order to generate greater understanding of the impacts of discrimination and generate more effective solutions.
State and local human rights agencies, many of which were initially established in the 1940s to specifically address racial tensions and promote equal opportunity, and whose primary functions are to monitor and enforce compliance with domestic anti-discrimination laws, are uniquely well-placed to heed the guidance from CERD and provide a positive counterweight to federal inaction on bias, discrimination, and hate.
We see this from New York City Human Rights Commission, which launched an #IAmMuslim Campaign. And in Seattle, where the Seattle Office for Civil Rights that developed a city-wide “Bias Hurts” campaign. These initiatives track discrimination, bring communities together to prevent escalation, and foster tolerance.
Across the country, local human rights commissions serve an array of functions that align with human rights norms. They prevent discrimination, enforce civil anti-discrimination law, make policy recommendations, and foster positive community relations. They are also already interlocutors on the global human rights stage, and they have increasingly integrated international human rights standards into their work. Later this month, state and local human rights agencies will meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Tendayi Achiume at their annual conference.
With adequate resources and support, state and local agencies can leverage core human rights principles to challenge the current climate of fear and hate. They can use CERD as guidance in policy work, to conduct community outreach, and to enhance local data collection efforts, building on their strong history of strengthening civil and human rights protections.
The recommendations found here are detailed further in a recent article, Challenging a Climate of Hate and Fostering Inclusion: The Role of U.S. State and Local Human Rights Commissions. The article is part of an entire issue of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review dedicated to innovations and challenges in state and local human rights implementation. The Issue includes pieces on struggles to advances access to sanitation in Alabama; developments in localizing the Sustainable Development Goals in US cities; design challenges in implementing human rights at the city level, and lessons learned from complementary efforts to advance human rights locally in Europe. The issue also features insights from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. As many advocates pivot to state and local advocacy, it’s a timely read.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Announcing an exciting conference, Sept. 28-29 in Atlanta: Seeking Justice Beyond our Shores: The Case for U.S. Ratification of the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. Event co-sponsors are the National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc.; The Rod Logal Center for Justice; United Nations Association of Atlanta; and the United Nations Association, Council of Organizations.
The organizers say:
"As part of our Opt IN USA campaign, you are cordially invited to join what we anticipate will be a panel of leading human rights advocates discussing in relation to their respective constituents, the impact and implications, if any, of America having not yet ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. The conference will also include brief talks collectively: proposing objectively discernible, structural gaps in America’s legal system as they relate to rights protection; recalling the history of interbranch comity in our country; asserting constitutional infirmities in the regulation of speech among U.S. legal professionals; and suggesting if not establishing how all of this impedes U.S. court officers in responding “effectively and consistently to human rights violations and abuses”. Each conference talk will be followed by full panel input through questions and/or comments."
Registration information is available here.
Monday, August 13, 2018
The UN Global Compact will be offering a short webinar on SDGs and corporate reporting -- in English on August 30, and in Spanish on September 6.
Specifically, the webinar will lay out:
- Three practical steps to integrating the SDGs into corporate reporting
- Established disclosures that businesses can use to report on the SDGs
- Ways to align corporate reporting on the SDGs with investors’ information needs
More information, including registration, is available here.
While you're on the Global Compact website, check out the other resources and action items, including this Open Letter to academic institutions demanding that future managers and leaders be educated on business and human rights.
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Last week, the American Psychological Association voted to stand firm against torture and to continue their opposition to military psychologists' work with Guantanamo detainees. Proponents of relaxing the ban argued that ready availability of military psychologists would be beneficial to the detainees who might seek counseling. However, the policy was initially implemented in 2015 when it was revealed the military psychologists had participated in aspects of detainee torture. Now, with a President who has spoken approvingly of waterboarding,a CIA Director who personally oversaw torture during her previous posting at a black hole site, and a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who views torture favorably, the solid majority of the APA felt that it was not the right time to relax the prohibition. Psychologists from independent agencies such as the Red Cross would be ethically permitted to offer counseling services at Guantanamo under the current APA policy, but the US has refused to give those professionals access to the facility.
Juan Méndez, the former United Nations special rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, was among the human rights leaders who spoke out against a change in policy. He said in a statement, “The current military restriction on access to independent psychologists at Guantánamo is itself a violation of international law. For the APA to weaken its ethical standards to accommodate this violation is to acquiesce in the continued violation of the rights of the detainees.”
As recently as December 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture relayed reports that torture was in continued use at Guantanamo.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Local and state human rights agencies are on the front lines of human rights struggles in the US, and in many instances, they are the government agencies that are speaking out and holding the line against encroaching racism and other human rights violations.
The International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies will hold its annual conference from August 26-30 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The theme for the conference, which brings civil and human rights professionals from the US and Canada, is: “IAOHRA: Advancing the Civil and Human Rights Agenda; the Fierce Urgency of Now.” Registration information is available here.
The agenda for the meeting is posted on the registration site. Plenary speakers include E. Tendayi Achiume, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance; and Catherine Lhamon, Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Breakout sessions address topics such as fair housing, implicit bias, and local human rights initiatives.
Kudos to the conference organizers for connecting the dots between local and the international human rights in this area!
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and head of UN Women, has been nominated to be the new UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. Bachelet, who lived in Bethesda, Maryland for two years in her youth, has a long history of work on economic and social rights, including economic inequality, health inequities, and women's rights. She has also been a leader in eliminating torture. Her appointment will require a vote of UN membership.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
There's still time to consider a Fulbright grant to Sweden!
While the application deadline for most of the Fulbright U.S. Core awards was August 1, 2018, a select number of opportunities remain open for new applications until Wednesday, September 12. The full list of open Core awards can be found in the Catalog of Awards. In the Sweden, the Fulbright program is still accepting applications for the following human rights-focused award:
Fulbright-Lund University Chair in Public International Law
This four- to nine-month award offers affiliation at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and/or Lund University. The chair will teach at the master's level in human rights, international law, international organizations, civil and political rights, humanitarian law, refugee law, minority and indigenous rights and international labor standards. The chair may also teach human rights training courses in Lund on topics such as civil and political rights, good governance and anti-corruption efforts and human rights of women, and supervise master's students in their thesis research and writing. The Chair may also participate in collaborative research and teach at the Faculty of Law at Lund University.
A letter of invitation should not be sought for this award.
Editor's Note (MD): This is a fantastic position at a vibrant institute that combines top-notch academic research with meaningful programmatic human rights work worldwide. Beyond your own research and writing, there are many opportunities to work with staff in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. To top it off, if you have kids to bring along, Sweden is supremely family-friendly. Don't put it off another year! Or if you are going to put it off, at least share this with someone who can take advantage of the opportunity this year!
Monday, August 6, 2018
In what appears to be a universal phenomenom, mothers who raise allegations that the father is abusing her or the children are often not awarded custody and even less so if the mother alleges sexual abuse. The mothers are accused of "alienating the children from the father.
Jenny Birchall and Professor Shazia Choudhry, of Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University London released a report this past May on how women abused by their male partners fare in court. The findings are frighteningly similar to the experiences of US abuse victims and research recently conducted by Joan Meier of George Washington University.
The British researchers said "The research highlights the damaging effects of a toxic combination: a lack of understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse along with incorrect interpretations of human rights. This combination contributes to what survivors tell us is their most common experience of family courts: an acutely negative and traumatising one."
"A common finding was that survivors in our sample felt that evidence of domestic abuse was not taken seriously by the courts and other professionals involved in the child contact process, and that the dynamics and impact of domestic abuse were not understood. This led to potentially unsafe decisions on child contact being made, and survivors of domestic abuse being placed in dangerous and frightening situations, including cross-examination by their ex-partners in court." The researchers discuss gender bias, stereotyping and allegations of parental alienation.
The authors suggest an investigation into the family courts. "We are therefore calling for an independent statutory inquiry, equipped with the necessary resources to conduct an in-depth examination of the family courts’ handling of domestic abuse." The authors include as part of that review the violation of human rights of the non-abusive family members.
At a later time, we will review the findings of Joan Meier who conducted extensive research into parental alienation allegations in family court and the consequences for the non-abusive parent and her children.
Last week, two Special Rapporteurs -- one from the UN and one from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -- issued an unusual joint statement condemning President Trump's verbal assaults on the media and urging the administration to stop its efforts to undermine a free press. The two experts, David Kaye and Edison Lanza, are the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression for their respective international bodies.
“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” the experts said. “We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”
Further, “[w]e stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide. We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.”
The experts encouraged all media to act in solidarity against the efforts of President Trump to favour some outlets over others.
Sunday, August 5, 2018
OSCE to Conduct Limited Election Monitoring in Upcoming US Midterms -- Hiring is open for US and non-US positions
The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE )will be conducting limited election monitoring in the U.S, starting in October and running through the mid-term elections in November. Note that this monitoring has been invited by the U.S. Government, and targeted areas for monitoring will be based on a study completed by the OSCE in May 2018.
The deadline for applying to join the OSCE Mission is August 6, 2018. More information is available here. Only non-U.S. citizens are eligible to serve as Mission participants.
However, election monitoring support staff positions are open ONLY to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Application deadlines for these short-term jobs close in September. These positions include a number of programmatic positions as well as administrative support positions. More information is available here.
The OSCE last observed the November 2014 election. You can find the OSCE's report and the press conference immediately following the election here.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week in favor of Chicago ordering that the federal government cannot withold funding from cities that refuse to cooperate with the adminstration on enforcement of federal immigration laws. The ban is intended to be national in scope. The lawsuit was filed after Attorney General Sessions announced that cities refusing to cooperate in immigration enforcement would not be eligable for certain DOJ grants.
Justice demands included uncontrolled access to jails and 24 hour notice if an individual wanted for immigration violations is to be released.
The injuction is temporary and was issued on separation of powers grounds. The full order may be read here.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and the Institute of Public Policies on Human Rights of MERCOSUR (IPPDH) have posted a call for the 3rd edition of the International Course on Public Policies in Human Rights.
According to the announcement, the course seeks to train relevant actors of the Americas on the human rights approach in public policies. It adopts a perspective that recognizes the advances and challenges in the region, and explores the potential that the human rights approach poses for state institutions.
The course will combine theoretical and practical training in the fields of international human rights law, the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights, social sciences, and public administration, with the presentation of practical experiences of high impact for the guarantee of rights implemented in the States of the region in recent years.
The course is designed for government officials responsible for the design, direction, execution and evaluation of public policies, members of organizations and social movements, academics and society in general. There is a quota of 100 participants. The IACHR and the IPPDH will reserve some seats for officials of the OAS member states interested in participating in this course, as well as for people from social movements and civil society.
More information, including a description of the pedagogy and registration information, is available here.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
"Sexual abuse is one of the primary predictors of girls’ entry into the juvenile justice system...Once inside, girls encounter a system that is often ill-equipped to identify and treat the violence and trauma that lie at the root of victimized girls’ arrests. More harmful still is the significant risk that the punitive environment will re-trigger girls’ trauma and even subject them to new incidents of sexual victimization, which can exponentially compound the profound harms inflicted by the original abuse."
So informs the introduction to a new report highlighting the victimization of young girls who are ferried through the maze of the juvenile justice system when the crime was not theirs but that of the predators who sexually abused them. The report is a collaboration between Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown's Center on Poverty and Inequality, and The Ms. Foundation for Women,
"Once inside, girls encounter a system that is often ill-equipped to identify and treat the violence and trauma that lie at the root of victimized girls’ arrests.
The report exposes various ways in which various systems criminalize girls, particularly girls of color. Trauma based treatment, which is the needed response is typically overlooked. The report addresses the over representation of sexually non-conforming juveniles and is generally a good source of statistics supporting the research that is the basis of the report.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
The Jacob Blaustein Lecture delivered by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in October 2017, is now available on-line, along with an introduction by Felice Gaer, the Blaustein Institute director. More information about the Blaustein Institute's work is available here.
In the lecture, the High Commissioner asks “What is happening to us?” and expresses dismay about the global retreat from human rights. He criticizes a number of world leaders, including presidents of Russia and China. He cites particular alarm at rhetoric from various Western officials and responds to the remarks by the US president before the UN General Assembly. Zeid characterizes the latter speech as “One part chauvinistic nationalisms. One part balance-of-power swordplay and a crumbling adherence to law…” Observing that “we have been here before,” the High Commissioner suggests that limiting international and domestic policy to security and sovereignty, and failing to include human rights considerations, will lead to calamitous results.
The High Commissioner calls for a robust response to the threats facing human rights today: “What would change the trajectory, would be the existence of a world-wide wave of popular support for universal human rights – pushing, prodding, holding their governments to the mark, and shaking-up the slumbering politicians. We must now intensify, greatly, our advocacy and expand our reach in a manner that is without precedent.”
On August 31, 2018, the four-year term in office of Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein will come to an end. He did not seek reappointment to a second term. Applications for the position -- the highest Human Rights officer within the UN -- are now closed, and the world awaits the next steps by the UN Secretary General.
Monday, July 30, 2018
When former President Jimmy Carter spoke at a gathering at the Carter Center in Atlanta, he declared that the US had lost its place as a champion of human rights. "We should be the champion of human rights. We're a superpower, not based solely on military power; part of that definition should be a commitment to human rights."
Echoing what many others have thought, Carter turned his attention to the immigration situation. "We need a comprehensive bill that has bipartisan support. Immigrants need to have a clear picture of what will happen to them when they come here. Clarification of US law is most important." Few would argue that an immigration law overhaul is needed. But before we can reach a bipartisan agreement, Congress must find the allusive and avoided middle-way.
Mr. Carter is hopeful that we can recover our standing in the human rights community. But in order to do so, the US must demonstrate a long term commitment to human rights.
Sunday, July 29, 2018
On Wednesday, our post linked to a Houston Chronicle article on family separation that (somewhat gratuitously) quoted University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner, saying “It is hard to think of examples where the U.S. government was influenced by the positions of any international human rights bodies.”
Since seeing that article, we've been trying to think of counterexamples, and it actually hasn't been too hard at all. Here are a few, big and small, that we came up with right away. Use the comment section to let us know if you think of more!
-- The Bush Administration's effort (through executive action) to bring states into compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs during the Medellin litigation;
-- the federal government's abandonment of torture during the Obama administration;
-- federal officials' compliance with UN suggestions that they consult more widely in preparing UN submissions by (1) holding consultations with grassroots groups and advocates; and (2) reaching out to state governments to gather information on human rights successes and challenges;
-- U.S. Supreme Court's rulings limiting the death penalty nationwide and citing, in addition to other sources, international law.
These examples were easy to think of. And in fact, one of Posner's own colleagues at the U. of Chicago, Vera Shikhelman, has written a series of papers on factors that affect national responses to UN Human Rights Council communications.
Next time the Houston Chronicle calls, perhaps Posner should do as his students do when they aren't prepared and take a pass.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Foreign Policy magazine has obtained a copy of a new questionnaire being used to vet US applicants for UN jobs. According to the magazine, the questionnaire is being used to vet personnel well below the diplomatic level, including non-political personnel. Questions include inquiries about participation in social media, support for political candidates, and other questions that seem to be crafted to test the applicant's political loyalties.
Impactpool, a job search and coaching site reports, for example, that candidates are requested to “provide hyperlinks to any social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) account past/present” with a note ”that it is better not to go through your accounts and delete posts prior to the vetting process as the offending posts are often recoverable by the press in another form.” Also, the candidates are being asked if they have “given speeches on a controversial issue” or written an “opinion piece that has appeared in a traditional newspaper.”
Impactpool also reports that the United States isn’t the only country screening their UN candidates’ political views: Russia, Cuba and P.R. China are also conducting similar tests of political loyalty.