Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Deadline and a Headline

First, the deadline:  February 5 is the deadline for submitting a paper/panel proposal to this year's annual conference of the Academic Council on the UN System (ACUNS).  The conference, held in Rome from July 12-14, 2018, will focus on Human Rights, Migration, and Global Governance.   More information is available here

Second, the headline:  Laura Germino, a co-founder of the human rights group Coalition of Immokalee Workers, attended the State of the Union address as the guest of U.S. Representative Lois Frankel.  Germino, who directs CIW's Anti-Slavery Program that combats sexual harassment and abuse, is featured in a video released by Rep. Frankel prior to the event.  Frankel and her guests wore black to the speech in solidarity with the #MeToo movement. 

January 31, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Where to Begin?

It’s hard to know where to begin when considering the horrific abuse perpetrated by Larry Nassar. The failure of the adults to believe the young gymnasts who came forward or, worse yet, who cautioned the girls not to pursue the matter. The failures of the institutions involved, including Michigan State University and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Ramifications now being wrought owing to those failures. The obscuring of the crimes even as the numbers of victims went from one to a few to dozens to more than a hundred.

The perseverance of the victims to push forward—and here a shoutout to survivor Rachel Denhollander is deserved, as she—now an attorney—was the one who finally got the situation out of the shadows.

How about the sheer temerity of Nassar to carry out these actions in this flagrant way; no stealthy actions here as Nassar molested them with their parents or his colleagues in the room. Add to that the position that Nassar had, the esteem in which he was held, and his straight-up normal or even meek appearance. He certainly did not look the part. That guy wouldn’t abuse his patients. That guy wouldn’t have child pornography on his computer. And how could a medical treatment be legitimate when girl after girl brings forward assertions of sexual assault. How is that believable the 30th time, the 61st time, the 122nd time, or the third or fourth time?

The conflict of interests here uncovered may ultimately be astounding. To whom were these complaints made? And to whom did those people owe fealty? Were there proper systems and procedures in place? Were they clear? Were they followed? Will they be fixed?

What about the girls? What courage it took for them to tell someone; how many times might they have replayed it in their mind…could that have happened ....but it was Dr. Nassar and he wouldn’t have done that….but I know what I experienced. So they came forward and were dismissed. It is what commonly happens: we do not believe the victim. Especially this type of victim in this type of case. So we add damage upon damage. But their strength remains constant. It is fitting that their names are now painted in homage on a rock at MSU.

What about the parents? Can you imagine? Entrusting their children to the care of this esteemed doctor who would help them remain injury-free or who would, alternatively, minister to their wounds. The guilt that must haunt those parents, whose primary job it is to keep their children safe.

And the good doctor. Who did these acts over decades, survived multiple investigations, listened to the victims’ statements, had already been convicted of and sentenced for child pornography charges and STILL wrote to the judge, “Hell hath no fury like of a woman scorned.” Nearly unbelievable. And the judge herself. Was her behavior too much to be impartial?

What about the journalist who pursued the case, seeking justice? What about the current Department of Education, which will be reviewing the way MSU handled this. What about the dominance and protection of sports in a collegiate setting. Too many What Abouts…

Yes, it is surely hard to know where to begin.

January 30, 2018 in Justine Dunlap | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 29, 2018

State of the Union

Excerpt from the State of the Union address, Jan. 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception—the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear."


January 29, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

New Orlean's Short Lived Human Rights Resolution

On January 11, 2018, New Orleans City Counsel passed a resolution that required the city to screen investments to assure that those investments in corporations that profited from human rights abuses were not part of the city's investment portfolio.  New Orleans led the nation in passing this resolution.   Promoters of the resolution noted the impact that de-investment had on ending apartheid.

Amnesty International USA called the resolution "a positive step for the city in guaranteeing that public funds are not used to support or facilitate the suffering of others through violations of not only the city's values, but also of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The resolution was promoted by the New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee, the New Orleans Avodah Jewish Service Corps, and First Grace Community Alliance.

Yet, the day after passage, the Mayor announced that he would not abide by the terms of the resolution. Despite the fact that resolution developed over one year, the Mayor claimed that the resolution was not sufficiently considered.  And some council members voiced concerns that implementation of the resolution would be used to single out Israel.  Despite the length of time it took for this resolution to pass, apparently the opposition developed not because of concern over the principles but concern over the Solidarity Committee's sponsorship. 

The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and 20 other organizations sent a letter commending the City Council for passing the resolution and encouraging the council not to rescind it. 

What was absent from the process was a conversation around implementation, which was to happen by committee.  Implementation of any human rights act can be complicated, but the hasty withdrawal of the resolution left no room for discussion on which companies would be affected and how investment and de-investment decisions would be made.   Decisions made out of fair undermine human rights endeavors.

Two unknowns overshadow the situation:  whether there is any room to reach an understanding that would address the all concerns, given the political charge of the situation.  Also, will the reversal of this resolution, and the resulting distrust, cause undue scrutiny of future, unrelated human rights resolutions.


January 28, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Helping Incarcerated Women and Girls

A study done by the Vera Institute found that women in jails are one of the fastest growing segments of the prison population.  And nearly 80% of women are mothers.  Women are an afterthought in the discussion of mass incarceration.  Little attention is given to the impact on families when a mother goes to jail.  And little is done to help families stay connected when mothers are incarcerated.  In a nationwide move, sheriffs and other jailers are replacing live child-mother visits with Skype visits.  Nothing replaces touch between parents and children.  Particularly young children are less likely to bond with a virtual parent.  And the incarcerated women are expected to pay for the Skype visits, making even virtual contact out of reach for many.

There are a myriad of discriminatory problems faced by women and girls in prison.  One other is the failure to provide menstrual products to them.  Some states charge for the products, and those who do not often distribute an average of 2.5 pads per month.

The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls works to address the particular barriers that females face during and after incarceration.   From disparities in sentencing, to assisting with re-entry and healing, the National Council provides tremendous community based resources for the recently incarcerated and those currently incarcerated.  I recommend a visit to the Council's website for an introduction to the wide variety of work the Council does, as well as their sister organizations.


January 25, 2018 in Margaret Drew, Prisons, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Let's Get Organized

Philip Alston's official visit to the United States as UN Special Rapporteur has certainly spurred greater attention to inequality in recent weeks, as Angus Deaton's recent NY Times op ed indicates.  The Guardian has run a series that refers back to Alston's findings, and other media also picked up the issue during his visit.

But today, one of my students wondered whether much of this reporting was just reverberating around in an echo chamber.  As evidence, he looked at the Special Rapporteur's twitter feed.    And he was right -- there are just a few thousand followers, with most tweets retweeted less than a 100 times.  Compare that with the former US Attorney of the Eastern District of New York, Preet Bharara -- an interesting fellow, but now just a private citizen with 609,000 followers.

Why hasn't the Special Rapporteur's tweeting gotten out beyond a few faithful human rights followers? 

Could US human rights advocates make better use of the opportunity provided by Alston's visit if they spent a bit more time getting the word out via social media? According to a Pew study, more adults than ever are getting their news from social media.   Alston is to be commended for setting up a twitter account, but it's just the first step, and US human rights advocates should be making sure that every tweet has as much impact as it deserves.

January 24, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Human Rights Hopes from Across the Pond

It is still January, so not too late for New Year's predictions and hopes! 

A few weeks ago, Adam Wagner, the British barrister and human rights blogger, offered these five human rights hopes for 2018. noting that "for the human rights movement to grow, we need to keep an eye on the hope" and not get overly focused on just addressing current threats.

Wagner's Hope #5 is that the "rule of law must remain at the centre of human rights."  Over the past year in the U.S., we've seen that the rule of law may not be as strong as we had imagined.  Wagner observes exactly that phenomenon from his perch in the U.K.  He writes, "[w]e are currently witnessing that lesson in real time in the United States, as the dishonest and potentially corrupt Trump Administration is subjected to independent criminal investigation. 2018 will be a test of how powerful the rule of law is in the strongest of Western democracies. Hopefully it will win out."

An important human rights hope for us all in 2018.

January 23, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Ongoing Education for Human Rights Advocates

The London School of Economics and Political Science is offering two short intensive courses in early 2018.  The first

course, Law, War and Human Rights will be offered on February 15-16th, 2018.  The website provides the following


Law, War and Human Rights:

Humanitarian law, international criminal law and the law of human rights have many features in common. This course will make the links between these different strands of law and show how they work together and complement each other. It will also show where they are distinct and analyse why it is necessary to acknowledge that the three bodies of law are separate, despite the fact that the three strands work towards many of the same goals.  For full details, click here.   

The second course, International Law in the Cyber Domain, will be offered on March 1-2nd, 2018.  The website indicates:

This course will explore the relationship between different legal regimes – public international law,

international human rights law and international humanitarian law – and show how they work together and

complement each other in the cyber domain.  The final session of the course will require participants to work

on a group exercise involving the application of the law to a series of digital incidents. 

For full details, click here.

Editors Note:  Thank you to International Law Grrls!  for alerting us to these programs.


January 22, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The UN High Commissioner for HR Responds

President Trump's disturbing remarks about certain countries has prompted both outrage and response worldwide as well as within the human rights
communities.  The  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the remarks both shocking and shameful.  The Commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, noted that there is no Image1 way avoid labeling the remarks "racist".  "You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 's***holes', whose entire populations are not white and therefore are not welcome", remark that people from Norway would be welcome and not reach the conclusion that the president is racist. 

Overlooking the fact that it is hard to imagine why Norwegians would want to emigrate to the US under President Trump, the President's remarks come closer to the truth of the current state of affairs in the US than any prior remark.  The President may have been able to hide behind terrorism and Homeland Security warnings in his earlier comments around refugees from war engaged, middle eastern countries.  But there is no terrorism threat to the US from Haiti or the other targeted countries.  The  difference is skin color.  And that is the underbelly of the vile backlash  the US is currently experiencing. 

The UN High Commissioner distilled the impact of President Trump's comments to the core danger.  "This isn't just a story about vulgar language, it's about opening the door to humanity's worst side."

January 21, 2018 in Global Human Rights, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

CEDAW Rising!

By: Francisco (“Fran”) Rivera Juaristi, Santa Clara School of Law

As we prepare for this weekend’s women’s marches, I am happy to report that last month the County of Santa Clara finally adopted a CEDAW ordinance! It took us (the International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University) two and a half years of tenacious advocacy and policy work, negotiations, presentations, research and writing, meetings, and coalition-building to make it happen. We thank the leadership of the County’s Office of Women’s Policy, Commission on the Status of Women, Office of Legal Counsel, the President of the Board of Supervisors, and the community, all of whom worked together to make this happen.

We believe this is an important step in the local recognition and implementation of international human rights law in the U.S., considering that the County of Santa Clara has a population of almost 2 million and is home to Silicon Valley and some of the largest and most influential tech companies in the world. 

Now, the County will create a CEDAW Task Force that will review County programs and services and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors with the goal of ensuring that the County applies a gender and human rights lens throughout its operations, particularly in the following six areas: (1) economic development and security, (2) gender-based violence, (3) education and leadership, (4) health care, (5) housing, and (6) criminal justice.

Housing will be the first issue to be addressed by the CEDAW Task Force. The International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University has been working on a report that will support the Task Force’s efforts to addresses homelessness in the County through a gender and human right lens. More on that soon.

There are approximately 24 cities and counties in the U.S. that have adopted CEDAW resolutions or proclamations, and 6 have adopted ordinances - San Francisco, CA (1998), Los Angeles, CA (2003), Berkeley, CA (2012), Honolulu, HI (2015), Miami‐Dade County, FL (2015), and Pittsburgh, PA (2016). The City of San José, which is also within the County of Santa Clara, is next in line to adopt a CEDAW ordinance.

In addition to adopting this ordinance, the County of Santa Clara has demonstrated its leadership as a human rights county by adopting a Women’s Bill of Rights, and was the first county in the nation to establish an Office of LGBTQ Affairs, in addition to establishing an Office of Immigrant Relations, Office of Women’s Policy, Office of Cultural Competency, and an Office of Human Relations. The County has also sued the Trump Administration over Trump’s executive order that aimed to de-fund “sanctuary jurisdictions”, and just this week the County filed a petition for review in federal court challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful repeal of net neutrality protections. Stay tuned for more!

January 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Packaging Truth

The right to truth coincides with the US founders’ understanding of truth’s essentialism in creating and maintaining democracy.  Some may see an international, legally enforceable right to truth as separate from democratic societal interests in knowing the truth, but those principles are interdependent. Democratic autonomy cannot be maintained if residents do not have access to the truth. Likewise, access to the truth is necessary to the nurturing of autonomy through democratic political organization.

We are in an era when truth is minimized and lies are hawked as truth.  Our challenge is to develop new ways of delivering truth so that the charge of  "fake news" fails.


January 17, 2018 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Clips for Class

Clips for class:  UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, has prepared a series of short video clips perfect for stimulating class discussions on poverty, human rights, US exceptionalism, and other topics related to Alston's official visit to the U.S. in December 2017.   You can find the clips on Youtube.  Here's a link to one of them.   More are available on Alston's twitter feed, here.  Finally, a longer interview with Alston about his visit conducted at the Carnegie Council is here.

January 16, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Advancing King’s Vision for Human Rights with Racial Healing, Inclusion, and Equality

By JoAnn Kamuf Ward and Barbara Arnwine

 JoAnn Kamuf Ward is Director of the Human Rights in the US Project at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Barbara Arnwine is President and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition.

 This week is marked by two connected but distinct days that call for recognition of our nation’s history, and visioning for our future:  Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 15th) and the second ever National Day of Racial Healing in the United States (January 16th).  

 In the current moment, it is imperative to embrace a global human rights vision and to vociferously reject xenophobic and racist attitudes. National leaders, including the President, should take actions that promote – rather than undermine – equality, dignity, and justice.  U.S. laws and policies should welcome all peoples, from all nations, including those seeking Temporary Protected Status.  To do otherwise is an affront to the principles for which Martin Luther King Jr.’s stood, and died. 

 As Coretta Scott King has noted MLK Jr. day “celebrates Dr. King’s global vision of the world house, a world whose people and nations had triumphed over poverty, racism, war and violence … [and] … his insistence that all faiths had something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved community.” 

 By 1967, Dr. King openly embraced a human rights approach to achieve his global vision, calling for a “revolution of values” and a “re-distribution of economic and political power.” His call was for new laws and approaches, including an economic and social bill of rights.  This call has been embraced and revitalized by the launch of the new Poor People’s Campaign

 The Day of Racial Healing, too, reflects core human rights principles.  The day is part of a broader national Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation enterprise (TRHT) led by the Kellogg Foundation.  Adapted from internationally recognized Truth and Reconciliation processes, TRHT embraces an approach that recognizes our common humanity and is explicit about how the past has shaped the current realities of persistent racism.  It also offers a path to address historic and contemporary impacts of racism and discrimination.  There is a central focus on “uprooting and eliminating the false ideology of a hierarchy of human value” that perpetuates an idea of white superiority through wide-ranging efforts that include narrative change, economic change, relationship building, and legal reform.   Notably, the recommendations from the TRHT team include explicit recognition that our compliance with human rights norms and our quest for racial justice domestically are interdependent.

It is incontrovertible that racism and discrimination permeate our history, and undergird many laws and institutions.  The recent preliminary findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty after a fact-finding visit to the U.S. highlight numerous ways that racial disparities are entrenched, including in areas of health outcomes, the criminal justice system, and access to basic services like water and sanitation. 

How can we change that?  The economic and social bill of rights that King developed outlines essential baseline rights:  a minimum guaranteed income, a living wage, full political participation in decision-making, housing in neighborhood of your choice, education, and adequate healthcare.  The Poor People’s Campaign and the TRHT underscore that false narratives have had a lasting corrosive effect on all of our communities, as well as our system of laws and institutions that shape and are shaped by them.  

TRHT offers a pathway forward.  The emphasis on racial healing requires that Americans from all walks of like come together to jettison the false narrative of a hierarchy of human value.  TRHT emphasizes that the work must emanate from within communities, and have a local orientation, while also engaging individuals nationally across sectors to proactively examine current structures and values, and collaboratively develop strategies for change.  Institutions of higher education are playing a key role.  The Association of American Colleges and Universities is working with ten universities to create “transformative action plans to advance racial healing … and develop evidence-based strategies that support the vision of the TRHT” in the longer term.  Fourteen communities across the U.S. have already launched TRHT collaborations as well.  For example, in Buffalo, New York, a cross-section of community leaders are documenting and reporting on disparities, and developing policies to enhance racial equity, with a focus on workforce development, education, and citizen re-entry.   This work is spearheaded by the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable.

These approaches align squarely with U.S. commitments as a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), these commitments remain unfulfilled to date. 

 If put into practice, human rights protections could transform governance – both how institutions operate and the principles that guide decision-making. Indeed, human rights laws, including the CERD, emphasize the importance of taking action to change attitudes, policies, laws and structures that reflect and perpetuate bias and discrimination. 

 To fulfill human rights, national and local laws and policies should foster equality in outcomes regardless of identity, including through adoption of measures “designed to secure to disadvantaged groups the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” known as “temporary special measures.”  Promoting racial understanding and condemning discrimination, too, is a state obligation.  Numerous international bodies have called on the United States to improve responses to “persisting discriminatory attitudes and prejudices against persons belonging to minority groups and women.”  The CERD protects the rights to participation and equal enjoyment of economic and social rights, and experts that monitor compliance with its provisions have called for the U.S. to undertake law and policy reform to address direct and indirect discrimination; tackle segregated housing; eradicate racial disparities in the criminal justice system; improve educational and health outcomes’ and to ensure the right to vote is a reality.  Efforts to limit access to the ballot, which have been the subject of ongoing international scrutiny, undermine our democracy and have long been a litmus test for America’s true commitment to equality.  

 Human rights laws provide a framework that can advance core principles of equality, justice, and human dignity locally, and on a more global scale. Human rights also offer a platform for accountability.

Just last year, in the wake of Charlottesville, the body of independent experts that oversees compliance with the CERD sent a communication to the United States, calling on the government to realize its human rights obligations and “actively contribute to the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and diversity between ethnic groups, and acknowledge their contribution to the history and diversity of the United States.” The experts also called on the U.S. to “address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination.”  Despite lack of a formal response by the federal government, the communication garnered attention in the press.

 An additional opportunity for accountability awaits.  Signatories to human rights treaties are required to report on their compliance and undergo periodic reviews of their human rights record.  Individuals and organizations can contribute their own views and suggest questions and recommendations to inform the review by UN independent experts.    

 Notably, the U.S. was slated to report on its compliance with the CERD in November of last year.  The report is yet to be filed.  However, civil and human rights groups should call for its release, because, as Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law highlighted in October, “the review of U.S. compliance with the CERD treaty offers an opportunity for both reflection and action.” 

 The American populous should urge the US to submit its report, and engage in ongoing efforts to hold the United States accountable to its human rights commitments.  Shining an international light on our current laws and policies can offer new opportunities to mobilize communities across the U.S., and catalyze efforts to shape laws and institutions aimed at true equality and justice, grounded in our common humanity.  It can also raise the visibility of movements for change, including the TRHT, the Poor People’s Campaign, and the just launched National Commission for Voter Justice.

 Human rights and civil rights lawyers are particularly well-placed to engage in these participatory and inclusive efforts to raise public consciousness, and literally re-imagine justice.  We can challenge laws that highlight propagate false narratives, perpetuate structural racism, or otherwise impede equality.  We can fashion alternatives.  We can play a role in identifying and dismantling the structures, institutions, and policies that have created housing segregation, concentrated poverty, and that entrench racial subordination.  We can help to envision and build an infrastructure that supports inclusive, powerful, multicultural communities.










January 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Remembering the Hope of Dr. King

One of our inheritances from Dr. King was maintaining hope in the face of despair.   The past week has been particularly challenging.  The President seems determined to degrade the office as much as possible.  It was not enough that the president denies reality, he now has employed profanity to further the shock us and feed his narcissism.  We do not know where this behavior will end. The contrast between the dignity of Dr. King and the crudeness of our current president is stark.

The civil rights movement took time to regroup from the grief of Dr. King's assassination.  However, among his many lessons was that persistence in the face of oppression brings its own results and the movement survived.  Now more than ever we must maintain our dignity and optimism that we can change direction.  Dr. King said:  "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that."



January 14, 2018 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Oprah Time

As speculation grows over whether Oprah Winfrey has presidential ambitions, we decided to dig a little into her human rights record.  Of course, having never held elective office, Oprah hasn't been called on to take formal positions on pending treaties or government policies that might raise human rights concerns.  Her charitable work certainly centers on human rights-related issues, focusing on education for students of color, women's rights and children's rights. 

We were particularly interested to learn that she has taken on a special role in promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  In October 2017, her Oprah Winfrey Network staged a sneak preview of its new film project "Belief" at the UN, and Oprah herself spoke to the gathered group, along with the President of the UN General Assembly.  The focus of the gathering was promoting international action on the SDGs.   

Support of the SDGs is not enough to qualify for the presidency, for sure, but at the same time, it's nice to dream of a leader who knows what they are.  

January 11, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Monograph on People Power and Human Rights

At 12 noon EST on January 11, Professor Elizabeth Wilson will be presenting a free webinar on her new monograph "People Power Movements and International Human Rights" (published by the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict) as part of ICNC's webinar series.  Register for the webinar  here .   

On January 25, the Atlantic Council will be hosting a launch event in Washington, D.C., for Professor Wilson’s monograph.  The event is open to the public.  Registration is available on the Atlantic Council website through this link.

According to Professor Wilson:

"International human rights law did not come into existence top-down, out of the benevolent intentions of states, even though states eventually began to recognize that large-scale human rights abuses could pose a threat to the international order. Rather, it came into existence from the bottom-up efforts of ordinary people in civil society to ally with each other in solidarity and demand their rights, often through organized nonviolent campaigns and movements that pressured elites and powerholders to recognize or grant individual rights (freedom for slaves, women’s rights, labor rights, and children’s rights, to name a few). Unlike international law generally, the real source of international human rights law has been the coordinated, organized and nonviolently forceful efforts of individuals—in other words, what one can refer to as people power."

January 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Time's Up: Celebs Step Up for Working Women

Reese Witherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross, Natalie Portman, America Ferrera and so many other actors have organized and supported a legal defense fund for women suing their employers for sexual harassment.  Time's Up has over 300 female supporters from the entertainment industry.  Attorneys Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan are founders of the fund, as well. The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund has raised over $15 million to date. The legal defense fund will assist lower income employees to fight discrimination and harassment in the workforce. 

The fund will be administered by the National Women's Law Center.  The Center's website says:

"This Fund will enable more individuals to come forward and be connected with lawyers — regardless of industry, rank or role.  Countless activists, celebrities, and other donors want to see an end to a culture that allows sexual harassment and retaliation of those who courageously step forward to go unpunished. This effort is not just to support women in Hollywood, but others in need – the factory worker, the waitress, the teacher, the office worker, and others subjected to this unacceptable behavior. Now is the time to finally stop the sexual harassment and retaliation that has often gone unchecked."

This fund is important for many reasons, and one important reason is to unite women of all income levels and diversity.  The #WhatAboutUs movement is best replaced with #WomenUnited.  While lower earning women might feel even more victimized  due to lack of resources to defend themselves and the lack of choice that resources bring, separation of women at this time divides the power, as well as the results.  

You may donate through the Center or through GoFundMe.

January 8, 2018 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

DeRailing the #MeToo Movement?

Is Matt Damon one of the celebs looking to derail the #MeToo movement?  For those of you who have the sense not to follow celebrity "news", Mr. Damon remarked during a recent interview that there is a big difference between patting someone on the rear and rape.   Well, I concede, there is a difference, but Mr. Damon should not diminish the serious psychological harm that comes to women who endure unwanted physical touching day after day. The behavior not only demeans their work, but their entire being, causing some severe psychic pain and loss of self-esteem.  Just ask the women at Ford.  Or ask the women who left the entertainment industry, forfeiting their chosen careers due to harassment.   Mr. Damon also suggested that men who grew up believing patting women's rears was ok should be treated differently.

Let's not get distracted as Joan Vennochi did.  Yes- there are degrees of behavior.  There are even differences on what an appropriate employer response should be to reports of current or past sexual harassment. 

Let's look at two unexplored aspects of Mr. Damon's chatter.  First is the timing.  Why interrupt a relatively nascent movement that is just beginning to see effects outside of the entertainment industry?  Mr. Damon's follow-up remarks saying that all of the unwanted behavior must be eradicated,  do not justify the timing of criticizing the movement when the impact of his remarks could slow, if not stop, the momentum.  Mr. Damon is defensive from criticism that he did not "know" about Harvey Weinstein's behavior .  That is possible.  But it is not plausible that Damon did not understand the consequences of creating diversion at a critical time in women's attempts to be heard.   

Second point, once again Mr. Damon removed men's responsibility for decision making and subtly put it on the women of the #MeToo movement.    Mr. Damon failed to mention that the men being fired from their positions were being fired by men.   Next time Mr. Damon decides to pontificate about men's behavior, perhaps he could make it clear that he is criticizing the male CEO's for their post-allegation responses.  The silence of not naming the problem shifts blame to the victims.

Equally unfortunate that the focus of recent firings  has been solely on physical behavior, including threats or demands for sex.  We risk making inappropriate physical behavior or threats involving sexual demands the bar for firing when non-physical displays of misogyny should be adequate. 


January 7, 2018 in Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Harvard Journal Launches Human Rights Blog

A big welcome to the Harvard Human Rights Blog, which joined us in the blogosphere on December 6, 2017.   Here's what the Harvard Human Rights Journal had to say in launching their new forum:

"The Harvard Human Rights Journal is starting a new community-based blog here on The first post–a note from the director of a Yezidi organization on the rights of survivors of the Islamic State’s atrocities–is already online, and more will be coming soon.

We would like to invite our readers–students as well as human rights practitioners and publicists–to feel free to submit pieces to the blog. Submissions can be entirely original pieces or responses to previous posts. Unlike Journal Articles or Student Notes, we won’t require footnotes for blog posts, and the tone can be less academic and more persuasive or thinkpiece-y.

We hope that the Blog will be foster discussion and awareness of human rights issues, and we look forward to reading your submissions."

Among the US-related postings since its launch is this terrific piece tying the mandate delivered by the Alabama election of Doug Jones to the UN Special Rapporteur's visit to Alabama's Lowndes County.

The Blog doesn't specify, but it appears that submissions should be sent to  [email protected].

When it comes to human rights blogs, we think it's the more the merrier -- and the more powerful and persuasive!

January 4, 2018 in writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Human Rights Champions of the Great Plains

An exciting human rights education project from North Dakota just came across the transom.  

"Those Among Us: The Human Rights Champions of North Dakota is a multi-disciplinary media project documenting the human rights and social justice champions of North Dakota.  Through portrait photographs, essays written by the participants and video interviews capturing discussions about the motivation behind and the importance of their work, “Those Among Us” strives to create a historical record of the important work currently taking place in North Dakota.

The completed project will feature the glass wet-plate collodion photography of Shane Balkowitsch both in book form and within a traveling gallery exhibition designed to promote the efforts in North Dakota to preserve and protect human rights. The project will also feature a documentary film series about human rights in North Dakota by independent filmmaker Sean Coffman.  The book's essays will track the rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  You can see the project's impressive website and read about some of the Human Rights Champions here.

Kudos to the visionary groups that are supporting the “Those Among Us" project, including the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and The Human Family, a  new nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation, support, promotion and distribution of human rights and social issue-based projects in North Dakota, with a special emphasis on film, art and  social justice. 

This project builds on skills found only in North Dakota:  Shane Balkowitsch is one of the only people in the world still practicing wet plate photography.  But there are many places in the U.S. where a similar confluence of unique skills, vision, and interest might come together. 

Could "Those Among Us" be a model for human rights education in other communities? 

January 3, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)