Monday, November 29, 2021

News: ‘New deal’ needed to end hate, exclusion, discrimination against minorities, says UN expert

November 22, 2021 – Last week Mr. Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, urged the United States of America to overhaul legislation to prevent increasing exclusion, discrimination and hate speech and crimes against minorities, saying the legal landscape for the protection of human rights is far from comprehensive or even at times coherent. 

“What you have now is a patchy tapestry of laws first drafted more than 60 years ago, showing signs of fatigue,” Fernand de Varennes, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, told reporters at the end of a 14-day visit to the United States.

“The United States is a nation of paradoxes when it comes to human rights and minorities, espousing itself as the land which welcomes the world’s tired, poor, and huddled masses yet where support for slavery led to one of the world’s most brutal civil wars, where racial segregation persisted late into the 20th century, and where indigenous peoples’ experiences have for centuries been one of dispossession, brutality and even genocide,” he said.

“Though there were significant and hard-won human rights gains made mainly during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the USA stands out among Western democracies for its incomplete patchwork of human rights recognition and their legal protection, with minorities and indigenous peoples, most likely left behind in times of upheaval, uncertainty and crisis.

“Recent years have seen these deficiencies in human rights and the phenomenal growth of hate speech in social media, growing inequalities between have and have nots, often minorities and indigenous peoples, creating toxic conditions and an unhealthy pandemic of the mind, a poisoning of individual minds and society in many parts of the country.”

You can read his full statement on OHCHR’s website here.

Mr. Varennes will present his final report on his visit to the U.S. to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2022.

November 29, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Event: 12/1 Housing Not Handcuffs 2021: State Law Supplement Report Webinar

On Wednesday December 1, 2021, from 2-3 ET/1-2 CT/12-1 MT/11-12 PT,  the National Homelessness Law Center will host a webinar to present its soon-to-be released report, Housing Not Handcuffs 2021: State Law Supplement.  The 2021 report supplements the Housing Not handcuffs 2019 report, which tracked close to 200 cities for their laws criminalizing homelessness and found increases in the number of local laws criminalizing homelessness.  This Supplement tracks state laws and finds 48 out of 50 states & DC with some form of law criminalizing homelessness at the state level. The webinar will focus on the experience of people with criminalization, the findings of the report, concerning trends, and exciting efforts to repeal state laws. Confirmed speakers for the webinar include:

  • Rajan Bal - report lead author, formerly with the National Homelessness Law Center, now at Children’s Law Center
  • Joe Abraham - pro bono counsel Law Office of Joseph M. Abraham, PLLC
  • Delaware State Rep. Eric Morrison, (RD-27)
  • Oregon State Rep. WInsvey Campos  (RD-28)
  • To be moderated by Tristia Bauman, Senior Attorney at the Law Center.

To register for the webinar, visit




November 24, 2021 in Homelessness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 15, 2021

Maine Becomes Nation’s First State to Enshrine ‘Right to Food’ in State Constitution

By Kaeleigh Williams, 2L at St. Louis University School of Law

Last week, voters in Maine voted to add a “right to food” amendment to the state’s constitution. The amendment, which is the first of its kind in the United States, provides Mainers with a constitutional right to grow, harvest, and consume their own food, and it includes protections for rights to seed saving and seed sharing.  

The amendment was approved by the state legislature by a two-thirds vote earlier this year, but it needed approval from voters in order to become a constitutional amendment. It was approved by 60 percent of voters, according to Ballotpedia.  

Maine, a state with a bustling agricultural industry, has been at the forefront of the food sovereignty movement, which envisions a food system where producers also have control over how their goods are sold and distributed. The goal of the referendum was to ensure local communities have more control over their food supply, Heather Retberg wrote in the Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election.  

As a constitutional amendment, the measure will preempt existing Maine laws and regulations, leaving them vulnerable to legal challenges. The Bangor Daily News editorial board, which opposed the bill, said the amendment “raises a host of questions about what this language would mean for existing laws and regulations spanning from food safety and animal welfare to environmental protection.” 

States such as Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and North Dakota have pressed similar legislation addressing food sovereignty, and advocates of the new amendment say it will open the door for more states to follow suit.  

November 15, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

News: Access to water is a human right. When will the U.S. government agree?

Martha F. Davis, Access to water is a human right. When will the U.S. government agree?, WBUR (Nov. 3, 2021). Excerpt below:

“Water is life, and water policy should be a central concern of nations as they gather for the COP26 in Glasgow this week. The need to prioritize water is all around us: more flooding and drought, the growing incidents of water contamination and rising costs of maintaining potable water for drinking, cooking and hygiene.

For the first time at a U.N. climate conference, concerned members of the water sector — governments and non-governmental partners — have come together to sponsor a Water & Climate pavilion where attendees can hear from experts, conduct side discussions, network and engage with youth activists around water issues. The stated intent is to develop a ‘unified voice on the role of water in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and to support ambitious and science-based global climate action.’

Unfortunately, the United States has often been on the sidelines during international discussions of water challenges.”

November 9, 2021 in Books and articles, Water | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 8, 2021

Event: 11/10 Webinar: Refugees and Asylum in USA: Review of Domestic Interpretations are at Odds with International Guidance

Wednesday November 10, 2021, at 12noon ET, the American Bar Association will host a webinar entitled Refugees and Asylum in the U.S. & Review of Domestic Interpretations at Odds with International Guidance.  This webinar will review the differences between the Refugee and Asylum processes (which includes Withholding of Removal) in order to provide clarity to new practitioners about the start contrasts between the two USA refugee programs and to inform on international law compliance. This program’s speakers will focus on two topics:

Topic 1: The Hon. Paul Grussendorf

Paul Grussendorf has worked with both the refugee and asylum programs in the United States and abroad. He headed a law school legal clinic at the George Washington Law School representing asylum seekers, served as an Immigration Judge handling asylum cases, worked as a Supervisory Asylum Officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services [CIS], as a refugee officer with Refugee Affairs Division of USCIS, and as a refugee officer and supervisor with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Topic 2: The Hon. Jeffrey Chase

Jeffrey Chase is a retired Immigration judge for New York City. He has written extensively about the inter relationship of international law sources with the U.S. national law when administering cases involving asylum and refugee applications. He has a blog entitled Opnions/Analysis on Immigration Law. He coordinates The Round Table of Retired Immigration Judges, an informal group of Retired Immigration Judges from both the trial and appellate level, who weigh in on topics relating to the administration of justice by the Immigration Court. The Round Table files amici briefs, and has issued position papers and testimony on issues affecting due process and the administration of justice by the Immigration Courts.

For more information and to register for this webinar, visit:

November 8, 2021 in Immigration, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Event: 11/3 Webinar on Indigenous Peoples and Constitutional Reform

On Wednesday November 3, 2021, at 5:00pm ET, the American Society of International Law's Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group is holding a webinar on Indigenous Peoples and Constitutional Reform.

Event Description:

Over many years, Indigenous Peoples have successfully developed and applied international law to protect and promote their rights and interests in domestic and transnational forums. In 2007, this global movement led to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Almost fifteen years after the adoption of this international standard, it is time to take stock and assess whether and how Indigenous Peoples' rights are respected in domestic law. This webinar will provide an update on constitutional and public law reform to recognize, protect and promote the status and rights of Indigenous peoples in three common law countries.


  • Shea Esterling, Senior Lecturer, University of Canterbury, Co-chair, Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group (Moderator)
  • Harry Hobbs, Senior Lecturer, University of Technology Sydney, Co-chair, Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group
  • Dani Larkin (Bundjalung, Kungarykany), Lecturer, University of New South Wales
  • Darcy Lindberg (Plains Cree), Assistant Professor, University of Victoria
  • Valmaine Toki (Ngati Wai, Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua), Professor, Waikato University

This event is free and open to all, but advance registration is required to receive the Zoom link.

November 2, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 1, 2021

New Article: Corporate Power over Human Rights

David Birchall, Corporate Power over Human Rights, Encyclopedia of Business Ethics (October 4,2021), Abstract Below.

The business and human rights (BHR) movement has developed rapidly since the 1990s, in lockstep with spiralling corporate size, wealth and influence. BHR attempts to hold corporations to account for human rights abuses. As such it does not address corporate power directly, and it is not of fundamental importance to BHR whether corporations are growing more powerful in relation to governments, society, or smaller businesses. Rising corporate power, does, however, have marked effects on access to human rights.

Corporations evidently hold the power to abuse human rights and to avoid accountability for these abuses. This clear from numerous major cases, from the Bhopal gas leak to the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, both of which resulted in major fatalities and demonstrated the failures of current practices, regulation and remedy. Environmental degradation with fatal consequences, modern slavery, and complicity with oppressive regimes are all examples of corporations using their power to further their profits through rights abuse.

November 1, 2021 in Books and articles, Business | Permalink | Comments (0)