Tuesday, November 29, 2022

New Article: Mobilizing Universalism - The Origins of Human Rights

Catherine B. Duryea, Mobilizing Universalism: The Origins of Human Rights, Berkeley J. of Int’l L. Vol. 40, Iss. 1, Art. 3. (August 2022). Abstract Below.

Human rights law claims to be universal, setting rights apart from paradigms based on shared religion, culture, or nationality. This claim of universality was a significant factor in the proliferation of human rights NGOs in the 1970s and remains an important source of legitimacy. The universality of human rights has been challenged and contested since they were first discussed at the United Nations (UN). Today, much of the debate centers around the origins of human rights-particularly whether they arose out of Western traditions or whether they have more global roots. For too long, discussions about universality have ignored the practice of human rights in the Global South, particularly in Arab countries. Instead of searching for evidence of universality in the halls of the UN, this Article looks at how activists mobilized and produced universality through their work. Archival sources and interviews show that the turn to human rights in the Arab world was rooted in the politics of the 1970s but relied on the concept of universality as embodied in the foundational human rights documents of the 1940s and 1960s. Activists used these documents to advance conceptions of human rights that were compatible with several distinct political visions. Their work supports the claim that human rights can be universal, not because rights exist outside of politics or have diverse origins, but because they were constantly reinvented to support a range of different, sometimes contradictory, political goals.

November 29, 2022 in Books and articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Event 12/6: Prof. Tendayi Achiume Speaks in Honor of Human Rights Day

On December 6, 2022, from 12-1pm ET, please join Northeastern University School of Law, the Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers’ Network and Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) for an event featuring speaker Professor Tendayi Achiume. Professor Achiume will reflect on her time a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. This event will be sure to provide a lot of insights for U.S. advocates on working with Special Rapporteurs.

Register for the virtual event here.

November 22, 2022 in Race, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 21, 2022

New Article: (G)local Intersectionality

Martha F. Davis, (G)local Intersectionality, 79 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1021 (2022). Abstract below.

Intersectionality theory has been slow to take root as a legal norm at the national level, even as scholars embrace it as a potent analytical tool. Yet, in recent years, intersectionality has entered law and policy practices through an unexpected portal: namely, local governments’ adoption of international norms. A growing number of local governments around the world explicitly incorporate intersectionality into their law and practice as part of implementing international antidiscrimination norms from human rights instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

This “relocalization” phenomenon—which brings intersectionality back to its roots in domestic law—is visible in many parts of the world. In Europe, cities in Spain proactively integrate intersectional approaches into their local human rights regimes. Outside of Europe, Montréal applies an intersectional analysis under its Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, a local governance document grounded in the values of fundamental human rights and dignity. Human rights cities like Gwangju, Korea, embrace intersectionality as a programmatic imperative. In the United States, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati, among others, incorporated intersectional approaches to nondiscrimination in the wake of adopting local CEDAWs.

The relocalization process is not always straightforward. Challenges include the difficulties of reconciling local intersectional approaches with national laws that may not recognize intersectionality, and developing indicators tailored to local experiences. On the other hand, local adoption of intersectionality opens up robust possibilities for participation in communities’ legal and political processes, which many local governments emphasize.

November 21, 2022 in Books and articles, CEDAW, CERD, Martha F. Davis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Addressing Hunger through Human Rights

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By: R. Denisse Córdova Montes, Acting Associate Director & Mackenzie Steele, Student Intern, Human Rights Clinic, University of Miami School of Law

Hunger in the United States is not the result of a lack of enough food, but the result of laws and policies that prioritize profits over people and their human rights. During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we urge the adoption of a human rights approach to addressing hunger in the United Staes.

Food insecurity, which is defined as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food, affects around 11% of U.S. households every year. In 2021, 3.8% of households, or 5.1 million households, had very low food security, meaning that their eating patterns were repeatedly disrupted resulting in a consistent state of hunger. Put more simply, food-insecure households are forced to make impossible decisions, such as choosing between paying for food and heat, electricity, rent, and transportation, with dire impacts on their health and overall wellbeing.

Notably, food insecurity has a disparate impact by race. 21.7% of Black households and about 17.2% of Latinx households experienced food insecurity in 2020, compared to only 7.1% of white households. One in four Indigenous persons experience food insecurity, compared to one in eight of Americans overall. Eight out of 10 essential Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) workers faced food insecurity during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, compared to only five in 10 white essential workers.

Racial disparities in food insecurity stem from the U.S.’s long history of racial discrimination. BIPOC communities have historically faced structural barriers to land ownership, which are intrinsically tied to their ability to produce food and feed themselves and their families. For example, the Homestead Act of 1862, which encouraged the development of the American West, had detrimental effects on tribal nations and their ability to exercise food sovereignty in their territories. Throughout the 20th century, USDA racist policies have disenfranchised Black farmers. In 1920, Black farmers owned over 16 million acres of land, yet, today, Black farmers only own two million acres of land.

Food insecurity also stems from corporate control of the food system. Bill and Melinda Gates are the largest private owners of farmland in the U.S. with some 269,000 acres across dozens of states. Today, four companies (Bayer, Corteva, ChemChina, and Limagrain) control more than 50% of the world’s seed market. The corporate capture of the food system has resulted in consistently low wages for food workers, natural resource extraction affecting Indigenous communities and low-scale food producers, and inadequate diets leading to negative health outcomes for BIPOC communities.  

Moreover, the U.S.’s focus on federal nutrition assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to address hunger has failed to adequately address the root causes of hunger. Outside of these programs, the U.S. focuses on a charity-based model, relying on donations and food banks to feed those in need, and in turn, reinforcing hierarchical structures and failing to address the root causes of the problems causing food insecurity.

This past summer, our Human Rights Clinic supported a nascent coalition of food justice advocates, legislators, and people with lived experiences of hunger, including West Virginia University’s Center for Resilient Communities, WhyHunger, Food for Maine’s Future, EDFU Foundation, Grow with the Flow, LLC, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Agroecology Research-Action Collective, in advocacy before the U.N. Committee to End Racial Discrimination (CERD), as it reviewed the U.S. for compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). This included submission of a shadow report on Racial Injustice and Violations of the Human Right to Food in the U.S., development of a factsheet, and discussions with CERD and U.S. delegation members.

The hard work paid off when CERD’s Concluding Observations addressed the right to food in a recommendation to the U.S. for the first time. CERD recommended that the U.S. “take all necessary measures to guarantee the right to adequate food, to strengthen its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity, which disproportionally affects racial and ethnic minorities, and especially women and children, including by strengthening the institutional framework and adopting a comprehensive and rights-based national plan to end hunger. The Committee then called on the U.S. “to take effective measures against hunger in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including members of the communities most affected by food insecurity.”

Following the release of CERD’s Concluding Observations, our Clinic supported a satellite event linked to the September White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health focused on disseminating and discussing what the U.N. recommendations could mean for a national plan to end hunger. The discussions called for a transformation of the food system through the rebuilding of local food and farm economies and transformation of neighborhood institutions into community spaces that support the development of nourishing food systems. Our Human Rights Clinic will continue promoting the implementation of a rights-based approach to hunger through its support of a growing right to food movement in the U.S. that perceives the tackling of racism in the U.S. food system as a precondition for the realization of the right to food for all.

To learn more about this growing movement and be part of the discussion, join us in Miami on April 13 and 14 at the Food, Housing, and Racial Justice Symposium!

November 17, 2022 in CERD | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2022

Addressing Homelessness through Housing not Handcuffs

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By: Tamar Ezer, Acting Director, & Taylor Moore, Student Fellow, Human Rights Clinic, University of Miami School of Law 

As we mark the beginning of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we urge a focus on real solutions to end hunger and homelessness.

In the United States, instead of addressing homelessness, many of our municipalities have sought to make it invisible by criminalizing activities people experiencing homelessness must engage in to stay alive, such as sleeping, sitting, or eating. According to a 2019 survey of 187 cities, 55% have laws prohibiting sitting and or lying down in public; 72% have laws prohibiting camping in public places; and 60% laws prohibiting loitering, loafing, and vagrancy.

Moreover, criminalization is on the rise, and laws that prohibit sleeping in public have increased by 50% since 2006! In the past two years, the City of Miami, where we live, has passed ordinances criminalizing encampments on public property and food sharing without a permit and at non-designated locations. Amidst the devastation of COVID, the City has thus resorted to "hunger as a weapon against the poor."

Criminalization is counterproductive and costly. It results in fines people cannot pay, jail time, and criminal records, trapping people in a cycle of poverty and perpetuating homelessness. In fact, diverting resources to law enforcement can cost two to three times more than it would to provide affordable housing. As one of our partners, David Peery, the Executive Director of the Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity (MCARE) describes, “Criminalization is an expensive way to make homelessness worse.”

Moreover, criminalization of homelessness has a disparate impact by race. Black Americans make up 40% of the U.S. homeless population, while only 13% of the overall population. Additionally, laws criminalizing life sustaining activities are predominantly enforced against people of color. As the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism has noted, “The enforcement of minor law enforcement violations . . . take a disproportionately high number of African American homeless persons to the criminal justice system.”

Current disparities in housing and homelessness stem from a long history of discrimination, including redlining when the U.S. Federal Housing Administration refused to insure mortgages in or near Black neighborhoods. Today, while almost 75% of white families own their homes, less than half of Black families own their homes. As renters, Black families are at greater risk of housing instability and homelessness. Additionally, Black and Hispanic renters are twice as likely to be evicted as white renters. Barriers to housing based on arrest records further have a disparate impact by race.

Our Human Rights Clinic had the opportunity to support a coalition, including MCARE, the National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC), the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), Partners for Dignity and Rights, and the South Florida Community Development Coalition, in advocacy before the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), as it reviewed the U.S. for compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). This included submission of a shadow report on Racial Injustice in Housing and Homelessness, development of a factsheet, and discussions with CERD and U.S. delegation members.

This summer, CERD released its Concluding Observations and noted with concern “the increasing number of state and local laws that criminalize homelessness and . . . the disproportionately high number of persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities affected by homelessness.” The Committee then called on the U.S. government to “abolish laws and policies that criminalize homelessness,” redirect “funding from criminal justice responses to adequate housing and shelter programs, in particular for persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities most affected by homelessness,” and “affirmatively further fair housing and protection against discriminatory effects.”

Moreover, CERD addressed the right to food in a recommendation to the U.S. for the first time and called for the adoption of a “rights-based national plan to end hunger in consultation with members of the communities most affected by hunger.”

Now is the time to focus on domestic implementation of these recommendations. Take the opportunity this week to get involved in your community and help address hunger and homelessness. Our Human Rights Clinic will be participating in NHLC’s Right to Housing Forum and sharing preliminary findings from a Report Card, assessing U.S. performance on the right to housing. Let’s make the U.S a place where everyone can access adequate housing and feed themselves with dignity.

November 14, 2022 in CERD, Homelessness | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 11, 2022

New Publication: ABA Human Rights Magazine: Economics of Voting Rights

American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Human Rights Magazine: Economics of Voting Rights, Vol. 48, No. 1 (October 2022). Excerpt from introduction and featured articles below.


Juan R. Thomas - “My theme as chair of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice for the 2022–23 bar year is economic justice. I believe that a civil rights agenda without an economic agenda is like clapping with one hand. As the 2022 midterm election approaches, it is particularly timely to focus our attention on the economics of voting rights and the role money plays in our body politic. I want to sincerely thank the authors of this edition of Human Rights magazine for helping me realize my vision of economic justice in the context of voting rights.”

Featured Articles

To read more and access other articles in this issue of the ABA’s Human Rights Magazine, click here.

November 11, 2022 in Books and articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 4, 2022

Event 11/16: Work Law as Privatized Public Law Series: On Critical Wage Theory


On November 16, 2022, at 12:45pm ET, join Brooklyn Law in person or online for panel of organizers and schools exploring the crosscurrents in contemporary organizing and the future of public/private tensions in work law.


  • Prof. Ruben Garcia (UNLV, author of Critical Wage Theory (forthcoming 2023))
  • Bethany Khan (Culinary Workers Union)
  • Prof. Shirley Lin (Brooklyn Law School, Moderator)*
  • Yanin Peña (Ain't I A Woman?! Campaign)*
  • Chris Smalls (Amazon Labor Union)*

*Appearing in-person

Location: Hybrid Event 

  • Brooklyn Law School, Moot Court Room
  • 250 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, and Zoom


  • BLS Labor and Employment Law Association, LALSA, BLSA, APALSA, SALSA, DALSA, Law Association of Women, Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest, Women of Color Alliance, NLG.

For more information and to register, click here.

November 4, 2022 in Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 3, 2022

New Article: Certain Prosecutors: Geographical Arbitrariness, Unusualness, & the Abolition of Virginia’s Death Penalty

Bernadette M. Donovan, Certain Prosecutors: Geographical Arbitrariness, Unusualness, & the Abolition of Virginia’s Death Penalty, Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Vol. 29, Issue 1, Fall 2022. Abstract below.

Virginia’s abolition of the death penalty in 2021 was a historic development. As both a southern state and one of the country’s most active death penalty jurisdictions, Virginia’s transition away from capital punishment represented an important shift in the national landscape. This article considers whether that shift has any constitutional significance, focusing on the effect of Virginia’s abolition on the geographical arbitrariness of the country’s death penalty.

As a starting point, the death penalty in America is primarily regulated by the Eighth Amendment, which bars “cruel and unusual punishments.” The United States Supreme Court has held that the death penalty is not per se unconstitutional, but that the Eighth Amendment constrains its application. In particular, modern death penalty law is concerned with the arbitrary or unusual infliction of the death penalty. Since 2015, the concept of “geographical arbitrariness”—that the death penalty’s localization could render it so random or rare as to be unconstitutional—has gained increased attention.

This Article examines whether and how Virginia’s abolition contributes to the geographical arbitrariness of capital punishment in America. The Article finds that Virginia’s experience demonstrates the geographical arbitrariness of the contemporary death penalty in two important ways. First, this Article examines the localization of capital sentencing within Virginia. Capital sentencing and execution data show that as Virginia’s death penalty declined, the practice was kept alive by a small minority of prosecutors who had an unusual passion for death sentencing. In its latter years, Virginia’s death penalty thus increasingly reflected the unfettered discretion of local decisionmakers. Second, this Article considers how Virginia’s abolition affected the national landscape of the death penalty. The Article concludes that both quantitively and qualitatively, the end of Virginia’s death penalty supports a conclusion that capital punishment has become too arbitrary to be constitutional.

November 3, 2022 in Books and articles, Criminal Justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Event 11/10: University of Miami Symposium on Food, Housing, and Racial Justice in the United States.

On November 10, 2022, the Human Rights Clinic and Program at the University of Miami School of Law, in collaboration with the Human Rights Society at the University of Miami School of Law, the National Right to Food Community of Practice, West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities, and WhyHunger, present a Symposium on Food, Housing, and Racial Justice in the United States.

Deep reflection, innovative thinking, and joint strategizing with regards to hunger and food equity that put the needs and interests of communities of color at the center is urgent. The event will focus on human rights and racialized approaches to addressing hunger and related economic and social rights violations.

Drawing on efforts from Miami to cities and states around the U.S., the event will discuss:

  • Food insecurity
  • Food system governance
  • Access to land and housing
  • Role of local, state, and federal governments
  • Implementation of United Nations’ recommendations

This event will take place in person and will be available virtually from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM EST, at the University of Miami School of Law. To register, visit here.  

November 1, 2022 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0)