Trump, the Other, and Human Rights in Society

Trump, the Other, and Human Rights in Society

By Inga Winkler, a lecturer at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights Without downplaying the potential impact of a Trump presidency on foreign policy, renewed acceptance of torture as well as the potential impact on climate change, I fear for society at large. A president-elect who ridicules and denigrates migrants, Muslims, Hispanics, women, persons with disabilities and others sets an example. He gives the impression that such behavior and such attitudes are acceptable. His remarks promote ideas of the superiority of some and inferiority of others, based on a socially constructed divide between “us” and “them”. There is nothing new about racism, sexism and fear of the “other” in US society. It is deeply entrenched. What is new is that the man elected to the highest office institutionalizes and formalizes such attitudes. He legitimizes “othering” and stigmatization. One of the possible explanations for the misleading polls is that voters who declared they were undecided were in fact planning to vote for Trump....
Read More
Political Unrest in Brazil: Will Human Rights Policies Endure Mr. Temer’s Government Program?

Political Unrest in Brazil: Will Human Rights Policies Endure Mr. Temer’s Government Program?

By Luiz Henrique Reggi Pecora, an M.A. student in human rights Primeiramente, fora Temer. Firstly, down with Temer. For Brazilians who do not recognize the legitimacy of Michel Temer’s government, this small phrase has gained the weight of a  motto. Michel Temer has assumed office since May, when the Brazilian Congress approved the impeachment process of former president Dilma Rousseff, implementing a governmental project bent towards the interests of conservative groups. More progressive sectors of society have reacted energetically, not only opposing his governmental project, but also criticizing the questionable conditions that led to the removal of Mrs. Rousseff from office - for many, the  impeachment is no more than an excuse for a coup. After long years of prosperity, how did Brazil come to this critical scenario? The deepening of the economic crisis, combined with the “Lava-Jato” Operation (a series of investigations conducted by the Brazilian Federal Police over a huge corruption scheme involving large Brazilian companies and high-level politicians), contributed to...
Read More
The U.S. in Yemen: Worth the Human Cost?

The U.S. in Yemen: Worth the Human Cost?

By Alan Williams, an M.A. student in human rights Ten months in, the role of the United States in the GCC-led bombing of Yemen needs to be reevaluated. The campaign was initiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council in order to destabilize the Houthi militia controlling the government in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, and to reinstate deposed president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Hundreds of airstrikes later, the UN has reported 8,100 civilian casualties with 2,800 deaths. At this point in the conflict, 93% of the deaths have been civilian. Starvation is at critical levels, and delivering aid to those in need is becoming increasingly difficult. Mirroring the numerous attempts at reaching a lasting ceasefire in Syria, all attempts at making peace have been quickly subverted. At its outset, the United States reluctantly supported the Saudi-led campaign, but such support has proven more harmful than helpful. On March 25th 2015, the National Security Council (NCS) spokesperson announced that President Obama had authorized the provision of...
Read More
Access to Justice: the Indigenous Perspective

Access to Justice: the Indigenous Perspective

By Hannah Khaw, a political science and music major at Columbia University. The term “justice” often brings to mind images of austere judges in their robes and eloquent lawyers with their clients, seated formally within stately courthouses. Such has been the influence of contemporary law upon our conception of what justice truly entails. However, can justice be pursued through channels other than the default ones that our modern society has conditioned us to accept? Numerous indigenous peoples’ groups all over the world seem to think so: for hundreds of years, justice has been meted out in these communities through indigenous courts and other tribal councils that are starkly different from the modern legal systems imposed on them in more recent times. With this in mind, then, states and international organizations such as the United Nations should arguably make provisions for indigenous peoples to have adequate access to justice not just in the conventional legal sense, but also within their own traditional contexts. However,...
Read More
Against Superlatives: Canada, Rankings, and the Buzzfeed-isation of Human Rights Reporting

Against Superlatives: Canada, Rankings, and the Buzzfeed-isation of Human Rights Reporting

By Tim Wyman-McCarthy, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ I confess: I AM CANADIAN! Anyone from my homeland will recognise the reference to the well known Molson Canadian beer commercials, starting with “There’s an unwritten code in Canada…” and then depicting young men and women fulfilling classic ‘Canadian’ stereotypes—playing hockey, owning beavers, being polite, enduring cold, paddling canoes, outwitting Americans—before shouting, emphatically, that they are Canadian! The commercial was part of a surge in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s to conjure a sense of Canadian identity out of a population (in)famous for its lack of nationalism. The joke was that being Canadian meant nothing very much at all, and the commercials were self-deprecating even as they aimed to foster patriotism. To anyone globally aware or keyed into international politics, however, Canada did have a strong identity: multicultural, progressive, tolerant, peacekeeping, generous, democratic. The nation has boasted wide respect in the human rights community for decades, and our Prime Minister from 1963-1968,...
Read More
Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education: Inuit Culture and Pedagogies in Greenland’s Schools

Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education: Inuit Culture and Pedagogies in Greenland’s Schools

By Caroline Fidan Tyler Doenmez, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ On November 20th Aviaja E. Lynge, HRAP Fellow at Columbia University, gave a presentation titled: "Indigenous Peoples' Right to Education: Implementing a Culturally Appropriate Education System in Greenland." Lynge holds an M.S. in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh and currently works at the University of Greenland, where she is Head of Department for Further Education. Lynge began the presentation by thanking her mentor Elsa Stamatopoulou, Director of the Indigenous Studies Program at Columbia. Lynge contextualized her presentation by starting with a description of her own childhood in Greenland and her Inuit family, because, she said, “I am part of the story I am going to tell you.” She recounted the influence of her grandparents and parents, who helped to foster her interest in equality and human rights from an early age. Her parents were involved in the decolonizing movement in Greenland, and her grandparents closely followed...
Read More
The War on Drugs is Far from Over

The War on Drugs is Far from Over

By Christiane Coste, human rights graduate student at Columbia University _____________________________________________________________________________ Despite the big victory in Mexico’s fight against organized crime, the arrest of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, considered the world’s most wanted drug lord, Mexico continues to face many challenges.  For one, it runs the risk of clouding pressing national security problems as a result of a triumphalist attitude on the part of the government and a media that is solely focused on the capture of this powerful kingpin. Therefore, this may be an opportune moment to look at some of the problems Mexico must still address as a result of the war against drugs, in particular, the emergence of vigilante groups in Michoacán and the potential human rights violations that can result from these armed groups. As the state has proven incapable of guaranteeing citizens’ security, particularly in the Tierra Caliente region, vigilante units  (self-defense groups as they call themselves) have emerged as a citizen-led effort to confront the particularly violent...
Read More
The Super Bowl: What’s Trafficking Got To Do With It?

The Super Bowl: What’s Trafficking Got To Do With It?

By Caroline Miller, graduate student at Columbia University's School of International and Political Affairs & Mailman School of Public Health _____________________________________________________________________________ Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner. It’s time for the annual gathering of family and friends to eat large quantities of junk food, watch captivating television commercials, and cheer on the two best NFL teams as they face off.  So what does human trafficking have to do with this festive football day? It turns out that the Super Bowl has a dark side associated with a high prevalence of human trafficking activities.  And this year, it will be right in our backyard, across the river in East Rutherford, New Jersey (NJ). With the influx of thousands of people to the host city, experts contend that the number of men looking to pay for sex surges and the immense crowds associated with the game make victims fall under the radar.[1]  Sex workers are brought in to meet the demand of fans...
Read More
Towards Sumak Kawsay (Good Living) in Ecuador: Fundación Pachamama visits Columbia University

Towards Sumak Kawsay (Good Living) in Ecuador: Fundación Pachamama visits Columbia University

By Milagros Egas Villacres, human rights graduate student at Columbia University __________________________________________________________________ “The land we inhabit is the land where our spirits live and we want future generations to have enough resources, clean land, and a better life standards in order to stay on the land that has always been our home.”- Narcisa Mashiento On October 15, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Program at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights hosted an event with the Fundación Pachamama from Ecuador that is part of the Pachamama Alliance. The event featured talks by Belén Páez, President of Fundación Pachamama; Carolyn Buck-Luce, co-founder of Imaginal Labs and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University; and Narcisa Mashiento and Robin Fink, Program Directors of the Jungle Mamas program.  Speakers presented the work they do in order to protect the cultural and biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest.  Some of these efforts include: changing the Ecuadorian Constitution to recognize environmental rights, working with the government to change measures of...
Read More
The American DREAM: Immigrants’ Rights in the United States Today

The American DREAM: Immigrants’ Rights in the United States Today

By Barbara Borgese, recent graduate of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University On the night of the November 6th, about 11 million DREAMers and their supporters anxiously awaited the results of the Presidential election. Their fate in the United States – whether they will be able to pursue higher education, build a career and a have future in this country – largely depends on the decisions that our political leaders in Washington will have to make in the months to come. With President Obama’s reelection, the DREAM Act and the policy directive, Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), two important acts to advance immigrants’ rights in this country, will continue to be endorsed by the administration. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a bi-partisan legislative proposal that has been stalled in the Senate for a decade. In December 2010, after passing in the House of Representatives, it failed to pass in the Senate...
Read More