Good Business and Good Coffee: A Case Study of Human Rights and Sustainable Business Practices

Good Business and Good Coffee: A Case Study of Human Rights and Sustainable Business Practices

By Colleen J. Brisport, graduate of the MA in Human Rights Studies program at Columbia University My thesis explores current theories on business, fair trade and human rights developed by scholars such as John Ruggie and Laura Raynolds. These academics have articulated the difficulties and the improbabilities of corporations sincerely incorporating human rights within their business operations. Several scholars of human rights and business, such as Kenneth Roth, believe that the ‘naming and shaming’ tactics of non-profit organizations, voluntary industry standards and legal suits are ways in which we can pressure businesses to consider human rights in their business operations and hold them accountable for their actions. However, my thesis supports a different approach and illustrates how the Starbucks Coffee Company and Coopetarrazu Coffee Cooperative have worked cooperatively to make economic, social and cultural rights of the Tarrazú coffee farmers an important aspect of their business relationship. I was fourteen years old when I participated in one of the most influential service projects...
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OHCHR Global Panel: Moving Away from the Death Penalty

OHCHR Global Panel: Moving Away from the Death Penalty

By Angélica Hoyos, senior in Political Science and Human Rights at Columbia University On July 3rd the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights organized the global panel: “Moving Away from the Death Penalty.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the discussion by declaring his commitment to end capital punishment: “The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict it on another, even when backed by legal process.” The goal of the discussion, which included delegates from the states parties, panelists, and members of civil society, was to set up a debate for the upcoming General Assembly in October. In 2007, The United Nations endorsed an international moratorium on capital punishment. Ever since, six nations have abolished the practice. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed her hope for many other states to follow this trend. She reminded retentionist states that they ought to comply with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil...
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UN Negotiations Fail to Disarm Human Rights Abusers

UN Negotiations Fail to Disarm Human Rights Abusers

By Amanda Barrow, M.A. candidate in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University Which is more heavily regulated: the global trade of bananas or AK-47s? In late June, activists led by Amnesty International (AI) highlighted a striking reality: there are more international regulations governing the export and import of bananas than there are on the trade of arms and ammunition. This is particularly problematic when considering the fact that the easy availability of weaponry—rather than, say, bananas—is what facilitates innumerable human rights abuses throughout the world. The indiscriminate transfer of arms undermines economic development, jeopardizes stability and security, and results in hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. You need not look further than Syria, where repressive ruler President Assad has had his will enacted through the use of heavily armed, violent force. Describing Russia’s continued arms sales to Syria in the midst of this crisis, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Susan Rice argued,“It is not technically a violation of international law since...
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Time to Rethink: The ‘Women’s Dilemma’ and Public Policy

By Yasmine Ergas, Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights The ‘women’s dilemma’ is center stage – again. I call it that even though the impossible balancing of family life and professional life that Anne-Marie Slaughter recently dissected in a widely debated article in The Atlantic affects many men too. It still is primarily a women’s issue, and it will take some time before it can be characterized in gender-neutral terms. A recent workshop promoted by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, with the financial support of ISERP, and the co-sponsorship of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, analyzed many of the new terms of the ‘motherhood’ issue. The following remarks are informed by that debate but do not seek to summarize it. Instead, I focus on some of the issues that Slaughter’s article raises. Slaughter has been much criticized for lamenting that “women still can’t have it all.” In truth, the “having it all”...
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Summer Update

Hello RightsViews readers! While things have slowed down on campus for the summer semester, we’ve been busy working behind the scenes at RightsViews and have many updates to share with you. First of all, we bid a big farewell to our founding co-editor, Tanya O’Carroll. It was Tanya’s vision for an interactive, digital forum for human rights students and scholars that got this blog up and running. Since graduating from Columbia’s Human Rights Studies MA program, Tanya has moved back to London where she is working at the Amnesty International Secretariat on a project that collaborates with the technology community to help build solutions to human rights challenges. She will remain a member of our editorial board, but is handing the reigns over to Eve and two new members of our team. Good luck Tanya, and don't forget to tweet about us!! This summer, Laura Reed will join RightsViews as an Editor, and Jessica Eaton will be joining us as an Assistant Editor. Bringing together...
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Indictment, Trial and Verdict: The ICC’s First-Ever Conviction

An interview with conveners of the American Coalition for the ICC (AMICC), John Washburn and Matthew Heaphy As the final salvos of the KONY 2012 debate began to retreat from Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has finally announced its first-ever conviction. On March 14th 2012, judges in The Hague found Thomas Lubanga Dylio, 51, guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” of committing crimes of conscription, enlistment and use of children to participate in hostilities under the Rome Statute Article 8.2 (b). Lubanga was a major figure in the Second Congo War (1998-2003) and the Ituri conflict (1999-2003) that saw Lubanga's Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) participate in murder, torture and rape on a massive scale. Ituri is a fertile region in North-East DRC rich in gold, diamonds, and oil and was often referred to as the bloodiest corner of the DRC—as the longstanding local dispute between the Hema pastoralists (Lubanga's tribe) and rival Lendu agriculturalists was exploited by regional actors. The Lubanga case is...
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Mapping the Kony 2012 Controversy: what does it mean for human rights advocacy?

If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, you've probably watched Kony 2012. This 29-minute film has more than 65 million hits on YouTube. Invisible Children (IC) co-founder, Jason Russell, directed and narrated the super-viral film that campaigns against Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a militant group that began in Uganda over two decades ago, and a wanted war criminal responsible for the death and abduction of as many as 30,000 children. Russell asks viewers to join IC’s campaign to capture Kony after describing his friendship with one of Kony’s victims, Jacob, and then sharing a compelling narrative about the promise he made to Jacob – “we're going to stop them.” In less than a week, the film has created an uproar. Many criticize the film for misrepresenting the LRA's part in two decades worth of complex regional wars in East and Central Africa. Others praise the film as a social media superstar. Whether or not IC's campaign can overcome...
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Beyond SOPA/Pipa: a human rights approach to Internet regulation

Wikipedia’s move three weeks ago to block access to its site across the English speaking world in protest against two proposed US bills - SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and Pipa (Protect Intellectual Property Act) – had its intended effect. A post on the Guardian joked, “the Internet seems a little...quiet today, don't you think?” as the web buzzed with activity about the “blackout”. Countless independent blogs and a few big sites such as Wordpress and Reddit joined Wikipedia by “turning the lights out”, while other big Internet sites used banners, pop-ups and logo-changes to signal their opposition to the bills and their backers. Google ‘censored’ its logo on its search engine. In many ways, the objective of the protest was simple: to raise awareness of, and mobilize opposition against the badly designed anti-piracy bills and to dent their support in Congress. In this effort, opponents of the bills won an overwhelming victory. The Wikimedia Foundation reportedthat 162 million people experienced...
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Field Notes: Lebanon’s Home of Hope

My experience filming for OCHA's Global Humanitarian Day Campaign By Dâna Barakat, student at Columbia University In an attempt to get some preliminary research done for my thesis, which looks at the challenges faced by street children in Lebanon, I decided to spend a few weeks there this past summer. As soon as I arrived, I read an email that was going to change my summer. It was from David, a Public Information Officer at the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), asking me if I was interested in producing a short film for their global humanitarian day campaign. I had met David only a day earlier, through a wonderful adjunct Professor at CU, and he decided to give me a shot at this great opportunity. OCHA was looking to showcase 5 humanitarian workers from around the world who are making a significant difference in their respective communities. After meeting with aid workers from orphanages and NGOs all over the country,...
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Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

An Interview with Filmmaker Pamela Yates By Jennifer Wilmore, student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs  Pamela Yates is an American documentary filmmaker and co-founder of SkylightPictures, a company dedicated to creating films and digital media tools that advance awareness of human rights and the quest for justice.  In 1982, at the age of 24, she traveled to Guatemala to shoot footage of the hidden war unfolding there between the military government and guerrilla forces. While in Guatemala, Yates also witnessed the government’s genocidal campaign being carried out against the Mayan people mostly, in which at least 200,000 individuals were killed, “disappeared” or forced into exile.  Skylight Pictures used this footage to create a film called When the Mountains Tremble, which won the Special Jury Award at the 1984 Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Yates has created films on a variety of issues, including poverty and homelessness in the United States, terrorism, and the International Criminal Court. Her current Sundance offering, Granito: How To Nail a Dictator, takes viewers...
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