Failures of the Responsibility to Protect: Selectivity, Double Standards and an Assault on State Sovereignty

Failures of the Responsibility to Protect: Selectivity, Double Standards and an Assault on State Sovereignty

By Shayna Halliwell, an M.A. student in human rights This article is Part Two of a two-part op-ed series exploring the different sides of the R2P debate. --------- “You don’t care about my country more than I care about my country!” This sentence punctuated a statement made by a representative of the Syrian Arab Republic in the United Nations General Assembly debate in February 2016 on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). A contentious emerging norm, R2P is meant to protect vulnerable populations from experiencing mass atrocities, in the event that their governments are unable to do so. However, this statement on behalf of the Syrian government can be seen as the very crux of why R2P has not made the difference it was intended to make at its inception over fifteen years ago, at the behest of previous Secretary-General Kofi Annan. While R2P is noble in its goals—to protect a country’s population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and/or crimes against humanity—it has proved to...
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Prevention, Assistance and Intervention: How the Responsibility to Protect has Made a Difference in Situations of Mass Atrocities

Prevention, Assistance and Intervention: How the Responsibility to Protect has Made a Difference in Situations of Mass Atrocities

By Shayna Halliwell, an M.A. student in human rights This article is Part One of a two-part op-ed series exploring the different sides of the R2P debate. ------ “The atrocity crimes that stain humanity’s conscience make it imperative that leaders transform R2P from a vital principle into visible practice.” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made this statement in an informal dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in September 2015. R2P officially celebrated its tenth anniversary this year, and has achieved major successes since its unanimous approval by UN Member States at the World Summit in 2005. Created at the urging of the Secretary General at the time, Kofi Annan, as a response to the mass atrocities committed in Rwanda and Srebrenica, the concept of R2P exists first and foremost to prevent mass atrocities from occurring. It does so by supporting the state in protecting its populations from four major crimes: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Only when states...
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Top Ten Tips for a Career in the Human Rights Field

Top Ten Tips for a Career in the Human Rights Field

What are some of the most important steps towards finding a job in the human rights field? A few weeks ago, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University hosted a career panel aimed at answering this question. Five panelists were present to talk about their experiences in the human rights field: Zselyke Csaky: Senior Researcher, Nations in Transit, Freedom House Justin Mazzola: Deputy Director of Research, Amnesty International USA Debbie Sharnak: PhD candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Adjunct Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University Allison Tamer: Development Officer, American Jewish World Service; Alumna of the Human Rights Studies M.A. Program Alexandra Yuster: Associate Director, Social Inclusion and Policy, UNICEF Here are our top ten takeaways. Acquiring skills for the job: 1.. Hone Your Research and Writing Skills Don't expect much opportunity to develop your research and writing skills on the field beyond perfecting them. Use your time in academia to hone these skills instead. Justin recommends getting practice doing interviews, not only with survivors but also with advocates and government officials, as this will help develop the skill of knowing what you need from...
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The Enforced Disappearance of Human Rights in the World

The Enforced Disappearance of Human Rights in the World

By Marina Kumskova, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ Between March 2002 and July 2004, eight individuals of Chechen origin were “arrested by groups of armed and masked men in a manner resembling a security operation”. Pointing guns at the family members, the soldiers took men away in military carriers. Similarly, on April 28, 1991, Jeremías Osorio Rivera was officially detained by a military patrol when he went to the village of Nunumia to take part in a sports event. He was accused of making a terrorist threat for carrying an officially registered gun and explosives materials. None of these men have been seen or heard from since, despite their families’ tireless efforts to find them. In both cases, the males were abducted and detained by armed men without arrest warrant, held in solitary confinement under mortifying circumstances for unidentified periods of time, and deprived of legal assistance or any other contact with the outside world. In both cases, after the abduction of...
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Disability Pride Month

Disability Pride Month

By Tim Wyman-McCarthy, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ At least as far as UN Conventions are concerned, disability rights are the new kid on the block. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006 and coming into force in May 2008, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has now been ratified by 159 States. Noticeably absent from this group, however, is the United States. While the US is infamous for its reticence to sign international agreements—or to play nicely in the international-legal sandbox—this omission is nonetheless surprising, given the long and rich history of disability activism in the country. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—one of the most advanced, and earliest, pieces of legislation protecting the rights of persons with disabilities—is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. And disability rights issues continue to receive public attention in the country. In honour of the ADA’s 25th Anniversary, this July has been named Disability...
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Human Rights Career Panel

Human Rights Career Panel

By Tim Wyman-McCarthy, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ As students across Columbia—both graduate and undergraduate—settle into the Spring term a series of questions echo around campus: What are your plans for the summer? Have you begun your dissertation? And, most dreaded of all: what’s next? It is this last question, of what comes after graduation, that seems to produce the most anxiety. This is especially true for students interested in fields characterized by less-than-clear paths to employment or uncertain job prospects. One such example is human rights, and so it was of great benefit to many that on February 26th the Institute for the Study of Human Rights held a career panel about what it means to pursue human rights as a profession. The event was comprised of a panel discussion with five human rights professionals followed by an open question and answer session. The speakers were qualified, interesting, and informative. The panel consisted of: Antonio Cisneros de Alencar, Program...
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“What is your vision of human rights work?” -Careers in Human Rights Panel Discussion

“What is your vision of human rights work?” -Careers in Human Rights Panel Discussion

By Caroline Fidan Tyler Doenmez, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ Human rights work can encompass a myriad of issues, projects, approaches and geographical locations. This wide range of opportunities can be exhilarating for human rights students; however, it can also be hard to find the right fit for students’ skills and passions. To address the possibilities and challenges of working in this field as well as provide students with guidance and advice, the Institute of Human Rights Studies at Columbia University hosted a panel discussion, “Careers in Human Rights,” on Monday, April 7, 2014. The panel consisted of four professionals with a diverse range of experiences in human rights work: Sapna Chhatpar Considine, Program Director at the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect; Larry Cox, Co-Director of Kairos: the Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice and former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA; Meg Gardinier, Director of Arigatou International-New York and Chair of the Campaign for...
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Sexual Violence, Human Rights and the Media

Sexual Violence, Human Rights and the Media

By Maria Hengeveld, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University _____________________________________________________________________________ Sexual violence is usually not covered as a human rights issue.  As the archetypical normalized, invisible, overlooked and structural human right violation, it is more often treated as an everyday, normal problem rather than a violation of women’s rights to health, life, bodily integrity, education, and more. The culture of impunity that surrounds sexual violence, and the fact that rape is notoriously underreported, can hardly be detached from the media’s failure to communicate to people that they actually can report these as crimes. It is a missed opportunity, and a troubling one, because the way the media chooses to frame sexual violence influences how people think about rape. They can shape, challenge and perpetuate dominant perceptions or illuminate harmful misconceptions and shed a light on the contestations and anxieties that surround the topic. Moreover, they can channel the outrage and disgust towards, for example, child-rapists into anger and calls for accountability towards our governments.  Making sexual...
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“Justice is given to whomever is louder”

“Justice is given to whomever is louder”

By Jenna Wallace, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University _____________________________________________________________________________ Penelopa Gjurchilova, a former Macedonian diplomat and visiting scholar at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) quoted this popular Macedonian proverb during her opening remarks at a symposium entitled “Foreign Policy Makeover: Women’s Roles and Rights in Diplomacy,” held on November 14, 2013 at Columbia University. ISHR and the Gender and Public Policy Specialization at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) hosted this symposium, consisting of two panels of former and current ambassadors and foreign policy professionals from around the world.  The panelists discussed personal experiences within the field of diplomacy and shared their professional perspectives on the issue of including women’s rights in diplomatic affairs. Chaired by Yasmine Ergas, Associate Director of ISHR and Director of the Gender and Public Policy Specialization at SIPA, the symposium created a unique opportunity for women and men to be heard on the role of gender and women’s rights...
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UNEARTH -United Nations Exhibit Opens Door to the Past and Gives Hope to the Future

UNEARTH -United Nations Exhibit Opens Door to the Past and Gives Hope to the Future

By, Amy Sall, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ____________________________________________________________________________ The UNEARTH exhibit, hosted by the Gabarron Foundation, is a multimedia exhibit based on four main themes: human rights, development, humanitarian assistance, and peace and security.  The exhibit creates a dialogue centered on the humanity of people through the use of archival footage and posters that evoke the spirit of the United Nations (U.N.) reflected in the organization’s principles of promoting peace, security and the protection of human rights.  Not only does the exhibit celebrate the efforts of the U.N., but its closing in 2015 will also commemorate the 70th anniversary of the organization’s existence. Speaking on the ethos behind the exhibit, CEO and Vice President of the Gabarron Foundation, Juan Gabarron says the exhibit is about “creating awareness through the arts.” A task that was spearheaded by Chaim Litewski, Chief of the U.N. Television Section, and Antonio da Silva, Chief of the U.N. Multimedia Unit.  Litewski and da Silva, along...
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