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
Obama in Burma: Rewarding Cosmetic Changes?

Obama in Burma: Rewarding Cosmetic Changes?

By Hal Levy, undergraduate student at Columbia University The White House moved with uncharacteristic speed to announce a surprising foreign policy initiative two days after President Obama’s reelection.  He was going to Burma and it was happening right now, less than two weeks after the votes were counted, and because he decided that everything would happen so quickly it was far too late to haggle over his itinerary, which by the way was already in place.  “Why scrutinize this?” was the implicit message to human rights activists, “because we don’t want your input this time.” However, this landmark engagement with the current Burmese regime warrants scrutiny and at the very least revision if it is to go forward.  Burma is finally opening to Western investment, but Obama must not abandon America’s responsibility to protect potential Burmese workers in favor of geopolitical games and economic opportunity.  Fraudulent elections held in 2010 transferred power to a mixture of civilians and military-appointed candidates in name...
Read More

Notes From the Field: Columbia students reflect on a recent field trip to Ecuador

In the spring of 2012, a group of Columbia undergraduate students took part in the Alternative Spring Break Program for Columbians Vested in Global Exchange for Positive Development. The GEQUA  program offered students the opportunity to engage in a local gender equality project with Fundación Brethern y Unida, one of the oldest NGOs in Ecuador, which focuses on educating youth about sustainable development and the environment. ISHR helped support select undergraduate students to participate in this program. Below, two of these students, Jessica Eaton and Christian Hubbard, reflect on their experience, and consider how their time in the field has altered their understanding of human rights and the environment.   Indigenous Rights, Women's Rights and Organic Farming: Lessons learned in the back of a pick-up truck By Christian Hubbard Prior to going to Ecuador, if you would have asked me what corn and human rights have to do with each other, I definitely would have said nothing. But after my stay in Ecuador I now have...
Read More

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...
Read More

Welcome back!

We hope everybody's semester is getting off to a good start. It has obviously been a busy few weeks for human rights... The news from Burma last week of a ceasefire deal between the government and the Karen rebels and a declaration of amnesty for 651 Burmese political prisoners, 130 of whom were reconciled with their families on Friday, was a moment for celebration - even as we wait to see what it means more broadly for human rights in Burma. In the US, on the other hand, the new year brought us the more concerning National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which signed into law the ability of the US government to indefinitely detain citizens. On the tenth anniversary of the opening of the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay last week, hundreds of activists led a march to the White House to condemn Obama's betrayal of his promise to close the prison. Amnesty released this spoof video as a reminder...
Read More
Condoms as evidence: a discriminatory practice and contradictory policy in NYC

Condoms as evidence: a discriminatory practice and contradictory policy in NYC

By Erica Mac Donald, recent graduate from Columbia University Do you carry a condom with you? Is it in your pocket? Your purse? Your wallet? If you answered yes, you are at risk of being arrested for prostitution in the State of New York. Sounds odd doesn't it? While this is a bit of an oversimplification, it reflects what is at the heart of the policy that allows police to profile, target and arbitrarily arrest those who are suspected to be sex workers. As New York state law is currently written, police and prosecutors can use the fact that someone is carrying a condom to prove that they are guilty of a prostitution-related crime. This routine police and prosecutorial practice has significant negative implications in that it perpetuates discrimination against sex workers and contradicts public health efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. A discriminatory practice Clearly, condoms themselves are not illegal. However, profiling of sex workers based on their appearance, location, and...
Read More
Realizing Shannen’s Dream: the fight for quality education for First Nations in Canada

Realizing Shannen’s Dream: the fight for quality education for First Nations in Canada

By Jillian Carson, Student at Columbia University Rights violations and struggles in developed countries are regularly overlooked as human rights issues. In Canada, human rights claims are consistently re-framed as purely political or constitutional in nature, denying the violation of rights at home that would be openly criticized abroad. In response to the growing influence of human rights abroad, First Nations youth in Canada are becoming increasingly aware of the language and mechanisms of the human rights system and how this international body of rights affects their lives at home. First Nations youth have been especially active in raising awareness about education rights and the rights of the child. In June of this year, young First Nations students, and non-Native Canadian youth from Quebec launched a report aimed at bringing attention to the lack of culturally based, equitable education for First Nations students in Canada. The report will be submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child along with Canada’s...
Read More