By Joseph Chuman, a lecturer at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights
With dark forces clouding the political horizon, both domestically and globally, defense of fundamental freedoms has become stridently urgent. While some may prophesy or lament the end time of human rights, the drumbeat of illiberalism requires an even more robust enunciation of the human rights program. Those striving to consolidate greater power in the hands of state executives may seek to swat aside human rights as an annoying manifestation of political correctness, but it is good to remember that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights emerged out of the nadir of European fascism. The response to darkness is not despair, but the bright light of civility and decency, which are conveyed most powerfully by human rights and the ideals that it reflects.
At the heart of human rights is respect for the dignity of human beings - without exception. If asked to summarize in briefest terms the purpose of...
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...
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...
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...
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...
By Daniel Golebiewski, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University
On March 8, 2014, Columbia’s School of the Arts, in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), screened Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing. This film was shortlisted for a 2014 Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. On this evening, the audience had the chance to see the Director’s Cut and ask Oppenheimer questions regarding trauma, memory, and the power of filmmaking.
In 1965, Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry—Indonesian “gangsters” deriving their label from the English “free men” meaning to live on without punishment from the criminal justice system—accepted their role as leaders of the most well known killing squad in North Sumatra. In The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer invites these two gangsters and their comrades to reenact their assassinations of Chinese communists. They seem eager to create a film that uses humor and romance, as well as inspiration from their favorite movie genres like...
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...
By Jillian Carson, Program Coordinator, ISHR
On Thursday October 3rd, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), the Blinken European Institute and the Harriman Institute hosted Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union’s first appointed Special Representative for Human Rights at Columbia University.
Mr. Lambrinidis is an attorney who served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece. He also previously held the post of Vice-President of the European Parliament, and from 2004 to 2009, served as Vice-President of the Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. Mr. Lambrinidis graduated from Yale Law School and, early in his career, served as Chairman of the Committee for Human Rights in the Bar Association of Washington, D.C.. Mr. Lambrinidis took office on September 1, 2012 and his mandate will run until June 2014. He and the EU delegation to the United Nations visited New York for the opening of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly.
Challenges in Human Rights and Foreign Policy
By Amy Sall, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University
On September 17th, The Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) hosted their annual Fall Reception where human rights advocates, scholars, and students gathered to welcome the new school year. Hosted on the top floor of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the backdrop of the New York City skyline was a befitting scene for the diverse crowd of current and future human rights practitioners. The attendees included incoming and returning human rights students and professors from across Columbia, as well as scholars and fellows at the ISHR.
The reception was a great way to meet students, professors, human rights advocates and fellows. Hedayt Selim, a first-year student from Cairo in the Master of Arts in Human Rights Studies program, was among many of the guests attending the ISHR Fall Reception. “It’s a great opportunity to branch out and meet professors and fellow students that you wouldn’t otherwise meet."...
By Janine White, Program Coordinator for the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University
From May 23-28, 2013, I participated in the Most Mira-Humanity in Action (HIA) International Exchange. Most Mira (Bridge of Peace) is a peacebuilding NGO in northern Bosnia, and its founder, Kemal Pervanic, was a 2012 participant ISHR’s Human Rights Advocates Program. HIA is a human rights education NGO based in the US and with offices in several European countries, including Bosnia. Through this project, HIA Senior Fellows supported Most Mira’s annual youth arts festival, involving children in a drama program that culminated in a rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. During the 5-day festival, Senior Fellows and Most Mira staff, along with other experts in this field, also came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities that this local NGO faces within the current political context in post-conflict Bosnia.
This blog post, previously published here, is a summary of my impressions and reflections from this...