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...
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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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Will new constitutional commitments improve respect for human rights in Kyrgyzstan?

Kyrgyzstan, a small mountainous country in Central Asia, is sandwiched between China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In the twenty years since independence from the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has seen three regimes. The first post-Soviet President, Askar Akaev, was an early reformer but, after increasing corruption and authoritarianism, was ousted during the ‘Tulip Revolution’ in March 2005. His successor, Kurmanbek Bakiev, promised to rewrite the Constitution and undo the excesses of the Akaev era, but ultimately consolidated power and resources. Bakiev was overthrown in April 2010 (see pictures), setting in motion the first effort to create a parliamentary democracy in Central Asia. Researching the contributions of the Kyrgyz human rights community In summer 2011 I was lucky enough to receive a Kathryn Davis fellowship to study Russian at Middlebury College and also to receive a Harriman Institute fellowship to conduct research in Kyrgyzstan in the late summer and early fall for my Master’s thesis. My research interest was to further understand the contributions...
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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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The Human Rights Council and Libya: an historic precedent and missed opportunity

The Human Rights Council and Libya: an historic precedent and missed opportunity

By Deborah Brown, former student at Barnard College Late last year, with little fanfare, the UN General Assembly voted to reinstate Libya’s membership to the Human Rights Council (HRC). Libya was suspended from the body last winter amid the mass killings of protestors and other egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by Muammar Qaddhafi’s regime and credible threats of continued violence. For human rights advocates interested in reforming and improving the HRC, the way in which Libya’s membership was restored represents a lost opportunity to build the credibility of the institution by creating stronger criteria for reinstating suspended members. An unprecedented step On March 1, 2011, the General Assembly unanimously took the bold step of suspending Libya’s membership from the Council for committing “gross and systemic violations of human rights.” This action was historic as it marked the first time that a member state was suspended from either the HRC or its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, for violating human rights. It also helped to...
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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...
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Happy Holidays!

As everything is wrapping up for Christmas, we wanted to say a MASSIVE  thank you to everyone for contributing to the first successful semester of RightsViews! We have had a great response from students and faculty. An especially big thank you to those who have started blogging with us - there have been some fascinating posts this semester reflecting the diversity of interests and passions within the Columbia human rights community. Thanks also to all of our readers - we have lots planned for the blog in the new year so stay tuned for some great content, and more of it! For anyone who is not tucked up at home for Christmas (like ourselves), then we leave you with this and maybe we'll catch you down at Zuccotti... Occupy Wall Street Plans To Occupy Christmas (VIDEO link) See you in January, Tanya and Eve, The editors  ...
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Notes from the field: Indonesia’s water justice movement

Reza sits on the couch in the reception area of KRuHA’s shared office in South Jakarta, chatting with two visiting PhD researchers about the current state of Jakarta’s water crisis. KRuHA is the Indonesian language acronym for the People’s Coalition for the Right to Water, and, with the help of an SYLFF Summer Research Grant, I travelled to Jakarta in August to research Indonesia’s small, but vocal, water justice movement. Specifically I was interested in how this movement was engaging the human right to water (see another blog post of mine on the evolution of this new right) as an advocacy tool, and the sorts of opportunities and challenges the human rights framework might present organizations like KRuHA.   Meeting KRuHA It’s common for students, journalists and fellow NGO activists to drop by this small office and discuss the country’s ongoing water woes, particularly those faced by Jakarta – drought, worsening pollution and decreasing quality of drinking water, increasing tariffs, and intermittent supply....
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LGBT Equality in Africa: Somewhere Over the Rainbow?

LGBT Equality in Africa: Somewhere Over the Rainbow?

By Kristen Thompson, student at Columbia University “We are holy, angry people, and we are singing for our lives” What do you do when your government is trying to criminalize your identity?  For Nigerian LGBT rights activist Ifeanyi Orazulike, the answer is: fight back.  On Monday I joined Ifeanyi and other activists outside the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations to protest the anti-gay “Same-Gender Marriage Bill” passed by the Nigerian Senate, which currently awaits the approval or veto of President Goodluck Jonathan. But this bill is not really about marriage.  It broadly defines “same-sex marriage” as including all same-sex relationships, and charges people who “witness,” “aid” or “abet” such relationships with imprisonment for up to five years.  It's a modern day witch-hunt, which puts LGBT rights activists and HIV/AIDS service providers for the LGBT population, like Ifeanyi, in particular peril. This is insult on top of severe injury – today Nigerian same-sex relationships are punished with up to 14 years...
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