Classrooms and Curricula: the Role of the Right to Education in the Prevention of Mass Atrocities

Classrooms and Curricula: the Role of the Right to Education in the Prevention of Mass Atrocities

By: Nay Alhelou, RightsViews Co-editor In her first talk in an academic setting in the USA while serving in her current capacity, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Dr. Kombou Boly Barry, highlighted how education could help prevent mass atrocities. On October 15, she addressed students, teachers, and fellows at Columbia University and discussed the report she presented three days later to the United Nations. Dr. Boly Barry was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 to examine the right to education as an independent expert. She is mandated to conduct country visits, respond to allegations of violations of the right to education and promoting dialogue with governments, civil society and other actors. According to the Special Rapporteur, schools can either be the space where intolerance is harnessed or where tolerance is promoted. In favor of the former, she remarked: “In a world where everybody is afraid of everybody else… education should be used as a tool to...
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Columbia’s First-Ever Indigenous Mother Tongues Book Fair

Columbia’s First-Ever Indigenous Mother Tongues Book Fair

by Marial Quezada, an Indigenous ally and a 2018 graduate of the Human Rights Studies program at Columbia University In late April, the first-ever Mother Tongues Book Fair took place at Columbia University, organized by the Runasimi Outreach Committee at New York University and the New York-based Movimientos Indigenas Asociados in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights and the Columbia Human Rights Graduate Group. Coinciding with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 2018, the fair celebrated written works in Indigenous mother tongues from various communities and geographic regions.  Languages represented at the fair included Amharic, Arikara, Crow, Hidatsa, Lakota, Mandan, Maya Mam, Mixteco, Nahuatl, Omaha-Ponca, Quechua, Tsou, and Zapoteca. Authors along with publishers displayed and sold a variety of mother tongue works including trilingual and bilingual children’s books, poetry anthologies, novels, zines, dictionaries, CDs, and more. The fair's goal was to raise awareness of Indigenous mother tongues and works as well as to connect authors and publishers with each other and the...
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The Politics of Search and Rescue Operations

The Politics of Search and Rescue Operations

Since 2013, search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean have been a highly contentious issue in the media and European politics. In February, students, professors and human rights scholars at Columbia University were fortunate enough to hear Dr. Craig Spencer, director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian, speak on the politics of search and rescue operations. Dr. Spencer works in public health both in New York, providing clinical care, and internationally, dealing with issues as wide ranging as access to legal documentation in Indonesia to the coordination of an epidemiologist response to Ebola in Guinea. His most recent posting was on a Doctors Without Borders search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean. He began his discussion at Columbia University by giving background to the current refugee crisis: Dr. Spencer explained that the difference today in dealing with refugee issues is “the scale of the problem” and “how we are dealing with it.” Contrary to public opinion and media representations, he...
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What Does a Career in Human Rights Look Like? The Experts Weigh in

What Does a Career in Human Rights Look Like? The Experts Weigh in

By Rowena Kosher, a blog writer for RightsViews and a student in the School of General Studies at Columbia University The Institute for the Study of Human Rights held its annual human rights career panel last month, offering students the chance to hear from individuals in a variety of human rights careers. The panel was an opportunity for future practitioners to gain insight into human rights in action outside of academic study at Columbia University. The undergraduate and graduate students who attended the event held at Columbia's International Affairs Building posed questions about their professional futures in human rights. The panelists, all career veterans in the field, helped answer student concerns by sharing stories about their career paths, their experiences, and other practical advice. What are the most rewarding parts of a career in human rights, and what are the challenges? The panelists agreed that the human rights field can be complicated and frustrating at times. Victories don’t always happen, but it is important to be...
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Unjust Justice: A Case of American Exceptionalism

Unjust Justice: A Case of American Exceptionalism

By Olivia Heffernan, a master’s candidate at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs  The United States represents four percent of the world’s population but is home to 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. These disproportionate figures, and the financial and emotional burdens of mass incarceration in America, were the topic of a recent discussion at Columbia University between former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter and Obama administration official Elias Alcantara. The discussion, hosted by the Criminal Justice Reform Working Group (CJR) at the School of International and Public Affairs, brought together two panelists well suited to discuss criminal justice policy—its challenges, similarities and differences—on city and federal levels. As a country that prides itself on its values of freedom and equality, the United States demonstrates a gaping contradiction with its discriminatory and broken justice system. Spikes in incarceration rates are often attributed to the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed by former President Bill Clinton, which implemented a...
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Great Power, Great Responsibility: The Digital Revolution of Human Rights

Great Power, Great Responsibility: The Digital Revolution of Human Rights

by Genevieve Zingg, a blog writer for RightsViews and a M.A. student in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University “Human rights faces a stress test today,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said during his World Leaders Forum address at Columbia University's Casa Italiana on November 14. “The approach which seems to be in the ascendent is a blinkered, blind vision of domination, nationalism, and walled-in sovereignty.” The teatro grew sombre as al-Hussein’s initial quips gave way to his analysis of the current state of human rights— a field in flux, balanced precariously on the back of a technological revolution that poses both risk and opportunity. "The digital universe offers us amazing possibilities for human rights work,” he continued. “We already use satellite imagery and encrypted communications to ensure better monitoring, investigation, and analysis of human rights violations in places where the authorities refuse to give us access.” Indeed, digital tools have increasingly yielded significant results in the human rights field....
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What does the Rohingya crisis mean for Myanmar’s Nobel Laureate?

What does the Rohingya crisis mean for Myanmar’s Nobel Laureate?

By Olivia Heffernan, a master’s candidate at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs  On November 14, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University hosted a lecture titled “Understanding the Rohingya Crisis.” Panelists addressed the historical roots of ongoing violent conflict in Myanmar, including the “othering” of the minority Rohingya Muslims and escalating fear of Islam, as well as the responsibility of the international community to respond to the country's human rights crisis. The lack of response raises questions about the international community’s commitment to protecting peace and precipitates another interesting discussion: What does an ethnic cleansing overseen by a Nobel Peace Prize winner mean for the credibility of the award itself? Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and first state counselor, was conferred the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her admirable fight for democracy in Myanmar during 15 years under house arrest as a political prisoner. However, actions speak louder than words. Aung San Suu Kyi’s complicity to the killings...
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Human Rights Futures

Human Rights Futures

By Ayesha Amin, a blog writer for RightsViews and a M.P.A. candidate at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs Is the human rights movement on the road to nowhere? Last Thursday, the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University hosted a book launch and panel discussion on “Human Rights Futures,” edited by Stephen Hopgood, Jack Snyder and Leslie Vinjamuri. The book brings together 15 mainstream human rights scholars and their critics to debate alternative futures for the human rights movement. The panel conversation was moderated by Andrew Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University, and included four contributors to the book: Jack Snyder, Belfer Professor of International Relations at Columbia University; Shereen Hertel, editor of the Journal of Human Rights; Alexander Cooley, director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University; and Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice at SOAS, University of London. Other panelists included Aryeh Neier, co-founder...
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Questioning “Resilience”

Questioning “Resilience”

By Stephanie Euber, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 2017 Individuals fortunate enough to have survived traumatic events are commonly referred to as “resilient.” In fact, a resilience framework/agenda has become part of commonly-accepted humanitarian and human rights language and programming. But what does this framework, which attempts to foster resiliency among trauma survivors, actually accomplish? This is the question I have spent the past year attempting to answer. My paper titled “Genealogy of Resilience: Women’s Resiliency to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence” was recently chosen as a winner of the 2017 Human Rights Essay Contest through the Institute for the Study of Human Rights. The application of the term "resilient" to women who have experienced gender-based violence, either locally or globally, remains unclear. What is more evident is that linkages can be drawn between the usage of resilience theory and the popularization of describing women as "survivors." Referring to women who have survived gender-based trauma as "resilient" pays homage to the extreme emotional...
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