Archive for United Nations

Human Rights Work in the Public Sector: a Discussion with Alumna Barbara Matias

By Lindsey Alpaugh, staff writer for RightsViews and graduate student in the Human Rights MA Program

On October 13th, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights hosted its first Alumni Speaker Series event with Barbara Matias. A graduate of the Institute’s MA in Human Rights Studies, Matias has had a diverse career that spanned over many countries, as well as different missions. Some of her most recent work has included her new position working for the European Union on Belarus, as well as a Programme Officer to the training mission in Iraq and the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Relief Crisis Center’s Team Lead on NATO-EU coordination. 

Speaking from experience, Matias advised job seekers  that “stability comes later” in the field of human rights, and that they should not be discouraged by the frequency with which they may switch jobs. She also admitted that there were  moments where she doubted her choice of working in the public sector, but ultimately realized that she was driven by this field.  While waiting for the next interview and job offer, Matias wrote articles for think tanks on subjects she was personally passionate about, and recommended that students work on building their online profiles. “We all find ourselves in these positions, and it’s a matter of knowing what you want, and doing what you have to do to find your next chapter,” she said.  

While she got her current job amidst the pandemic, she noted that the job search may take longer than usual as many opportunities may be frozen.  However, she advised students not to give up. In fact, she advocated for “shamelessly approaching people on LinkedIn”, and offered that it is easier now to reach out to people and ask to set up a Zoom meeting. Job seekers should “capitalize off of things being so virtual, turn that into a good thing, and try to reach more people than you would have” based on normal geographic proximity. Matias’s method is tried and true: she secured her current position by sitting down and reaching out to her network virtually.

When asked about challenges she faced when she came to ISHR for her MA studies, Matias responded that shifting her academic base from Europe to the US presented her with a bigger change than she had expected. She was surprised by how different the landscape was. Nonetheless, she was able to work through that by relying a lot on the resources at ISHR, who clarified American academic norms that were different from her previous educational experiences. 

Something Matias wishes she had done more of in her early human rights career was fieldwork. Her first taste of fieldwork was in 2017 when she spent some time based in a refugee camp in Greece, and lived in Pristina, Kosovo, working on EU integration. “That molded me, not only as a human, but I understood myself better, and myself as a professional,” she explained. She emphasized the value of becoming a local in Kosovo as best as she could, of paying taxes and becoming a permanent, instead of a passing, fixture in the landscape. In her opinion, “it’s one of the most interesting countries in terms of human rights, and European affairs.” She is looking forward to finding more opportunities to do fieldwork in the future so as to have more experiences like this. 

Matias’s biggest piece of advice to current students would be to go into the field and gain that experience. “Go somewhere completely out of your comfort zone, where you can’t rely on your languages.” She believes it adds value to your profile, and distinguishes potential applicants from their peers. She also suggests writing a lot, as her field involves a lot of writing: “even part time pro-bono as a researcher is important,” she said. During her time at Columbia, Matias wrote for RightsViews, the ISHR website and think tanks.

Matias also emphasized how much she believed in the necessity of proving oneself to be a global citizen, both in terms of fieldwork but also in speaking multiple languages. The benefit, she offers, is being able to consume more news and new perspectives, as well as allowing one to interact with more populations. “Try to do as many things out of the ordinary. That is how I have led my life,” she said while describing her  love for rising to a challenge in order to distinguish herself. 

Recalling her experience at Columbia, Matias credits ISHR for helping her elucidate what kind of work she wanted to be doing and learning that “it’s not about the title, it’s really about the kind of work that drives you.” She was also able to use resources at ISHR to improve her research and academic analytical skills and to finally graduate feeling like an academic, instead of a passive participant in a classroom. She emphasizes that students should use Columbia’s excellent network, and to put themselves out there both through seeking unique skills and reaching out to the larger community. She concluded that  “the chapter you’re in lays out your next chapter,” with each step building on the previous one.

Matias is currently working with the European Commission for Belarus where she drafts news reports and stays up to date with the evolving situation on the ground. She described her position as half knowing the role, and half keeping up with the news. At her previous role at NATO, the ISHR alumna worked on capacity building for the training and education mission in Iraq. She was based at NATO headquarters, but was in contact with her colleagues on the ground on a daily basis every day. She described the position as “dealing with local realities, and a country that is unlike any other.”

Exploring Careers in Human Rights: ISHR’s 2020 Human Rights Career Panel

Exploring Careers in Human Rights: ISHR’s 2020 Human Rights Career Panel

By Rowena Kosher, Co-Editor of RightsViews 

In the midst of the global pandemic of COVID-19, orders of social distancing and indoor sheltering in place, students and panelists tuned in virtually for ISHR’s annual career panel last week, meeting through screens to discuss what the multiplicity of careers in the human rights field can look like. Gergana Halpern, ISHR’s Director of Educational Programming, moderated the panel. 

The Panelists – What Do You Do?

Halpern began the session by asking each of the four panelists to introduce themselves, their current work, and what their job entails. 

Louis Bickford is the CEO and founder of Memria, an online platform for the collection and sharing of stories through audio and text, and an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at ISHR. He has 20 years of experience in the human rights field and as such has worked in a variety of capacities, including in truth commissions, testimonial collection, academia, NGOs, and now technology. 

Rebecca Norlander is the Lead Researcher at Knology, a “collective of scientists, writers, and educators dedicated to studying and untangling complex social issues.” Knology focuses on providing practical approaches to problems in which human rights play a role. Norlander highlighted that her current job looks at human rights at large from a variety of approaches, encouraging cultural appreciation and identifying best practices in advancing positive social change. She identified two focus areas of her work: institutions themselves—how can they serve as vectors to advance social good?—and human rights education.

Karen Karnicki, an alumna of ISHR’s Human Rights MA program, is a Program Associate at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF). RBF is a philanthropic grant-making institution with an endowment to support projects worldwide. RBF’s investment assets as of January 31, 2020 total $1.26 billion. Karnicki works on a program that provides grants to civil society organizations focused on peacebuilding. Karnicki’s responsibilities are twofold: firstly, she performs grants administration and management, including advocating for grant recipients and ensuring grants comply with IRS and other regulations. Secondly, Karnicki travels to meet various people involved in the grant application process, giving her the opportunity to see the work of many civil society organizations and their human rights-related missions.

Daniela Karrenstein is a Political Affairs Officer at the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism’s policy unit. She prepares talking points and makes background notes on policy issues that will be later discussed with the Secretary General and other senior officials. A significant portion of her job involves working with the many UN member states, attempting to find common ground in opinions on policy approaches or document provisions. She also handles the preparation of the Under-Secretary-General for engagements on issues of strategic interest to the broader UN. 

Breaking Down Partnerships in Human Rights

Halpern queried about the nature of partnerships in human rights work. Human rights is filled with many actors. How can one identify the right actors to work with, and what do partnerships look like? Agreeing, Bickford stated that “this entire field is built on partnerships,” and although the nature of the actors and partnerships may vary, they all boil down to the same conversation. In essence, all partnerships are about developing strategies and alignments, asking “how can we work together?” and “What do we bring to the table?” Of course, not all partnerships will work out, such as an instance when a funder may decline to contribute to an applicant, but when partnerships have been established, they operate through communication and a shared commitment to human rights issues.

Karrenstein described the nature of her specific engagement in human rights partnerships, ones which exist within the large intergovernmental system of the UN. Because of the legal and moral authority of the UN, universal values as enshrined in the UN charter are the basis of the UN’s human rights work. United by this commitment, member states ideally work together to develop solutions to international issues. In her capacity, Karrenstein is able to have direct contact with the UN member states, as such developing partnerships both informally and formally to push states on issues of strategic interest. Direct contact with member states and the security council has many advantages. Yet, the UN system also comes with challenges. It is hard for 193 states to agree, and Karrenstein notices the heavy influence of geopolitics on causing stagnation on certain issues. Further, although she loves the intercultural and interdisciplinary relationships between UN staff members, those varying backgrounds can also make it challenging to communicate effectively with each other.

On a much more “birds-eye” level, the partnerships Karnicki builds in the human rights field are a bit more removed. In the world of philanthropy, program staff like Karnicki build large networks, connecting with individual actors, governments, civil society, and NGOs. These connections allow Karnicki to see the whole “ecosystem of organizations” and human rights issues, a broader perspective that excites her because she can see not only the many issues, but also how they overlap. Bickford, who has also spent some time in the philanthropic world, noted the tension between NGOs and philanthropic organizations, in which NGOs see only their issue and consider it the “most important”, yet philanthropy sees the many “most important” issues all vying for support.

Slightly removed from direct service, Norlander’s work in research takes a more behind-the-scenes approach to a human rights partnership. As she noted, there are many different layers and levels to doing what we call “human rights work.” What Norlander does brings research and analysis to direct players in the field, informing best practices, approaches, and helping to guide decision making. As such, she builds one relationship with academia and research and another with on-the-ground practical solutions to the issues that the research reveals. 

Figuring Out Your Path

From the grassroots to the international level, main players to players behind the scenes, it is clear that partnerships structure the human rights field. With so many potential paths to follow, how can you know what type of human rights career best suits you? Panelists touched on this throughout the event, explaining how they were able to mesh their personal preferences and styles to their various jobs. 

Karnicki encouraged students to ask themselves “how does my brain work best?” Personally, she would not work well in a job that is too specific: “I would be a terrible specialist. I’m much more of a generalist.” This is why philanthropy works so well for her. Bickford concurred with the suggestion to build off of the generalist/specialist distinction. Do you want to wake up in the morning and ask yourself what is going on in a narrow slice of the world or do you want to drink your morning joe while pondering the state of the entire field at large? 

Students may also consider how they want their days to look like, said Norlander. This is something she wished she had asked herself when in school. Do you want to be interacting with people all the time, or do you want to sit back and do more solo activities? Norlander spent several years in academia, which she admitted could be individual and isolating at times. Once she began to embrace an interdisciplinary approach to her engagements, she found it rewarding to be collaborative with others. “This whole time I’d been my own mini think tank,” she said, “and now I have all these other people to think with.” You get trained to do one thing well, Norlander said, but there is a richness that comes with working in collaboration. 

Certainly, academic training can influence where students may direct their interests, although several panelists stressed the importance of being open to new and unexpected interests, as well. Bickford received his training in political science and enjoyed that because of its problem-solving nature. Karrenstein came from a legal background, having received a law degree in Germany focused on public international law and human rights law. Her time as a research assistant to a professor in public international law also solidified her interest in seeking a career where she could use this expertise. She knew that she wanted to work in the multilateral world and set her sights on the UN. Yet, panelists encouraged students to cast a wide net when thinking about jobs after graduation. “The human rights education lies in you,” said Norlander. Don’t sell yourself short; there are any number of organizations and companies across many sectors where you can be the human rights voice. Karnicki agreed, stating that some people may have to go out of their comfort zones to things more tangentially related to human rights, but that you can bring a social justice lens to any job you do. 

This is relevant for what Halpern noted as one of the most commonly-asked questions from students, and a question that was posed to the panelists: “do I have to go to law school to do human rights?” The overwhelming consensus from the panelists was a resounding “no.” While, as Karrenstein pointed out, some jobs may have a prerequisite of a law degree, human rights work can take a plethora of forms which do not require a JD. You should do what you love, claimed Bickford. If you love law, then by all means pursue law. For people who enjoy rules and structure, law can be a great career path. But if you are someone who thinks culture changes society, then a sociological or anthropological approach may be a better fit. The moral of the story? Think deeply about what will provide you the most value, personally and practically. 

Building a Human Rights Skillset

It is clear that human rights jobs can span the gamut, yet the panelists all stressed a common “human rights skillset” that is helpful no matter where you choose to work. 

Technically, Norlander stressed the necessity of being able to conduct research in a variety of methods. Learn the research skills, and more importantly, do not treat issues in isolation. “Not only do you need a range of methods,” she said, “but you also have to recognize it as a social system.” Connected to this is what Bickford called the skill of “problem-solving-ness.” The field, he said, is all about tackling problems. Can you sit down at a table, take a problem, and wrestle it into some type of a solution? The human rights field is moving on from its old “naming and shaming” approach to one that is solution-focused. Be prepared to bring interdisciplinary problem-solving skills to the work you do. This is especially important because, as Karrenstein and Bickford noted, it is necessary in the human rights field to be able to demonstrate impact. 

Knowledge acquisition, however, is of little use in the human rights field without the ability to communicate it to various audiences. Karrenstein’s job in the UN highlights this necessity. It is not just the technical knowledge that counts, she said, but rather is first of all about communication skills. The UN functions off of collaborative relationships between members who may have very different mindsets on an issue. “Set the scene,” she recommended, and keep in mind the political terrain that member states are constantly navigating. The soft skills truly steal the spotlight. Karnicki likened communication skills to translation: in her job, she needs to translate grant content from an applicant to the decision makers who approve grants. Knowing how to build a case and advocate for her grantees is crucial to translate their missions to an audience. 

Textual communication is a technical skill that every human rights practitioner will need to hone. Know how to write, said Norlander. Be able to synthesize a lot of information into concise and digestible summaries. In the context of the UN, Karrenstein could not underestimate the value of drafting skills—being able to explain a complex scenario in simple and short ways. 

Finally, panelists discussed positionality. As people in the human rights field, we must constantly question our own biases, privileges, and assumptions. Many fields are shifting right now, focusing more on questioning the intentions and impact of certain “old school” approaches to human rights issues. Karnicki noted that the philanthropy world is asking new questions about equity in a way that it has not before, querying issues of marginalities and a donor’s role given their power and resources. Donors should try to develop a sense of humility and listening, working against the industry’s history of acting as ‘expert’ in ways that are sometimes unwarranted. “I feel like I have a role to play in pushing for more equitable distribution of resources,” she said. 

This is also an important question to ask oneself when thinking about field work in human rights. Bickford argued that the role of international actors is changing all the time. What is the added value, if any, of international actors “parachuting in” to provide expertise and leaving immediately after? The paradigm of North-based expertise and South-based recipient is “totally inappropriate now,” he argued. We need to rethink the entire model, constantly reassessing power relations and scanning where there is actual added value in assistance. Karrenstein agreed, admitting the UN’s sometimes problematic past engagements in missions or mandates that were more political compromises than valuable assistance. 

From a research side, Norlander highlighted some methodologies that embrace a conscious engagement with researcher positionality. She subscribes to a constructivist approach, in which the researcher acknowledges their position and biases. She enacts this through participatory action research (ensuring those who will be affected by the process have a voice in the process) and grounded theory (seeing what emerges from the data rather than a top-down imposition). 

Where do we go from here?

Throughout the panel, speakers presented their own experiences in concert with their recommendations for students and new graduates exploring a career path in human rights. As Karnicki recognized, the job hunt is an uncertain and scary time. This is not to mention that we are currently experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of a global pandemic and massive unemployment. Yet, looking for a career is also a chance to explore one’s passions and creativity. “The idea of positioning yourself perfectly will be absolutely impossible,” argued Bickford. Instead, pursue the thing that you like the most, because in the end, it almost always “kinda works out in a weird way.”  

Is Tolerance of Human Rights Abuses out of Fashion? A Cautionary Tale for Retail Giants

By Kelly Dudine, staff writer at RightsViews

In a Bangladeshi garment factory, a woman works seven days a week, morning to night, and still cannot afford to feed and clothe her children at home. In India, young women working in cotton mills face appalling work conditions, low pay, violence and exploitation.

This is the cost of fast fashion, poorly regulated labor markets, and ultimately, the tolerance of human rights abuses by the business community. 

However, shifts in public opinion, consumer behavior, and investment strategies are testing business-as-usual more than ever before. The bare minimum is no longer enough – the rules are changing and the business community will need to make drastic, meaningful changes in order to adapt.

The recent filing of bankruptcy by Forever 21 is a strong cautionary tale to all retail giants. The company has been in troubled waters for years. It expanded too quickly and carelessly, and faced lawsuits and accusations of worker exploitation. Despite the adaptation of a social responsibility policy, which outlined sustainability goals including worker health and safety, the company made no improvement in human rights standings over the years. In the annual Ethical Fashion Report, which looks at criteria including living wages, forced labor, child labor, and worker empowerment initiatives, Forever 21’s overall score continued to decline, dropping from a D+ in 2017 to a D- in 2019. For a company whose consumers are largely young women, these allegations are particularly damaging, contributing to a loss of consumer interest and falling foot traffic.

Forever 21 is not alone in these challenges, and the entire fashion industry should take note. Millennials are increasingly buying with their values and Generation Z views consumption as a matter of ethical concern. According to eMarketer, 74 percent of millennial respondents expect brands to take public stands on important social values. To increase consumer markets and customer loyalty, brands should be implementing social initiatives that support and empower their workers in all sectors. 

Money managers, too, are increasingly investing based on ethics and sustainability, using the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria to screen potential investments. These criteria look at issues that were not traditionally included in financial analysis, like a corporation’s treatment of workers, but are now understood to have significant financial relevance. According to Forbes, the use of ESG criteria and efforts to achieve corporate sustainability are associated with better financial results.

According to the latest report from the US SIF Foundation, investors used ESG criteria in portfolio selection equaling $11.6 trillion in US-domiciled assets in early 2018, which is a 44 percent increase from just two years earlier. The report also shows that assets managed with human rights criteria were one of the leading priorities at $2.2 trillion. With more money managers moving their investments to socially responsible businesses, corporations with human rights abuse allegations could have a problem securing capital in the near future.

 The business community can also expect increased pressure from international human rights bodies. In June 2019, the International Labor Organization adopted a new Convention to combat violence and harassment in the workplace. The Convention sets new international labor standards and “reminds member States that they have a responsibility to promote a general environment of zero tolerance” for workplace violence. The Convention is legally binding for member States, which will no doubt increase scrutiny of the fashion industry, which is plagued with accusations of gender-based violence against female workers. Retailers can expect increased responsibilities of due diligence and prevention, as well as aggressive action and redress when abuses occur.

The simple fact is that there is nothing superficial or whimsical about the fashion industry – it is a massive empire, built in large part due to an intentional race to the bottom, and at great expense to the workers that it so desperately depends on. The industry was estimated to be worth $2.4 trillion in 2017, and growing, making it the world’s seventh-largest economy when ranked alongside the gross domestic products (GDP) of individual countries, according to a report by McKinsey and Company. However, the Asian Wage Floor organization estimates that for an item of clothing, only between 0.5-3 percent of the cost goes to the worker who made it. The industry thrives by dealing in poverty wages. This is especially alarming when considering the fashion industry employs millions of people, many of which are women and young girls located in countries where human rights abuses are not uncommon, and where women are particularly socially and economically vulnerable. 

How can an industry worth trillions still be paying poverty wages to the workers that make it all possible? Whether intentionally or not, international corporations are part of a complex system that keeps millions, especially women and young girls, trapped in a cycle of poverty. 

With its financial capital, reach into underserved labor markets, and direct consumer interaction, the global fashion industry could be an incredible driver of social good and equality, able to spur great economic growth through employment opportunities and vocational trainings in communities that need it most. There are, of course, corporations that are doing just that, and they are thriving among millennial consumers. Brands like H&M and Lululemon Athletica, which have scores of B+ and A-, respectively, in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report, remain fashion favorites. Currently, however, the bare minimum is the norm in this industry. 

Statements and codes of conduct kept neatly on website pages are not enough. To make real change, corporations must collaborate and work together to disrupt the status quo and drastically overhaul the way global supply chains function. 

The first place to start: increase wages of all workers. No one should be earning less than a living wage in such a massive industry. Invest in worker empowerment programs, skill building, and education for employees. Invest time and resources in ensuring that companies comply with The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Human rights abuses are predictable and preventable; businesses ought to do the work now to avoid future risk. What may feel like a short-term financial hit allows investment in a healthier, more productive market that corporations will benefit from in the years ahead. As McKinsey and Company states, “brands must find the courage to self-disrupt their own identity and the sources of their old success.” To satisfy changes in public and investor behavior, and win new generations of consumers, brands must enact real, human rights driven changes from the executive suite all the way to the factory floor.

Columbia Community Internship Experiences in Human Rights: A Panel Discussion

By Jalileh Garcia, RightsViews staff writer

On October 2, undergraduate and graduate Columbia students gathered to share their summer experiences undertaking internships in the field of human rights. An annual panel  organized by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), this serves as an opportunity for students to learn from each others’ experiences applying human rights in the field. The different panelists shared about their work environment, advice, and the skills that helped them flourish in the internships. 

Isabella Irtifa is a graduate student getting her Master’s Degree through the ISHR. She spent her summer in New York City interning for UN Women, more specifically with the Women Peace and Security Team. Here she was able to delve into transitional justice matters, as well as issues of women’s peace and security. Isabella drafted presentations on peace initiatives, women’s role in achieving security, and researched potential partnerships to increase women’s participation in decision-making. 

Ana Perez is also a graduate student getting her Master’s Degree through the ISHR. Like Isabella, she also interned at the UN, working with the United Nations Global Compact, an organization that functions through a non-binding pact to facilitate sustainability practices in businesses. Her responsibilities were shaped by the many shifts in her team. As such, she was in charge of logistics, agenda-setting, and facilitating meetings with stakeholders. She also worked on campaigns and event organizing to promote human rights practices in businesses. 

Claudia Laurel Bell worked in the United Nations in the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Unit in New York City. The unit’s work centers around facilitating negotiations with armed groups or non-state actors enacting state violence by giving them incentives to give up arms or leave voluntarily, and helping them reintegrate to civilian society. She was in the Middle East and North Africa Mission, though she was also assigned other peace missions in different geographical locations. Claudia was able to get to know the division well, as she was able to be involved in the recruitment process in the Unit. She was also able to go beyond administrative work by doing conflict analysis. Now, her research is being used by the Cameroonian Integrated Taskforce. 

Trisha Mukherjee is a junior at Columbia College who interned at the New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC) in New York City. The organization has two programs which consist of one, a weekly clinic where individuals could access free, pro-se legal help and two, an accompaniment program that aims to support individuals by providing accompaniment to ICE check-ins and/or court hearings. Here, Trisha was able to help individuals fill out legal documents, as well as witness and hold officials accountable for their behavior towards clients in legal proceedings. She also accompanied many individuals to their hearings, providing any necessary moral support for them in what can be highly stressful time. Trisha noted the emotional difficulty of her work, as it is very personal and hands-on. 

From left to right: Daniela Bernstein, Trisha Mukherjee, Claudia Laurel Bell, Ana Perez, Isabella Irtifa

Daniela Bernstein is an undergraduate student in the School of General Studies who interned at the New York City Commission on Human Rights, a subset of the Mayor’s office. The Commission ensures that if a person’s rights have been infringed, they investigate it impartially. If the Commission finds that people’s rights have been violated, it supports individuals in the legal process to redress these violations. Daniela did intake, interviewed clients, and drafted memorandums and complaints for the Commission. 

Noura Birkle is a student in the Masters Program of the ISHR. She took part in the Student Volunteers Program run by the ISHR. Through the program, she was able to volunteer for the Aid Health Foundation in Mexico City, Mexico and learn about the inner workings of the organization. Noura translated for journalists in an event hosted by the Aid Health Foundation. Furthermore, Noura was also able to travel to the Guatemala-Mexico border and learn about HIV issues amongst the migrant population. 

The panelists found their internships through a variety of different avenues. Some applied on the UN database, others googled specific organizations they knew worked with women’s rights or human rights in New York City, while others had already established connections with the organizations through prior volunteering. 

All of the panelists recommended to the audience to spend time researching an organization prior to applying.  “Ask questions,” they stated. Organizations want to see that individuals are interested in the work that they are doing. Some of the panelists also stressed the importance of critical thinking and language skills.  One of the panelists also recommended students to intern abroad, if one had the resources and ability to do it. 

The panel ended with the some of the panelists encouraging the attendees to explore new things and to be open to the possibilities of different human rights careers. There are countless ways to support and defend human rights, from working at the UN as some students did to entering the legal field to compiling research. Exploration of these possibilities can open doors and interests that one did not even know existed. 

As a student who also undertook an internship in the field of human rights this past summer, the implication is that one’s work goes beyond one self 一 or at least it should. Although as workers in human rights field we shouldn’t neglect to take care of ourselves, it is important to remember that the efforts we are undertaking have the probability of impacting the lives of many others. As such, human rights should be participatory and inclusive, and put the needs of those we are supporting and defending before all else. Ultimately, we are facilitators in others’ lived realities. Our impact extends far beyond personal professional accomplishment. 

Columbia students’ internships in human rights are an incredible backbone to explore the field, get experience, and support the fight for human rights globally.    

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

Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 1.16.50 PM

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 with a team of curators, set out on a daunting mission to “unearth” barely touched, archival footage and images from throughout the U.N.’s history.

One of the main challenges Litewski and da Silva came across was narrowing the massive amount of historical documentation down to a cohesive display of ideas.  “It was really hard for us to figure out where the focus was going to be,” says da Silva, “because the U.N. archive is 68 years of archived material.” Sorting through the archive, which holds about 800,000 photos alone, was not the only challenge.  “From the film and video aspect, there is a significant amount of films that have not been digitized, which is a huge undertaking,” says Litewski.  Despite these challenges, Litewski, da Silva and the team behind, which also included Mark Garten, the head of the U.N. Photo Unit, materialized UNEARTH in a focused and interesting manner.

On describing the nature and structure of the exhibit, Litewski says, “The photos in one way or another relate to the four themes.”  To which da Silva added, “we want people to experience each of these four themes on their own, and let people discover aspects of each through the images.” This desire was encapsulated by the title of the exhibit itself. “That’s why it’s called ‘UNEARTH’. The word ‘art’ is in there, along with ‘U.N.’,” Litewski added.

The UNEARTH exhibit is a prime example of the burgeoning role art and media play in change-making, protecting human rights and fostering global peace and development. Sharing his views on this phenomenon, da Silva says, “We think that art brings people to think about what’s happening in the world today, in relation to the past. Since we are working with an archive, it allows the opportunity to look at specific topics of development, human rights and so on, and see what has changed and what hasn’t. These images, visuals, and audio create reflection towards what is going on in the world today.” He also adds, “Using social media, and crowd-sourcing, gathering people to participate in the creative process, is in fact part of the political process.”

Litewski agreed and added, “Art reflects three things. One being the way in which an artists, in this case the United Nations, looks at a particular subject. In this exhibit, in a way you are able to see what the U.N. was thinking when it produced certain images. It’s an interesting thing to understand what was behind something created at a particular time. Secondly, art reflects society at a particular time. Thirdly, it reflects the aesthetic perception and artistic mold a time period.”

The various elements involved in UNEARTH, from multimedia, the history of the United Nations, and the spirit and resiliency of humanity, have culminated into something much larger than an art exhibit. What was produced was something that allows us to draw from the past to improve the present and the future. By bringing the U.N. archive to life Litewski, da Silva, and their team created a narrative that will continue for years to come. In order to further engage in the international discourse the exhibit represents, Litewski and da Silva left some sound advice for future agents of change: “Listen. Listen to communities. Listen to people.”


*The UNEARTH exhibit at the The Gabarron Foundation in New York is now closed, but it will be travelling around the world until 2015, and will be hosted at different galleries globally.

Please visit or contact the Gabarron Foundation for more information:(

The Gabarron Foundation

149 East 38th Street, New York, NY 10016



Amy Sall is a first year graduate student at Columbia University’s M.A. in Human Rights Program.  Her interest is in human rights in Africa, with a special focus on children’s rights and youth development on the continent.


OHCHR Global Panel: Moving Away from the Death Penalty

By Angélica Hoyos, senior in Political Science and Human Rights at Columbia University

On July 3rd the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights organized the global panel: “Moving Away from the Death Penalty.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the discussion by declaring his commitment to end capital punishment: “The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict it on another, even when backed by legal process.” The goal of the discussion, which included delegates from the states parties, panelists, and members of civil society, was to set up a debate for the upcoming General Assembly in October. In 2007, The United Nations endorsed an international moratorium on capital punishment. Ever since, six nations have abolished the practice. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed her hope for many other states to follow this trend. She reminded retentionist states that they ought to comply with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to limit this kind of punishment to “the most serious crimes.” As the Secretary-General reported, there are still a chilling thirty-two countries that are sentencing people to death for crimes other than murder. He and Ms. Pillay called on member states to join the seventy-six nations that have signed the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict it on another, even when backed by legal process.”—Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The first panel included speakers from Guatemala, Burundi, the United States, and Spain. Mr. Federico Mayor, president of the International Committee Against the Death Penalty, spoke about the importance of working with the communities in order to come closer to abolition. However, as he and Mr. Cousin Zilala, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Zimbabwe, emphasized later in the day, “Human rights are independent of public opinion.” Representing the US was Mr. Barry C. Scheck, co-director of The Innocence Project. He spoke of the significance of the role of science and what it has meant to all the one hundred and forty people who have been exonerated from death row. He addressed the high risk of error inherent in the conviction and sentencing process: “DNA has demonstrated the failings of the justice system [in America].”  The problem, he pointed out, was the lack of resources for defendants to access this kind of evidence.

Moderated by Professor Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the second panel focused on human right violations related to the practice of the death penalty and included representatives from Japan, Zimbabwe, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize. The first speaker was Mr. Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person in the US to be exonerated from a capital conviction thanks to DNA testing. He spent almost a decade waiting to be executed for a crime he did not commit. “The capital punishment system in America is ineffective and it does not always get it right, I know this for a fact,” Mr. Bloodsworth told the audience. He feels blessed, as he acknowledged there have been people who have been executed regardless of the many doubts about their guilt, such as Troy Davis and Carlos DeLuna, among others. He addressed the difficulty of the access to evidence and DNA testing; only those who can afford it can access it, given that it is not part of their right to a fair trial.

The speaker from Trinidad and Tobago addressed the situation in all the countries forming the Commonwealth Caribbean, where prisoners are executed for reasons besides murder. Ms. Maiko Tagusari, Secretary-General of the Center for Prisoners’ Rights, denounced the treatment of prisoners in Japan, the lack of a mandatory appeal system, as well as the secrecy–no family members or media are informed of the executions, which occur spontaneously. Ms. Tagusari noted that although it is prohibited to execute the mentally ill, the lack of the transparency of the justice system makes advocacy very difficult for the death row prisoners.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Ms. Pillay expressed their concern and called on the nations retaining the death penalty to comply with the principle of non-discrimination, since usually the individuals on death row are members of minorities and lack the resources to afford private counsel. Ms. Pillay concluded by stating that, “[it’s] important for the effectiveness and transparency of such a debate to ensure that the public is provided with all sides of the arguments and with information and accurate statistics on criminality and the various effective ways to combat it, short of the death sentence.” The global panel focused on the common global trend towards “moving away from the capital punishment.” As Mr. Heyns pointed out, in 2011 only twenty countries executed prisoners and only six nations executed more than twenty people. Although these numbers support such a trend, the violations to the human rights of those prisoners in the retentionist countries continues to be a major concerned.


Angélica Hoyos is a senior at Columbia University, double majoring in Political Science and Human Rights.  She is originally from Bogotá, Colombia, and is currently serving as the Senior Class President for the School of General Studies.

UN Negotiations Fail to Disarm Human Rights Abusers

By Amanda Barrow, M.A. candidate in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University

Which is more heavily regulated: the global trade of bananas or AK-47s?

In late June, activists led by Amnesty International (AI) highlighted a striking reality: there are more international regulations governing the export and import of bananas than there are on the trade of arms and ammunition. This is particularly problematic when considering the fact that the easy availability of weaponry—rather than, say, bananas—is what facilitates innumerable human rights abuses throughout the world. The indiscriminate transfer of arms undermines economic development, jeopardizes stability and security, and results in hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.

You need not look further than Syria, where repressive ruler President Assad has had his will enacted through the use of heavily armed, violent force. Describing Russia’s continued arms sales to Syria in the midst of this crisis, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Susan Rice argued,“It is not technically a violation of international law since there’s not an arms embargo, but it’s reprehensible that arms would continue to flow to a regime that is using such horrific and disproportionate force against its own people.”

Source: Amnesty International

Of course, Ambassador Rice failed to address the fact that the United States is far from innocent when it comes to arming human rights abusers. Quite to the contrary, the United States is the world’s largest conventional arms exporter, guilty of continuously supplying weapons to brutal governments. Tracing the various violent crowd control methods used against the peaceful protesters of the Arab revolutions, a recent AI report demonstrated that the U.S., Russia, and a handful of European countries supplied the majority of the weapons—ranging from sniper rifles to armored vehicles—that were used to terrorize citizens.

This should all resonate as quite duplicitous. After all, the U.S. was ardently vocal in its support for the protesters promoting democracy. Yet, it was simultaneously supplying governments with the tools to suppress these voices. Like the United States, the United Kingdom also engages in arms sales rife with hypocrisy. In 2010, the government issued its annual human rights report identifying 26 “Countries of Concern.” However, in that same year, the UK approved arms exports to 16 of these countries, including Libya, Pakistan and Israel.

This is what the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was intended to remedy. The AI-led campaign in June aimed to affect the outcome of the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, held throughout the month of July.  Since 2003, civil society activists have called for a legally binding ATT to regulate transfers of conventional weapons and put an end to those deemed irresponsible. They imagined a treaty that would require governments to assess whether or not the weapons they were selling would be used to violate international humanitarian law or to commit human rights abuses. Under this framework, Russia’s arm sales to Syria would be heavily scrutinized, if not forbidden.

The United States would also be forced to justify its decision to sell arms to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where its weapons are continuously used to perpetrate gross violations of human rights, including mass scale rapes. According to a UN investigation of an early January 2011 incident, at least 47 women were subjected to sexual violence in the North Kivu province; several reported that the military fired their weapons to intimidate them before raping them. Devastatingly, this is not an isolated, extraordinary incident. As is increasingly recognized in the international community, sexual violence is often employed against civilians during armed conflict, with conventional arms often facilitating these acts.

“Nonviolence,” sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, UN Plaza

Friday, July 27th marked the end of the United Nations’ unprecedented—and ultimately unfulfilled—opportunity to create an international Arms Trade Treaty. The 11-page treaty text, under which governments would agree not to export weapons that would be used to facilitate the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other crimes of international law, had to be unanimously approved. As a result of powerful opposition from countries like the United States, the conference ended in failure. The strength of the arms industry, the gun lobby, and the political calculations made by individuals who had the power to reduce human suffering are to blame for a truly disappointing outcome.

Yet, the UN has pledged to resume efforts to pass an arms trade treaty, and civil society organizations continue to work tirelessly to hold the body to its charter’s arms regulation promise. With the help of Amnesty International, individual citizens can take action by showing their governments that the outcome of July’s treaty negotiation conference was unacceptable. Until a new treaty is negotiated, bananas will be subject to more international regulation than the trade of military helicopters, battleships and conventional arms.


Amanda Barrow is a M.A. candidate in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University. She studies the intersection of gender and transitional justice.

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.

Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Geneva Human Rights Council

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 boost the credibility of the Council, which is often criticized for having countries with poor human rights records among its membership.

According to the resolution establishing the HRC, “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights [and] shall fully cooperate with the Council.” The problem is that these criteria are aspirational and are enforced only by the voting choices made by UN member states at the General Assembly, which are supposed to take into account the human rights records and voluntary pledges of candidates in annual elections.

The reality is that because the membership criteria are not enforceable, states often vote according to political considerations, which explains how Libya (not to mention China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia) was elected to the HRC in the first place.

Credit: UN Photo/Iason Foounten

Libya’s liberation

With the fall of the Qaddhafi regime in August, and the establishment of a transitional government formed by Libyan rebels, the General Assembly had to decide whether, and under what standard, to reinstate Libya’s HRC membership. Curiously enough, while the founding resolution provided guidelines on suspending an HRC member, — a two-thirds majority vote by the General Assembly when a Council member commits “gross and systemic violations of human rights”, — it did not provide any guidelines whatsoever for restoring membership.

Restoring rights in Libya?

Logically, to have one’s membership restored, a country should have to prove that it meets the initial criteria, i.e. that it is upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and fully cooperating with the Council. Implicitly, this means that it should also be able to demonstrate that it is no longer committing gross and systemic human rights violations.

In the test case of Libya, the UN’s own human rights mechanisms didn’t inspire confidence that the transitional authorities met either benchmark.

Back in February, when the violence in Libya first broke out, the HRC established an independent commission of inquiry (COI) to investigate alleged human rights violations in Libya and to identify measures that would hold perpetrators accountable.

In the last oral update from the COI at the Council’s 18th session in September, the COI’s chair relayed a bone-chilling account of abuses that were still taking place in Libya. In addition to the cruelty perpetrated by Qaddhafi and his cohorts, which by now are well known, the COI reported that the transitional authorities may have committed a range of violations of international human rights law including extra-judicial killings, mass arrests and arbitrary detention, as well as possible violations of international humanitarian law. (The Commission’s final report is due in March 2012).

Politics trump reform

With such serious allegations, member states could have waited for the COI’s final report, or at least conditioned Libya’s HRC membership with concrete commitments from the transitional authorities. For example, they could have required that the transitional authorities carry out (or take tangible steps towards carrying out) the COI’s core recommendations from its first report. These include:  conducting “exhaustive, impartial and public investigations into all allegations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law violations with a view to: prosecutions”; “the provision of adequate reparations to victims and their families”; and “taking all appropriate measures to prevent the recurrence of such violations.”

Unacceptably, HRC member states ignored the COI’s account (ironic, considering they requested the oral report) as well as its recommendations and accepted a mere promise by Libya’s transitional authorities of “cooperation” with the HRC. In September, the HRC unanimously agreed to recommend that the General Assembly restore Libya’s membership.

Dead on arrival

By the time the issue crossed the Atlantic, few states were willing to expend any political capital on fighting for what could have been an important credibility booster for the HRC. Most countries, like the U.S., that had taken on the membership issue in the past were also supporters of the NATO intervention and have been eager to push forward with the transition in Libya. This position is rather clear from the U.S. representative’s remarks after the vote on Libya’s HRC membership in which he recognized the transitional authorities’ “clean break” from the former regime despite remaining “concerned about continuing violations of human rights occurring in Libya.”

The only countries that voted against restoring Libya’s HRC membership did so on the basis of opposing the intervention in Libya, and cited manipulation by “imperial Powers” as part of the reason for their “No” vote.

Pushing for stronger criteria would have also provoked resistance from the so-called proceduralists or spoiler states, i.e. states that seek to limit the Council’s activity by rejecting any measures that are not laid out specifically in UN resolutions. This argument has been successful in thwarting past reform efforts and it would seem that reformers did not see the importance in pressing the issue with this case.

Returning the Focus to Rights

Competing world views and political prerogatives will always temper any discussion of human rights; however in the last year there have been a few moments when the severity of a human rights issue led to robust and committed diplomacy to ensure that the substance of the issue overshadowed the politics.  This was the case when the member states acted swiftly to suspend Libya last March, triggering further international action.

Strengthening the HRC as an institution requires leadership and commitment by member states who want to see it develop into a more credible and effective body. Those states that are committed to promoting and protecting human rights through the HRC should not have let political concerns over Libya’s future distract them from the larger goal of improving the institution.

By Deborah Brown. Deborah is the first Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow of the UNA-USA, a program of the United Nations Foundation (UNF). She advocates for and supports constructive U.S. engagement with the UN and its human rights mechanisms. Deborah graduated with a BA in political science and human rights from Barnard College in 2007 and an MA Democracy and Governance and Arab Studies from Georgetown University in 2011.

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”

Activists in NYC protest new anti-gay legislation outside the Nigerian Mission to the UN

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 in prison in some regions, and with lashing and death by stoning in others.

Ifeanyi heads the International Centre on Advocacy for the Right to Health (ICARH), which provides HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, outreach and education services to men who have sex with men (MSM) in Nigeria. Even in the midst of this political maelstrom he told me he is eager to go back home because there is much work to do, even though he knows his life is in danger.

Today he and fellow activists solemnly sang in front of the mission and passersby: “We are holy, angry people / We are singing, singing for our lives.”

Pride and Prejudice

Nigerian LGBT rights activist Ifeanyi Orazulike

I met Ifeanyi when he spoke at a SIPA event I organized with the Human Rights Working Group, GLIPA, and others on November 22nd called Pride and Prejudice: Perspectives on Homophobia and LGBTQI Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Betsy Apple, Adjunct SIPA Faculty Member started the discussion with a few sobering statistics:

  • Roughly one-third of all countries in the world criminalize homosexual conduct or identity.
  • Five countries prescribe the death penalty to same-sex sexual conduct.

She said, “Criminalization criminalizes identity; when you are an illegal person, it’s very difficult for you to do everything, from love who you choose, have access to health and education, have freedom of speech and movement and expression, be able to participate in the public life of your country, be able to protect yourself from violence and discrimination.”

The film trailer of Call Me Kuchu (trailer below) clearly illustrates this struggle unfolding for LGBT rights in Africa. It highlights Ugandan activist David Kato, who was recently brutally murdered after a Ugandan newspaper printed the names, addresses and photos of LGBT activists alongside the headline “Hang Them.”



Homophobia and the Spread of HIV/AIDS

For Ifeanyi, the words and images of Call Me Kuchu strike close to home.  He held back tears as he discussed the struggles ICARH faces in combating HIV/AIDS in Nigeria – MSM face stigma and discrimination which cause them to avoid seeking care altogether.  This is especially problematic in a country where the HIV prevalence rate among MSM is 13.5%, three times higher than the national rate.

Dr. Cheikh Traore, Senior Policy Advisor for Sexual Diversity and HIV/AIDS at the United Nations Development Programme underscored the problem of homophobia in combating HIV/AIDS, sharing the results of a  2009 study on MSM in Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana which showed MSM are more vulnerable to HIV due to human rights violations against them.  They are blackmailed by health workers after disclosing their sexual orientation and face physical violence, including by government or police officials.  All this adds up to MSM being further discouraged from seeking health care services.

From Hand-Wringing to Action

Jessica Stern, Director of Programs at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission rounded out the panel.  As the first researcher on LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch she conducted fact-finding missions in South Africa, where she reported on the brutal murder of a 19-year old lesbian who was beaten and killed by a mob in the township of Khayelitsha near Cape Town.

Jessica noted that this happened in South Africa, a country which outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and is also the first African country to legalize same-sex marriage. In South Africa, transgender men and lesbians are often still targeted for violence and discrimination.

So, what can we do when law and policy only go so far in protecting LGBT rights? Jessica offered some suggestions:

  • Educate the public about their rights.  If people don’t know their rights – to HIV treatment, social services, and privacy, for example – it’s very difficult to access them.  They must also be aware of their government’s anti-LGBT policies so that they can best protect themselves.
  • Train authorities.  In many countries, police target transgender women for discrimination.  They may also refuse to take reports on crimes against LGBT people.  It’s critical to look at how laws are being implemented on the ground and have a proactive strategy for using them to affirm peoples’ rights.
  • Build stronger movements.  Lived experience is essential to any strategy, and activists working on the frontlines know what needs to be done. Jessica left us to ponder, “How can we interrogate our different places to contribute in solidarity with local struggles?”

Feel free to leave a comment below.  How can we interrogate our different places in society (school, internship, job, social network, etc.) to contribute in solidarity to local LGBT struggles?  What are your thoughts on the topic? 

Kristen is a Master of International Affairs Candidate ‘13 at Columbia University, concentrating in Human Rights.  She is the incoming President of GLIPA (SIPA’s LGBTQ group).    


Field Notes: Lebanon’s Home of Hope

My experience filming for OCHA’s Global Humanitarian Day Campaign

By Dâna Barakat, student at Columbia University

In an attempt to get some preliminary research done for my thesis, which looks at the challenges faced by street children in Lebanon, I decided to spend a few weeks there this past summer.

As soon as I arrived, I read an email that was going to change my summer. It was from David, a Public Information Officer at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), asking me if I was interested in producing a short film for their global humanitarian day campaign. I had met David only a day earlier, through a wonderful adjunct Professor at CU, and he decided to give me a shot at this great opportunity. OCHA was looking to showcase 5 humanitarian workers from around the world who are making a significant difference in their respective communities.

After meeting with aid workers from orphanages and NGOs all over the country, I recommended Mr. John Eter who runs Home of Hope, the only organization in Lebanon that will take in non-Lebanese street children and give them a home. The small organization, which once had over 80 street children living on the premises, was forced to downsize following serious budget cuts. Yet, John refuses to close shop despite the fact that he barely has enough money to feed one small family. He takes in food, clothing and school supply donations, in addition to private contributions that he manages to find.

OCHA loved John’s story and immediately agreed to use him as part of their
campaign. As soon as I got over my excitement, I realized I had to find
equipment and a crew willing to help me for free. I quickly discovered how wonderfully hospitable the people in Lebanon are. I found a small crew that agreed to bring whatever equipment they could borrow and we spent one full day filming at Home of Hope.

OCHA was thrilled with the film and used it as part of their global campaign. After I sent the film to John, he told me that the Ministry of Social Affairs was going to use the exposure from the campaign to try and garner more financial support for Home of Hope.


Producing this piece was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had
and I’m honored I was a part of it. As an aspiring filmmaker, I hope to produce feature length documentaries in the future.

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed producing it.

Dâna is a second year Human Rights Masters Student at Columbia University and an aspiring filmmaker.