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Monday, October 28, 2013

Event to Address the Role of Local Human Rights NGOs in the Global South

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Local Human Rights NGOs (LHROs) in the Glboal South: Findings from Mumbai
Friday, November 1, 2013
9:00 - 11:00 am
Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Stassen Room (170 HHH)
RSVPs to lnoble@umn.edu

Local Human Rights NGOs (LHROs) in the Glboal South: Findings from Mumbai, an event hosted by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will discuss the fundamental role LHROs play in promoting human rights in the developing world. LHROs are key components of the international human rights infrastructure, yet very few studies have focused on these organizations let alone their legitimacy and sustainability. Prof James Ron's research collaborator and Hubert Fellow, Archana Pandya, will shed light on the LHRO community in Mumbai, India. Drawing on data collected in Mumbai between 2010 and 2012, Archana will present findings on how LHROs are perceived by the general population, how they sustain themselves, and what relationships they have with other local actors.

Archana Pandya is a multilingual project manager and research consultant. She is also a Hubert Fellow at the Humphrey School for Public Affairs and the managing editor of openGlobalRights, a new multilingual online forum on human rights. Since 2010, Archana has conducted surveys of rights-based organizations in Mumbai and Mexico City and coordinated Human Rights Perception Polls in India and Morocco for Prof. Ron. She is now overseeing as well as conducting some of the data analysis and is developing e-cases for teaching non-profit studies with the Hubert Project at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Archana holds a BA from the University of Ottawa, and an MA from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, in Canada.
Light refreshments will be served.

Former Student Carrie Booth Walling Annouces Recent Publication

photo carrie walling.pngCarrie Booth Walling graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with a PhD in Political Science and a minor in Human Rights. She currently works as an assistant professor of political science at Albion College where she teaches courses in human rights and transitional justice. An emerging voice in human rights scholarship, Walling recently announced the completion and publication of her book All Necessary Measures: The United Nations and Humanitarian Intervention, which examines the relationship between evolving human rights norms and state sovereignty, and also explores UN exercise of humanitarian intervention, particularly investigating the role of argument in shaping decisions to intervene on humanitarian grounds and shedding light on possible explanations behind the Security Council's inconsistency in calling for the use of military force during instances of mass atrocity.

In August, Walling's book All Necessary Measures: The United Nations and Humanitarian Intervention, Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights series was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. The book explores how human rights norms are changing the meaning of state sovereignty and the purpose of military force at the United Nations. More specifically it questions what prompts the United Nations Security Council to intervene forcefully in some crises at high risk for genocide and ethnic cleansing but not others. Walling identifies several systematic patterns in the stories that council members tell about conflicts and the policy solutions that result from them. Drawing on qualitative comparative case studies spanning two decades, including situations where the council has intervened to stop mass killing (Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sierra Leone and Libya) as well as situations where it has not (Rwanda, Kosovo, and Sudan), Walling posits that the arguments council members make about the cause and character of conflict as well as the source of sovereign authority in target states have the potential to enable or constrain the use of military force in defense of human rights. Humanitarian intervention becomes possible when the majority of Security Council members come to a shared understanding of the conflict, perpetrators, and victims--and probable when the Council understands state sovereignty as complementary to human rights norms. By illuminating the relationship between national interests and the core values of Security Council members and how it influences decision-making, the book suggests when and where the Security Council is likely to intervene in the future.
Book review: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15153.html.
Walling also recently completed work on The Human Rights Advocacy and History of Human Rights Standards website, a collaboration with Susan Waltz, human rights practitioner and Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School, University of Michigan. The Human Rights Advocacy and the History of Human Rights Standards website provides a valuable resource for students, instructors, researchers, and advocates. The website contains five subject areas: recognizing new human rights problems; accountability for human rights abuses; research and advocacy methods; making human rights policy decisions; and the future development of human rights. Together, these subject areas constitute an online guide through the global human rights movement and its role in international policy. The site also currently includes 14 topics, such as political rights, torture, government obligations, corporate accountability, and women's rights. Topics will expand as the site continues to develop.
Website: www.humanrightshistory.umich.edu

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Student Spotlight: Lars Jørgen Røed

LarsJorgenRoed.jpgLars Jørgen Røed, a senior majoring in Global Studies and Political Science and minoring in Russian, has applied his human rights education through an internship in Norway, working at the International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI), an independent institute focusing on good governance and international law. Providing research, support and trainings, ILPI has a wide range of clients including the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN and the World Bank Group. The institute also offers human rights trainings, anti-corruption work, conflict analysis and monitoring.

Through his internship at ILPI, Lars provides research and analysis on a wide range of issues, including anti-corruption, disarmament, petroleum management and international human rigths law. He also does work with the ILPI Nuclear Weapons Project and the ILPI Centre for International Humanitarian Law, and has among other things contributed to an upcoming book on Nuclear Weapons and International Law. While working at ILPI, Lars will also be completing a PhD course on emerging Military Technologies at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
During his studies at the University of Minnesota he has worked with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and has previously interned at the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights both in Norway and the US. His senior thesis, Ethnic Violence at Election Times, engages with the relationship between violence and freedom of speech in recent elections in Kenya. Lars has leadership experience from multiple boards and student organizations, and is currently serving his second year on the Student Advisory Board of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Program.
Written by Lars Jørgen Røed
Photo credit: Torbjorn Graff Hugo/ILPI

Mark Goodale Comments on the Constitutionalization of Human Rights and "the Violence of Ambiguity"

,mb. ,vhjv.pngIn his public talk titled "Law's Labors Lost: Constitutional Revolution and the Problem of Radical Social Change," Mark Goodale presented a thought-provoking analysis of the social revolution in Boliva that has taken place with the rise of Evo Morales and his unprecedented "Refundicion." Advocating contemplation of the applicability of human rights outside of the spotlight of genocide and atrocity, Goodale highlighted the necessity to consider forms of "violence of ambiguity" which are perhaps epitomized in the new Bolivian constitution.

By attempting to completely renegotiate both the social contract and the structure of the state, this document, says Goodale, has adopted such a broad scope that it is in reality a paragon of "normative promiscuity" which obscures more of the structural problems within Bolivian society than it reveals, let alone solves. Through this illustrative example of the danger of the "judicialization of politics" within Latin America, he showed how a revolution that is simultaneously bracketed with and embodied by a complete legal overhaul of the constitution may have actually served to cheapen the currency of rights in Bolivia. Within the broader context of human rights and the phenomenon of atrocity, his analysis provides a unique window into the more subtle forms of violence which often pervade the political landscape of a country and whose remedy is likely not a "legalization of revolution" but rather an adherence to human rights at their most fundamental level and an understanding of underlying structural realities that contribute to the perpetuation of injustice.
Written by Jenny Cafarella

Friday, October 18, 2013

Malalai Joya, Famed Afghan Politician, Speaks at the U

malalai_joya_ucsb.jpgOn October 16, the University of Minnesota hosted a lunch, lecture, and conversation with the famed Afghan politician and ex-member of parliament Malalai Joya, who has inspired many both at home and around the world with her courageous political activism. She has been a trailblazer in Afghanistan for the causes of women's rights, political transparency, and democratic reform, and her outspoken opposition to the Afghan government's tolerance for terrorism and violence has led to her expulsion from the government as well as six assassination attempts.

The first and most enduring message raised by Joya during the conference was her passionate opposition to what she referred to as American imperialism and colonialism in her country. The vaguely-defined objectives of the US "War on Terror" has led to a prolonged period of chaos and destruction in the Islamic world with a seemingly endless amount of collateral damage, of which the civilian population of Afghanistan has been a primary constituent.
During the period of American occupation, standards of living and safety of life for women has gotten worse, said Joya. This flies in the face of the frequently-repeated mantra that the war in Afghanistan is somehow justified by the abysmal rights of women in that part of the world. Exemplifying this hypocrisy, Joya presented the infamous time magazine cover of Bibi Aisha, a woman with her nose cut off, bearing the text "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan." Ironically, the crime was committed during the period of US occupation; even worse, Joya argues that the United States presence there only empowers those extremist groups that are the greatest threat to women's safety.
Joya disparagingly described this relationship between the United States and its Islamic fundamentalist enemies in the region as "playing Tom and Jerry." Indeed, the American military's seemingly endless campaign to root out terrorist groups and neutralize them has proven to be like cutting heads off a hydra; more reappear faster than they can be cut off. Furthermore, the prolonged US military presence--exceeding all of the official predictions--only strengthens these groups ideologically and grants them credibility and support in the eyes of many desperate individuals, who see them as the only force resisting foreign encroachment.
Even more worrying, said Joya, is the significant infiltration that terrorist groups and regional Afghan warlords have achieved within all arms of the Afghan "puppet government," its civil service, and its military. The close collusion and revolving door between the administration and its supposed enemies make enforcement of law and justice within the country impossible, and further discredit the American occupation as it is in actuality propping up the very power structures it ostensibly seeks to destroy. If the US presence were to evaporate overnight, Joya concedes that these warlords and terrorists would have even more freedom to reign over the population of Afghanistan; however, the increasingly detrimental effect of the US presence is so damaging that the only solution is for the United States to withdraw completely and as soon as possible.
Joya went on to describe the grave problems in her country's nominally democratic system, and the way this term is used to give an air of legitimacy to a completely defunct and corrupt administration. Contrary to the spirit of democracy, Joya was kicked out of the Afghan parliament simply for speaking freely and calling attention to the government corruption that systemically endangers Afghanistan. Although she was not the only female Member of Parliament, she expressed her dismay that she received no support from her female peers--most of whom are affiliated with or on the payroll of Afghan warlords, and often are only present as "showpieces" to further strengthen the appearance of democracy in the country. Regarding the fairness of the elections in Afghanistan, Joya opined: "It's not important who's voting, it's important who's counting."
Despite expressing a long list of problems with governments that are labeled as democratic (including that of the United States, which she described as a "warmonger regime"), Joya is clearly a very strong supporter of democracy in general. She praised the recent US whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who she lauded as "heroes" who dared to speak out about the ever-growing global surveillance apparatus that is the pet project of the US National Security Agency. Speaking directly to the "great" and "justice-loving" people of the United States, she emphasized that the corruption and criminality of governments can and must be subordinated to the will of the people, who will always find solidarity with one another in their quest for justice and prosperity no matter where they may live.
In the question-and-answer session, Joya was respectfully challenged by an audience member who asked what should be the appropriate course of action when the international community is threatened by a near-failed state like Afghanistan, which continuously hemorrhages opium, extremists, and undocumented refugees across its borders. The speaker, an Iranian national, expressed the danger posed to neighboring countries and the entire world if order is not imposed in such a chaotic region. Joya retorted that US military presence does more damage than it does good, and insisted that the portrayal of Afghan nationals as drug and arm smugglers is simply Iranian government propaganda. She also urged the speaker to show his solidarity to the Afghan people by supporting civilian and democratic organizations within Afghanistan, as well as by speaking out against his own government, which she described as tyrannical. This exchanged touched on several very pertinent international disputes between Afghanistan and its powerful neighbor.
The event was sponsored by Women Against Military Madness (MADD); the U of M Human Rights Program; the U of M Human Rights Center; the Amnesty International Legal Support Network; the Women Student Activist Collective; Students for a Democratic Society; and Students for Justice in Palestine. More information about Malalai Joya and her international advocacy for human rights can be found at http://www.malalaijoya.com, and her critically-acclaimed book A Woman Among Warlords can (and should!) be purchased at local bookstores.
Written by Erik Randall

Friday, October 4, 2013

Human Rights Students, Faculty, and Staff Gather to Exchange Ideas and Interests at the Human Rights Program Open House

On September 28th, the Human Rights Program hosted an open house for students, faculty and staff involved in human rights to gather and exchange ideas and interests. It proved to be a engaging and meaningful event, connecting human rights scholars and activists across disciplines, sparking new ideas for innovative student projects, and reaffirming the leading human rights presence that exists within the University of Minnesota.

Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch: The US needs a higher standard of ethical conduct in foreign and domestic policy

P1010242.JPGOn October 2nd, the UofM had the pleasure of hosting Ken Roth, a former attorney and current executive director of the renowned Human Rights Watch. He delivered a speech with a subsequent discussion revolving around the human rights situation at home in the US and their far-reaching implications overseas. In it, he argued that US leadership role in human rights necessitated a higher standard of ethical conduct due to our powerful country's ability to "warp" the standards to which other countries are held--particularly in regards to the USA's controversial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

Listen to an audio recording of the lecture.

Human Rights Watch is an influential non-governmental organization that uses what are popularly known as "name-and-shame" tactics in order to advocate for positive social change in Washington, DC. It has been involved in a number of significant human rights campaigns since its founding in 1978, including the wildly-successful International Campaign to Ban Landmines (1992).
Mr. Roth listed three primary areas of concern for his organization regarding US policy and practice: the USA's tendency to over-incarcerate, resulting in the highest per-capita prison population in the world; human rights issues with migration and mistreatment of migrant workers; and government handling of counterterrorism tactics. All three of these issues, Mr. Roth argues, are not addressed adequately by US courts, the latter due to a suspicious deference and subservience of the judicial system to the Obama administration. This, he says, necessitates action on the part of civil society.
UAVs, popularly known as drowns, were the primary focus of Mr. Roth's address and the subsequent discussion. Their use in overseas counterterrorism operations--a source of major controversy which engenders much anti-USA sentiment in affected countries--ultimately constitutes extra-judicial killings, an act which ostensibly goes against United States laws but is justified using the cover-all term "War On Terror." Mr. Roth examined the double standards applied to the US government's dealing with terror suspects and its willingness to kill them without trial, comparing this to the more regulated treatment of transnational drug cartels--which have a higher death toll in absolute numbers. The "War On Terror," he argued, is essential in order to continuously apply looser wartime standards of violence to situations that do not justifiably constitute war.
Wartime rules of conduct allow for the killing of enemy combatants without the need for due process; but in peacetime or policing situations, where authorities target criminal organizations, deadly force can only be used as a last resort and in order to protect life. As a policing tool, Mr. Roth emphasized that it is still possible for drones to be safely and effectively used without violating human rights. He spoke highly of their potential for surgical accuracy--if used correctly. The fact that they are viewed as an indiscriminate weapon (like internationally-forbidden chemical weapons and landmines) is in fact a result of their mishandling by actors within the CIA, who could either be less skilled than the army, or have developed a culture of unrestrained violence. Either way, Mr. Roth says he and his organization have consistently advocated a takeover of the USA's drone program by the Pentagon in order to more properly regulate its actions.
Mr. Roth also warned against the many dangerous precedents that have been set by the USA's use of drones. The most immediate problem is that although the USA holds a virtual monopoly on sophisticated military drones at this time (possibly shared with its ally Israel), the technology--as is always the case--is currently in the process of becoming cheaper and far more widely available. Soon, states such as the Russian Federation or the People's Republic of China will have functioning drone programs, and their commitment to the protection of human rights is demonstrably far lower than that of the United States.
In addition, the disregard for due process demonstrated by counterterrorist drone strikes has set a precedent for government overreach that allows for the US National Security Administration's unjustified and egregiously unethical abuse of privacy both domestically and abroad, an issue that has provoked much outrage around the world. This issue was touched upon again during the discussion, with several audience members concerned about their lack of privacy rights and Mr. Roth explaining the twisted logic used to justify the collection of metadata (it's not a breach of US law for the NSA to collect information; it's only a breach of law once they read the information).
This, among other examples of overreach, seemed to provoke some concern about government responsibility within the audience. Mr. Roth had mentioned several times previously that President Obama, though at times offering lip-service to the idea of scaling back US military outreach, had more often than not failed to deliver on issues such as ending the "War On Terror" or fulfilling his promise of closing the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
This apparent administrative inaction in the face of popular demands from the American people has led many to be concerned with the future of our country and its government. I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to ask Mr. Roth a question: what outcomes could be expected if the US government continues to set precedents that allow it to encroach more and more on the rights of civilians, both domestically and abroad? In response, Mr. Roth emphasized that our government--though powerful--is ultimately responsible to the wishes of the people, and that we must keep in mind the significant successes that have been made through concerted civil action. This ended the conversation on an optimistic note; for although human rights abuses certainly exist within our administration, it is important to see these problems as room for improvement. Although our voice may at times seem insignificant, there is no legal obstacle that cannot be overcome through determined advocacy for positive social change, by means of the popular political participation that is the foundation of our democracy.
Written by Erik Randall