The Human Rights Program organizes dozens of events annually, ranging from formal lectures to brown bag lunches to workshops and panels. Speakers include advocates, scholars, government officials, community leaders, and policymakers. We often collaborate with students groups and other schools and programs on campus to sponsor events.

September 24, 2020

Advocating While Black: Navigating Black Identity in the Human Rights Field

When: 12:00-1:00 p.m.

Where: Zoom

Register for “Advocating While Black” on Zoom at this link.

Aspects of human rights work may present particular challenges and opportunities for practitioners of color. Human rights advocates work cross-culturally and undertake work that often requires international travel or relocation abroad. Pathways into the field are often relationship-dependent, and once in the profession, expectations about an advocate’s identity can impact relationships with peers, communities and decision-makers. How are these features experienced by those who define themselves as Black or of African descent in the human rights field? Knowledge of these experiences would add to critical debates around the practice of human rights that focus almost exclusively on Global North/Global South distinctions. Panelists will interrogate the status quo at a time when practitioners are questioning whether structures designed to promote justice could themselves contribute to systemic racism and inequality in society.

Speakers will include:

-Rosebell Kagumire, Editor, AfricanFeminism
-Godfrey Odongo, Senior Program Officer, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund
-Christopher Richardson, Immigration Attorney, General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, BDV Solutions
-Cassandre C. Théano, Assistant Director for Human Rights and Public International Law at Columbia Law School’s Office of Social Justice Initiatives.
-Moderated by: Aminta Ossom, Clinical Instructor, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School

Read their full bios below.

This event is co-sponsored by the Harvard African Law Association, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice.

Rosebell Kagumire is a feminist writer, award-winning blogger and socio-political analyst. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Quartz and Mundo Negro. She is the editor of African Feminism- AF, a platform that documents narratives and experiences of African women. Her experience spans gender and governance, peace and conflict, migration and media studies. Rosebell was honored with the 2018 Anna Guèye Award for her work on digital democracy, justice and equality by Africtivistes. The World Economic Forum recognized Rosebell as one of the Young Global Leaders under 40. She holds a Masters in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies from the University for Peace in Costa Rica. Her undergraduate degree is in Mass Communication from Makerere University, Uganda. She attended the 2019 Executive Education on Global Leadership and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She’s an editor of the recently published book: Challenging Patriarchy: The Role of Patriarchy in the Roll-back of Democracy.

Godfrey O. Odongo is a Senior Program Officer with the Human Rights Program at the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, a US-based private foundation. In this role, he manages funding portfolios dealing with support for an ecosystem of key civil society and institutions advancing human rights norms in multiple contexts. He has previously served as a regional research expert on East Africa with Amnesty International; a program advisory role with Save the Children-Sweden and a research fellow with the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights at the University of the Western Cape and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. An advocate of the High Court of Kenya he holds a doctorate in international human rights law from the University of the Western Cape, a master’s in law in human rights from the University of Pretoria, and a bachelor’s law degree from Moi University.

Christopher Richardson is an immigration attorney and former U.S. Diplomat. In addition to providing strategic corporate immigration counsel to a range of businesses and industries, he also works on pro bono immigration cases including on asylum for unaccompanied minors and advising non-profit groups and legal clinics on consular-related issues. Richardson was a Foreign Service officer for seven years, during which time he had assignments in Nigeria, Nicaragua, Pakistan, and Spain. He won numerous State Department awards including Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards. After resigning in protest against both the Travel Ban and the President’s comments regarding African countries, Richardson wrote an affidavit against the waiver process for the Travel ban, which Justice Stephen Breyer cited in his dissent in Trump v. Hawaii. He has been featured in reports by Mother Jones, Slate, Reuters, NPR, and the BBC, and has written opinion columns the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Slate Magazine and the Nation addressing immigration policy and diversity in diplomacy. Richardson serves on the Board of Directors for Upstate Forever (an environmental group) and Upstate International (both in South Carolina). He is also on the advisory board of the Center for Victims of Torture and has advised U.S. Senators and House members on a wide range of immigration issues. He is a graduate of Duke University School of Law and graduated summa cum laude from Emory University. He is also the co-author of the Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement (2014).

Cassandre C. Théano is an international human rights attorney and advocate with over a decade of experience working at the intersection of human rights, racial justice, development and philanthropy. She is the Assistant Director for Human Rights and Public International Law at Columbia Law School’s Office of Social Justice Initiatives. She also teaches the United Nations Externship at the law school and is an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Recently, she served as the ABA Section of International Law Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. Previously, Cassandre was the Associate Legal Officer for Equality and Inclusion at the Open Society Foundations (The Justice Initiative), focusing on citizenship and equality. In that capacity, she led the litigation and advocacy work related to the restoration of citizenship rights for Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, Black Mauritanians in Mauritania, and various ethnic minorities in Cȏte d’Ivoire and Kenya. She was also instrumental on Temporary Protected Status advocacy and other related immigration policies affecting black migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. She regularly provides advice on strategy, policy, and funding to human rights and advocacy organizations.

Cassandre grew up in Haiti and moved to the U.S. at 16. She earned her undergraduate degree in International Relations and French Literature and her Master’s degree in French Society, Politics and Culture from New York University. She holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, with a concentration on International Human Rights Law and a certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.

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September 28, 2020

Freedom of Religion and Public Interest: A Look at Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Europe

When: 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Where: Zoom

Freedom of religion or belief may be “limited” under most national constitutions and international human rights treaties on grounds of public safety, order, health or morals, and the rights of others.  Please join us for a discussion with Gehan Guantilleke on how constitutional and treaty provisions are vulnerable to majoritarian infiltration. The webinar will explore case studies from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Europe to illustrate how states often interpret the term “public” to mean the majority’s views, and the ways in which majoritarian conceptions of limitation grounds can threaten the rights of religious minorities.  We will also discuss alternative conceptions of constitutional and treaty interpretations to constrain a state’s ability to advance majoritarian interests. Yee Htun, Clinical Instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic, will moderate the conversation. Register for the event with Guantilleke and Htun on Zoom here.

Hosted by the Program on Law & Society in the Muslim World and co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

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September 30, 2020

Confronting Conflict Pollution: Principles for Assisting Victims of Toxic Remnants of War

When: 10:00 - 11:30 am EDT

Where: Zoom

Armed conflicts and military activities take a toll on the environment that significantly affects both people and ecosystems. The pollution they cause inflicts severe and long-term physical, psychological, socioeconomic, and cultural harm. While UN bodies have begun to address toxic remnants of war, a framework to meet the short- and long-term needs of those affected has been absent.

Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the Conflict and Environment Observatory have adapted humanitarian disarmament’s norms of “victim assistance” to the context of toxic remnants of war. Our report, Confronting Conflict Pollution, presents 14 principles and associated commentary designed to establish the missing assistance framework. The principles embody a collective commitment to work towards victims’ full and effective participation in society and the realization of their human rights.

At this launch webinar, the authors will introduce the report and its new framework, and experts will offer perspectives on its applicability to environmental human rights, humanitarian assistance and conflict health.

Speakers include:

Bonnie Docherty (Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic)
Doug Weir (Conflict and Environment Observatory)

Docherty and Weir will be joined by discussants:

Baskut Tuncak (Former UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Toxics)
Emilia Wahlstrom (Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit)
Prof. Richard Sullivan (KCL Centre for the Study of Conflict and Health, King’s College London)

The event will be facilitated by Oli Brown (Chatham House, Peaceworks).

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October 08, 2020

10 Years On: Lessons from the Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

When: 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Where: Zoom

October 2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of UN peacekeepers’ introduction of cholera to Haiti. The resulting epidemic has killed over 10,000 people and caused immeasurable losses in Haiti. The UN’s reluctance to accept responsibility and to remedy affected communities has also tested the organization’s commitment to human rights and spurred strong criticisms from inside and outside of the organization.  This event brings together UN officials and Haiti advocates to examine what lessons the UN should draw from the cholera epidemic. Panelists will discuss how the cholera experience has changed the UN, and how the organization still needs to change, in order to prevent future harms and ensure that it is accountable to the people it serves.

This event is organized by the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and co-sponsored by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Center for Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, and HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

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November 18, 2020

Human Rights in a Time of Populism: Challenges and Responses

When: 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Where: Zoom

Please join us for a Harvard Law School Library panel event to discuss Gerald Neuman’s recent edited volume with Cambridge University Press (May 2020), Human Rights in a Time of Populism.

The book talk discussion will include:

César Rodríguez-Garavito, Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU School of Law. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Open Global Rights and has served as a strategy advisor to leading international and domestic human rights organizations in different parts of the world. César has been an expert witness of Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an Adjunct Judge of the Constitutional Court of Colombia, a member of the Science Panel for the Amazon and a lead litigator in climate change, socioeconomic rights and indigenous rights cases. He has served as director of Dejusticia, the Global Justice and Human Rights Program and the Center for Socio-Legal Research at the University of los Andes.

Richard Javad Heydarian is an academic, columnist, and policy adviser, having advised diplomatic pots around the Asia-Pacific region, presidential candidates and cabinet secretaries in the Philippines, and leading hedge funds and credit rating agencies. He has taught, as a political science assistant professor, at De La Salle University and Ateneo De Manila University, and is currently resident analyst at GMA network, previously ABS-CBN News Channel, & columnist for the Manila Bulletin. He is a regular contributor to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC, and has written for or/and interviewed by Aljazeera, BBC, Bloomberg, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Economist, among other leading global publications.

Gerald L. Neuman is the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, and the Co-Director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.

Ruth Okediji is the Jeremiah Smith. Jr, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center. She is an editor of the Journal of World Intellectual Property Law and an elected member of the American Law Institute. Her most recent book, Copyright Law in an Age of Limitations and Exceptions, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.

More about Human Rights in a Time of Populism.

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