Winners of the Essay Contest, along with other selected participants, are invited to present their papers during the Human Rights Essay Colloquium. The colloquium, which takes place each spring semester, is an opportunity for students to present human rights papers and engage in open and lively discussion with other students and faculty members.
View all past Essay Contest winners below. Click on the winner to see their paper abstract.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate
Genealogy of 'Resilience': Women’s Resiliency to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence
In this paper, Stephanie Euber attempts to trace the genealogy of the term "resilience" as it is applied to women who have experienced gender-based violence in conflict. Through exploring "victim" versus "survivor" discourse, she aims to gain a better understanding of the resilience agenda. The South Sudanese context provides a brief example of how the resilience framework has been operationalized. Finally, she ends with a call for resistance to the resilience agenda.
Columbia College, Undergraduate
Climate refugees, and their ‘refugee’ status
This article explores the manner in which the growing problem of climate refugees poses a significant legal, social and ethical challenge to international humanitarian law. It takes note of the obligations of the Global North, and takes into account different humanitarian and legal arguments that have been acknowledged by national courts. It goes on to talk about legal obligations to deal with climate change in the Netherlands, and what this means for climate refugees. It proposes solutions, and emphasizes the necessity of a synthetical approach to accommodate climate refugees.
Graduate School of Arts and Science, Graduate
Enforcing Respect for Indigenous People’s Right to Self-Determination: Establishing Mandatory Due Diligence Requirements for Canadian Transnational Mining Companies
This paper focuses on the ways in which Canada’s extractive corporations infringe upon the economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous communities who live in the vicinity of their extractive projects. By paying homage to indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and their right to autonomously manage their own natural resource wealth free from outside interference if they so please, it will be argued that Canadian extractive corporations will be better placed to receive a “social license to operate (SLO),” which is increasingly being recognized as essential in regards to preventing community-opposition to development and private-sector projects. Part and parcel to receiving an SLO is understanding and acknowledging indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). This paper hopes to add to the existing literature on the topic by showcasing that receiving FPIC by indigenous peoples is ultimately in the best interests of corporations in that it reduces the likelihood that there will be community opposition to their projects through respecting the economic, social and cultural rights of these communities. Lastly, it will be argued that the Government of Canada should enact legislation that establishes mandatory requirements for Canadian extractive corporations to abide by in terms of respecting the FPIC of indigenous peoples both domestically and abroad.
A Reevaluation of Human Rights Advocacy Surrounding Female Genital Cutting
This paper is a proposal for a project that takes a human rights approach to the issue of Female Genital Cutting, or FGC. It gives a background of FGC, incorporating a discussion of the practice within the context of both human rights and public health. It discusses the shortcomings of the most common human rights advocacy strategies and discussion surrounding it, namely, that simply criminalizing FGC is often less effective and does not address the root problem. People tend to view criminalization as a route to women's equality in patriarchal cultures, instead of the other way around. Conversations about FGC usually do not mention male circumcision, though many of the same human rights concerns come into play for both practices. The paper will describe a proposed new approach to tackling the issue of FGC from a human rights perspective which involves research, policy analysis, education, and selective decriminalization of the practice. It emphasizes the importance of a focus on women in communities where FGC is widely practiced when collecting data, including those who perpetuate the practice themselves. It advocates for decriminalization and development of safe medical standards for less invasive forms of FGC, to provide a route for women who will inevitably receive the procedure to do so safely. Finally, it expresses the importance of education and grassroots community efforts working to eliminate patriarchal ideas behind the practice of FGC, and working towards true equality.
Human Rights and Development Practice: Dismantling Aid Conditionalities for LGBTI People
The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the United States: A Theoretical, Legal, and Practical Assessment
This essay concerns the American system of detention for immigrant asylum seekers. It details this system’s current structure, in which detention can occur during multiple phases of the asylum application process, whether upon arrival, while waiting for processing, or before deportation. The paper then proceeds to assess the system from three perspectives: theoretical, legal, and practical. The tripartite analysis suggests that, firstly, states detain immigrants for administrative, protective, and deterrence reasons. The biggest problem with these theories justifying the detention of immigrants and, in particular, the detention of asylum seekers, is that they consider immigrant detention in terms of national interests; thus, these justifications fail to consider the rights of the individual. In contrast, both domestic and international legal regimes seek to balance the interests of the state against the rights of the individual, thereby limiting immigrant detention policies by allowing detention only in specific circumstances and by specifying procedural requirements which must be met in order to detain immigrants. However, current U.S. policy and practice fail to conform to the balance established by law. For example, the American government does not treat detention as a last resort and does not require the government to justify detention on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, the immigrant detention system, in practice, systematically mistreats immigrants by placing them in detention centers which are abusive and harmful as well as which utilize illegal practices. Thus, although immigrant detention of asylum seekers itself is not legally, theoretically, or practically problematic, current U.S. practice fails on all three fronts and must therefore be reformed.