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
Evaluation of Coercive Reproductive Policies as a Violation of International Human Rights Law
General Studies, Undergraduate
"Art Therapy with Refugees:Overcoming Processes of Pathologization and Fostering Social Integration"
Refugees’ social integration to their new country is often a complex and laborious process. In addition to the necessity of adapting to a different language and culture and of becoming financially self-sufficient, many of them have to cope with an additional burden: trauma. While physical health is often addressed as a primary concern by local authorities and refugees themselves, mental health is often put on the back burner. Moreover, with refugee populations, finding efficient and successful mental health therapies is all the more challenging, as barriers of language and culture often hinder communication. This paper argues that art therapies, also called creative and non-verbal therapies, are a promising solution in refugee’s journey towards social integration. We argue that it is so for three main reasons. First, because art therapies paradoxically contribute to deconstruct narratives of pathologization of refugees, as they stress the non-deterministic nature of their condition (1). Secondly, because art therapies have already proved to be effective tools to help refugees heal from trauma, allowing the externalization of experiences difficult to verbalize (2). We finally demonstrate that, contrary to other kinds of therapies, that are “provided” to patients, art therapy requires the latter to actively participate. Art therapy thus facilitates refugees’ social integration by empowering them and transforming their status of passive victim into one of individuals with agency (3). Hanna Arendt’s essay We Refugees, in which she describes the struggle faced by refugees in their new country, will keep informing this paper and our understanding of the particular relevancy of art therapies in their case.
(Un)Dividing the Balkan City of Bridges: School Reform and Re-structuring in Post-Conflict Mostar as a Model of Positive Peace Building in Bosnia and Herzegovina
This paper investigates integrated schooling models and other school-based reforms as interlocutors in the process of collective memory re-formation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with the goal of combatting the current competing memories of both wartime and pre-war Bosnian society which result in a fragmented national narrative prevent stable peace in the country. Mostar, BiH is used as a relevant case study in this pursuit, due to the city’s distinctly segregationist school policies and high levels of both pre-war cultural pluralism and wartime destruction that provide a foundation upon which to reconstruct collective memories of heterogeneous harmony among the various ethno-national sub-populations. This paper aims to provide evidence that in the ongoing reconciliation and reconstruction process taking place in BiH, integrated schools can serve as peace building tools due to their functions as 1) culturally symbolic structures which implicate both past and future populations 2) shared spaces of interaction and collaboration for the ethno-nationally heterogeneous Bosnian population and 3) sites of collective narrative building, largely through curriculum. In other words, this paper will present schools as both publicly-accessed memory-embedded physical structures as well as sites of collective memory formation and dispersal, allowing them to correct the divisive modes of remembering—or, more accurately, un-remembering—that currently pervade the country. In order to frame the topics of peace building and education in BiH, the first section of this paper will provide some context regarding the physical destruction of Mostar, reconstruction efforts in the city, and the segregationist school model which developed as one branch of the reconstruction process. The following two sections will address processes of memory re-formation through structurally-embedded narratives (with schools as the primary structure of interest) and memory reformation through the narrative of the actors within schools, largely through curriculum development and broadening language of instruction practices. The final two sections will address the potential of using education reform in Mostar as a model for national-scale positive peace, and anticipated barriers to this undertaking.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate
Citizenship Jus Soli: A Comparative Analysis of Refugee Assimilation in Turkey and Colombia
This paper compares the provision of citizenship to the children of refugees born in two similar host states: Turkey and Colombia. Despite notable similarities between these countries, Colombia has fulfilled the humanitarian international obligation to avoid statelessness for the children of refugees, whereas Turkey has not. To understand why, the key similarities and differing policies between these states and their policies are first be set out. After establishing the relevant international standards governing citizenship and statelessness, this paper considers the domestic and foreign policy considerations that drive migration policy before evaluating the influence of identity between refugee and host populations. This paper argues that the shared identity and history between Colombians and Venezuelans enables a policy of inclusive citizenship for the children of refugees, not endorsed within Turkish political society. Nevertheless, both Colombia and Turkey broadly seek to integrate economic migrants into their economies, not refugees into their political communities.
Columbia College, Undergraduate
Forced Sterilization of HIV-Positive Women in Chile: Addressing a Violation of the Right to Health
Chile has grappled with the issue of the forced sterilization of women and girls with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for several decades. This trend is particularly relevant, as it reveals that the forced sterilization of females with HIV—a significant human rights violation—has seemingly continued unabated in the region. This paper aims to understand why the practice remains in Chile and to explore the ways in which different actors have responded to this violation. The paper will first provide a brief context of this issue and a general definition of forced sterilization through the lens of human rights norms, specifically the right to health. It will then discuss the key drivers of forced sterilization against HIV-positive women in Chile, as well as analyze the response of leading civil society organizations (CSOs) to the situation. Finally, it will offer recommendations on how to address the multifaceted and complex dynamics of this crisis.
Inadequate Private and Public Housing in Hong Kong: A Violation of the Right to Housing
This article examines Hong Kong’s responsibility to protect the right to adequate housing through the application of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. While inadequate housing standards are seen as commonplace in developing countries, inadequate housing has been exponentially increasing in Hong Kong’s thriving economy. Although Hong Kong recognizes certain economic, social and cultural rights under domestic legislation, it is apparent that Hong Kong does not recognize the right to housing as a fundamental human right. As seen in the last decade, housing in both the public and private sector have not met the standard of “adequate housing” as described in CESCR General Comment No. 4. The author finds that Hong Kong views housing as a financial instrument, commodity and privilege, rather than a human right, infringing on the economic and social rights of low-income vulnerable populations, including the LGBTQ+ population, ethnic minorities and the elderly. This article recognizes Hong Kong’s obligation to fully protect, respect and fulfill the right to housing under the ICESCR and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To add, this article will discuss a possible multipronged housing strategy to mitigate violations to the right to housing in Hong Kong’s property-led market.