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.
Teachers College, Graduate
Assessing the Transformative Potential of UNRWA’s Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, and Tolerance (HRCRT) Curriculum for Palestinian Refugees
Barnard College, Undergraduate
A New Conception of the Citizen: Reconciling the Space between Tribal Sovereignty and U.S. Citizenship
For the past two centuries, Native Americans in the United States have been collectively (and sometimes unwillingly) naturalized as American citizens, putting all Native American nations under the jurisdiction of the American government and preventing them from attaining full sovereignty. These circumstances lead to questions about the nature of the citizen-state relationship between a government and its indigenous bodies, which can be answered in the frame of the conflict between Native American tribes and the U.S. government: What are the implications of a citizen-state relationship where the citizen does not care to be a citizen? In what ways might citizenship be considered detrimental to a person or group? How has the new international discourse of human rights and rights of indigenous peoples affected conceptions of state and citizen? How will the increasing political presence of indigenous groups affect the current relationship between state and citizenship? This paper will address these questions in the context of the United States’ relationship with Native Americans and will attempt to provide solutions to the problems posed by the ambiguous space of citizenship of indigenous peoples.
Columbia Law School, Graduate
“An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom”: Historic Institutional Abuse and Transitional Justice in New Zealand
Historic abuse claims against government agencies and psychiatric institutions have become an increasingly prominent feature of the civil litigation landscape in New Zealand over the past decade. International law requires that individuals whose human rights have been violated while detained by or under the care of the state must have access to an effective remedy. The argument advanced is that the New Zealand civil litigation system is not a propitious vehicle for effective relief in relation to historic abuse claims. Factors that preclude effective redress include evidential difficulties, public policy concerns in relation to the tort of negligence, operation of statutory limitation and immunity provisions, and legal aid restrictions. However, a critical examination of the New Zealand experience through a transitional justice lens enlarges the repertoire of viable remedial responses. The deployment of transitional justice mechanisms – an official apology followed by reparations, an increasing emphasis on truth-seeking and a heightened role for civil society – would enhance the remedial process in New Zealand. Such mechanisms would not replace the civil litigation system but would correct for its deficiencies in the historic abuse arena.