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.
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.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate
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.
Columbia College, Undergraduate
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.
School of General Studies, Undergraduate
Defending Digital Natives: Young People as a Protected Class Within the Emerging Right of Data Privacy
This paper poses two questions: should young people constitute a protected class under emerging human rights frameworks involving digital privacy and the right to internet access (RTA)? If so, which actors should be targeted by human rights advocates, and which privacy protections should be suggested for software or put into law to guard this protected class? Any new framework will need to safely navigate the growth of business and new technology, free speech, and demands from other non-youth stakeholders that do not infringe upon RTA. Youth voice has been sorely lacking from RTA debates, leading to the ineffectiveness of current privacy protection regimes and considerable disruption to international youth culture. By examining the current state of international policies on this topic as they apply to contemporary dilemmas in American primary education, this paper demonstrates the need for targeted protections involving minors to occur when data privacy is eventually addressed for all persons under international law.