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.
Columbia Law School, Graduate
Is it recording? - Racial Bias, Police Accountability & Body-worn Camera Activation Policies of the Ten Largest Metropolitan Police Departments in the USA
Racial bias in policing has been at the forefront of the national public debate since at least the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the ensuing Department of Justice investigation. As the country looks to ways to combat this invidious problem one “solution” has risen to particular prominence: police body-worn cameras. Police departments across the country have piloted and mandated body-worn cameras resulting in a variety of different guidelines and policies. In this Essay, I review the body-worn camera policies of the ten largest metropolitan police departments in the country. My focus is “activation” requirements – namely, the events police officers are required to record on their cameras. The ultimate aim of this Essay is to assess the relative merits of different activation policies as against one of the primary stated goals of the body-worn camera movement, namely, reducing racially biased policing. I argue that the most effective way to use body-worn cameras to reduce racial bias would be to mandate that the cameras be activated to record all police-civilian interactions, subject to a few very limited exceptions.
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.
Mailman School of Public Health and School of International and Public Affairs, Graduate
The Funding of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: How to Leverage Participatory and Gender Transformative Grantmaking Approaches
Women and girls around the world have yet to realize their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). This paper addresses what the institutional philanthropic sector, including private and public foundations, women’s funds, and corporations/corporate foundations, can do to best leverage their funds to fulfill the SRHR of women and girls, and a broader gender equality agenda. It examines the current state of funding for women’s and girls’ initiatives, with an analysis of positive trends and areas of concern. It contends that there is room for growth in the magnitude of funds, as well as in the sophistication of funding strategies of institutional funders interested in investing in the health and human rights of women and girls. This paper makes the case that funders should incorporate two innovative approaches into their funding strategies: (1) participatory grant-making practices and values and (2) gender transformative grant-making. Participatory grant-making ensures that solutions are crafted and driven by the communities themselves, who are the recipients of programs. It necessitates deepened connections and collaboration with women’s rights organizations that are already embedded in local communities. A gender transformative approach to grant-making leads the philanthropic sector in a direction in which gender norms are recognized and elevated as an essential element of public health, rights based, and equality strategies. It is also inclusive of men, boys, and LGBTQ individuals and is fully intersectional by considering how multiple factors, including race, class, age, gender, and sexual orientation, among others interact to simultaneously marginalize people who are affected by them. A gender transformative lens enables funders to make strategic investments by funding programs that authentically tackle the roots of gender inequality, and thus lead to longer-term, more sustainable change.
Columbia College, Undergraduate
A Bridge of A Difference: The Underlying Factors Characterizing the Kingdom of Bahrain’s and Saudi Arabia’s Respective Approaches to Women’s Public Participation
This paper examines the case studies of the Kingdoms of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in their respective approaches to women’s participation in the public sphere. More specifically, the paper will consider the driving factors behind the formation of state policies and agendas that allow women to partake in activities beyond traditional domestic roles, or stifle their ability to do so. Although Bahrain and Saudi Arabia share a border, similar religious identities, traditional gender schemas, and monarchical authority the situation of women marks a point of difference between the two nations. Bahrain’s workforce is over 30% female, amongst the highest rates in the Gulf, while the female percentage of Saudi Arabia’s labor force falls short of 15% (Global Gender Gap Report 2012). These patterns also extend into spheres of education and political participation—shared borders do not indicate shared ideologies. Bahrain presents an increasingly accommodating environment for women in the workforce and political sphere, in contrast to Saudi Arabia, which remains hostile to female employment and involvement outside traditional boundaries.