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 College, Undergraduate
Understanding Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan as a Multi-Faceted Problem
This paper explores the increased prevalence in bride kidnapping since Kyrgyzstan’s independence in 1991, as well as how bride kidnapping fits into a global tradition of gender-based violence. Bride kidnapping has some roots in the pre-Soviet era—although the specific nature of those roots is controversial—but the practice has seen unprecedented growth in Kyrgyzstan since independence. While official data are lacking, some experts believe that up to one third of Kyrgyz marriages are a result of nonconsensual bride kidnapping. This paper discusses the factors that help explain the increased popularity of bride kidnapping. Bride kidnapping is largely a cultural phenomenon, and this paper looks at the role of culture—and invented Kyrgyz history—in fueling an increase in bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnapping is not solely a cultural phenomenon, and this paper also discusses the economic and political incentives that have contributed to the rise in bride kidnapping. Finally, this paper discusses how bride kidnapping, while fairly uncommon in most of the world, fits into a global tradition of gender-based violence. Given these varied explanations for the rise in bride kidnapping, and the intersection of these explanations, this paper concludes that any efforts to decrease rates of bride kidnapping would need to be nuanced and multifaceted.
Teachers College, Graduate
Assessing the Transformative Potential of UNRWA’s Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, and Tolerance (HRCRT) Curriculum for Palestinian Refugees
Nakivale Refugee Settlement: An Analysis of UNHCR’s Three “Durable” Solutions
This paper examines the constraints of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its three durable solutions: repatriation, local integration, and resettlement. Through the examination of existing literature, this paper discusses the inefficiency of the durable solutions in providing effective solutions to Protracted Refugee Situations (PRS). The case study, which is the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in southern Uganda contains a large population of PRS, and its surrounding city, Mbarara, has housed a significant amount of self-settled refugees who thrive without humanitarian assistance. This paper argues there are more than three solutions to PRS and that a lack of new policy implementation of methods such as self-settlement by UNHCR is further perpetuating PRS, globally.
School of General Studies , Undergraduate
When Catholicism, Government, and Social Movements Come to Play: A Historical Comparison of Abortion Policy around the World and its Implications on Human Rights
Abortion and reproductive rights are highly contested topics among individuals, parties, religions, and governments. Policies vary cross-nationally, and change over time within countries depending on a variety of salient reasons. This paper, based on research and an analysis of scholarly writings on abortion policy, examines five countries across areas of the world: Latin America (Brazil), Central/Western Europe (Germany), The Global West (United States of America), Eastern Europe (Poland), and Northern/Nordic Europe (Sweden). I attempt to comparatively consider the reasons and motivation for their respective abortion policies over time. In this paper, I will argue that there are three main players that tend to shape the policies in a country: the level of Roman Catholic Church influence, the government type, and the strength/success of social movements. I conclude my argument with a discussion of how policy players and policy feedback shape abortion discourse and laws. I discuss the importance of recognizing reproductive rights as human rights vital to approach with as much equality as any other human right may be. It is time to step out of discriminatory and divisive policies and into ones that treat all sexes and genders equally, worldwide. Understanding the policy players in this fight will help move towards success.
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 Sciences, Graduate
Violent or Victimized? Race, Gender, and the Rights of Male Migrants under the Global Refugee Regime
Since 2015, the European Union (EU) has experienced a heightened level of asylum seekers arriving in search of formal protection under international law. Male refugees have been particularly vulnerable to high levels of sexual abuse and exploitation, self-harm and suicide, and arrest, detention, and harassment amidst the increasing criminalization of migration. This paper argues that intersectional biases rooted in social constructs of race and gender permeate the global refugee regime, causing male migrants to be coded as security threats and therefore obscuring their vulnerabilities as victims of war. The impact of racial and gendered biases on constructed perceptions of male migrants has jeopardized the refugee regime’s ability to sufficiently provide and protect fundamental rights enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, namely rights to health and security.