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The Institute would like to welcome their first ever visiting human rights scholar
Umut Ozkaleli earned her PhD from Social Science Department at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. She is currently working as an Assistant Professor at Cyprus International University. She holds a joint appointment in Social Work Department and International Relations Department. Her research focuses on feminist theories of the state, feminist democratization and transnational solidarity. In addition to her academic work, she is a founding member of Initiative for the Rights of People with Disabilities in North Cyprus and hosts a weekly feminist show at a local radio in Cyprus. She loves to be a part of awareness raising activities for the rights of disadvantaged populations. She is in the initial steps of starting an NGO called Gender and Minorities Institute. She is also working on a book project which focuses on nationalist Turkish state and its feminist critique on Cyprus foreign policy.
“Human Rights Matter”
Geneva, 15 April 2011, at the Intercontinental Hotel of Geneva, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Navanethem Pillay, gave notable remarks on why and how human rights matter. At the initiative and invitation of Dr. Robert Spencer, Director General of Webster University Europe, several faculty members and four International Relations students were able to attend the lecture hosted by the American International Club of Geneva (AIC) and the British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. Pillay named the objectives of the U.N.: safeguarding peace, security, and Human Rights. She showed how human rights matter, citing the civilian uprisings in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt as examples. She explained that these protests sprung from large scale state economic and social oppression. Ms. Pillay said one lesson learned is that prosperity should not come at the cost of human rights, and that “there are legal and reputational risks associated with repressive regimes.” She also explained why human rights matter by arguing that fundamental human rights are not just a Western value. Indeed, she said she has yet to meet a person complaining for the right to be tortured, to be raped, or taken hostage…
On the topic of universality, she reminded the audience that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) was drafted by all UN members at the time. And the newly formed Human Rights Council has introduced a universal periodic review (UPR), which has examined 144 states so far. The adhesion of the United States to the Council has been a strong and encouraging signal.
Ms. Pillay emphasized the importance that the United States assumes their role as a moral leader. She insisted that many states rely on signals from the U.S. before “jumping on board” to defend human rights. Ms. Pillay urges the U.S. government to ratify outstanding human rights treaties, and to follow up with administrative promises to solve issues in Guantanamo Bay.
The High Commissioner pointed out an astonishing statistic. As an intergovernmental organization whose main pillars support peace and security, human rights, and development, the United Nations only devotes 1.8% of its annual budget to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Ms. Pillay argued that OHCHR could do with increased funds for capacity building; she explained that her office has active agencies in 54 countries. She shared proud examples of the OHCHR’s role in the field through working in close proximity with victims of human rights violations.
“The major challenge in ensuring human rights is accountability,” Pillay stated. In asking how member states can act beyond regional and national interests, she insisted that civil society and the initiative of member states themselves play crucial roles. Ms. Pillay asked how can the OHR sharpen its existing tools; how can the OHCHR help governments to implements human rights law; and how can the OHCHR continue to address challenges regardless where or when they take place?
Finally, the High Commissioner raised the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR), noting that today, corporations –and not only governments- must also be held accountable on Human Rights matters.
Upon conclusion, students were able to meet the High Commissioner and were encouraged to continue their studies and interest in Human Rights.
Violla Artani, Yvita Fox, Kent Gisiger, Sarah Knight.
Security Forum 2011
Geneva, 8 April 2011: The International Relations Department hosted the fifth edition of its annual Security Forum, on the theme of Counterinsurgency (COIN). The discussions took place in the Living and Learning Center at the Webster University Geneva campus, where over 145 participants listened to 27 speakers debating the following four matters:
Within each workshop, speaker presentations were followed by an active question and answer session furthering dialogue. Students attending the forum from the War and Diplomacy (INTL 5500) or Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping (INTL 5860) courses were able to meet with expert panelists, many having held decisive roles in conflict resolution.
There was a common realization that COIN poses a great number of challenges to modern military forces. Although, clearly contested was the way in which COIN influences parties involved to the conflict and its short and long term effects on civilian populations directly or indirectly involved.
This yearly event is organized by a committee of volunteer students. The proceedings of each conference will be edited and published in late 2011.
Women’s Rights Global Forum and Watch Party
Geneva, 31 March 2011 - The global forum on “Women’s Rights as Human Rights” illustrated the need for awareness of the educational, security and economic problems facing women worldwide. Keynote speaker, Janaki Rajan, began by shortly explaining the historical evolution of Women’s Rights movements and then introduced the struggles of modern day women’s rights activists. Dr. Rajan lightened the mood on the subject matter by including short quotes and quips from women, about feminism, and the societal views on women as women’s rights activists. Referencing Lizz Winstead, “I think, therefore I am single,” raised more than a chortle or two from the audience.
Dr. Rajan concentrated much of her presentation on the problems facing women in India and work that has been accomplished there, especially in the education sector. The stories of grassroots work to help women and children access information and stand up for rights were entertaining and encouraging. In a short amount of time Dr. Rajan touched many different subjects relevant to women’s rights, including female infanticide, sex workers, education, and religion.
The conference in St Louis was broadcast and followed by “Watch Parties” in the different Webster campuses. In Geneva, thirty students and members of the Community were able to participate, and ask questions to the speakers.
The theme of “Women’s Rights as Human Rights” is the theme of the 2010-2011 academic year at the Webster College of Arts and Sciences. A roundtable on this topic was hosted earlier this year, to address these issues. The conference is also the kickoff of the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies.
Webster “Conflict Resolution” Class Goes Live!
Geneva, 23.03.2011 - On Tuesday, 23 March, 2011, Webster students had the opportunity to attend a live television production discussing the risks of international intervention in Libya. Infrarouge, a political discussion hosted on the Swiss broadcasting network RTS, engaged eight panellists for an hour of heated discussion. Dr. Vautravers, currently teaching a course on Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping, took part in the debate addressing the risks of Libyan intervention. “An invitation for students to observe could not have come at a better moment,” expressed International Relations major Sarah Knight, “directly seeing the application of our class discussions on such contemporary issues brings an undeniable relevance to our studies.” The usual course was held in the RTS building, and following at 22:30, 17 interested students attended the one-hour panel.
Students gained invaluable insight into the challenges of conflict resolution and international intervention. There were a multiplicity of views among the panellists regarding the wording of the aims, means and interpretation of UN resolution 1973. The fact that opinions were formed from exceptionally different experiences showed the depth to understanding how mediation in Libya is to be achieved. Students were exposed to the complexity of coordinating effective international interventions, the challenges needed to overcome in building consensus on points of contention, and the presentation of highly politicized issues by the media.
Webster student awarded summer scholarship in Malta
Yara Halaseh, a Webster University undergraduate student, was awarded a scholarship to attend a human rights seminar in Malta this summer. The intensive program is offered by The Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies at the University of Malta. Halaseh is earning a double major in sociology and international studies, and the Jordanian native is currently studying at Webster's Thailand campus.