Featured Course

Human Rights Institute

The AUP Summer Institute for Human Rights

AUP's Summer Institute for Human Rights provides an exciting capstone for students in the MA in Diplomacy and International Law (MADIL) and is also an option for those taking the MSc in Human Rights and Data Science (HRDS). The three-week program is dedicated to exploring the intersection between human rights law and other relevant human rights fields. By examining the practical applications of human rights in a variety of careers and industries, students engage directly with experts and practitioners working to address global challenges through human rights.

The program’s guest lecture series brings seasoned practitioners of human rights into the AUP classroom. Internationally renowned experts with diverse specializations speak to students on topics such as religion and human rights, rights-based approaches to digital services, and global plans for eliminating gender-based violence. Following each lecture, students engage directly with these visitors in small, informal group-based Q&A sessions.

Ilka Rodriguez, a MADIL student, commented that the guest lecture series was an enriching academic experience that put students in direct contact with experienced professionals in the field of human rights. “Their input undoubtedly helped us see things from new perspectives and discover the multiple ways in which human rights intertwine with other fields,” she said.

The Summer Institute for Human Rights also offers a foundational course focused on interdisciplinary academic approaches to human rights, which explores intersections between international human rights law and other fields. Accompanying these lectures is a series of prizewinning documentary film screenings with Dr. Neal Baer, which explore human rights-based issues through contemporary examples.

Two elective courses allow students to specialize in emerging applications of human rights theory, such as digital technology or humanitarian intervention. These electives aim to engage students with evolving academic thinking at the forefront of newly developing human rights fields.

Finally, students work together with AUP faculty members to develop their own team projects that demonstrate a practical understanding of the different theoretical concepts they encounter in class. These projects aim to find ways to tackle existing and future global challenges through human rights approaches. Wherever possible, students will be matched with practitioners and academics in the field of their choosing. Each group will present their ideas to their peers over the course of the three-week program. “Coming up with real-life solutions and encountering challenges along the way gave me a glimpse of what my future career could look like,” said Ilka, who designed a project centered on the protection of children’s rights in her home country.

The Summer Institute for Human Rights is a rare opportunity to engage directly with the practical applications of human rights theory, bridging the gap between master’s level academic study and career paths in fields relevant to international human rights issues. AUP’s commitment to engaging with global challenges in an ethical and interdisciplinary manner sets up students to succeed in the exciting, evolving field of human rights law.

The 2022 Summer Institute for Human Rights Guest Lectures

Here, you'll find summaries of the institute's 2022 guest lecture series, which will give you a sense of the kinds of speakers you will have a chance to learn from during the summer session. These summaries were contributed by Rebecca Goldsmith, a student attending the lectures.

Dr. William Schabas, "Decolonizing the History of Human Rights"

William A. Schabas is professor of international law at Middlesex University in London, emeritus professor of international criminal law and human rights at Leiden University and distinguished visiting faculty at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po. He is the author of many books in the fields of human rights and international criminal law, his most recent being The Customary International Law of Human Rights. Professor Schabas prepared the quinquennial reports on the death penalty for the United Nations Secretary-General in 2020, 2015 and 2010. He was a member of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Dr. Schabas began his lecture by acknowledging the global rise in awareness of racial inequalities worldwide. As organizations such as Black Lives Matter have moved to the forefront of conversations regarding racial injustice, there has been an increased understanding of how racial discrimination has influenced and been challenged within the field of international human rights law. The answer, according to Dr. Schabas, has been hidden in plain sight. In this lecture, titled “Decolonizing the History of Human Rights,” Dr. Schabas outlined the chronological development of racial protections in international human rights bodies. Dr. Schabas drew a distinction between the commonly accepted narrative, which credits Western states with reforming international institutions, and the often-overlooked reality of the integral role of states  and activists representing the Global South in challenging the pervasive influence of colonization and discrimination in the international human rights system. This lecture illustrates how the history of international human rights law presents a complex narrative in which the role of advocacy, legal reforms, and the flame of justice was maintained by Global South states.

Dr. Schabas explained how the initial human rights mechanisms treated the Global South states as an object of the law to be dealt with rather than a part of the international law-making process. Legal barriers, such as domestic jurisdiction and the Nuremberg principles, failed to address the racial injustices and limited the scope of international institutions throughout the 20th century. The initiative to bring issues such as racial discrimination, genocide, and the rights of indigenous populations onto the agenda was led by countries in the Global South such as Japan, India, and China throughout the 20th century. Dr. Schabas highlighted the role of each legal reform and formation of tribunals in increasing anti-discrimination protections. Further developments increased the traction of these movements, as seen by the creation of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st, held annually on the day of the 1960 murder of 69 protestors by police in Sharpeville, South Africa. These developments led to the eventual formation of the Durban Declaration in 2001, which remains the standing document on racial discrimination 20 years after its drafting. Dr. Schabas ended his lecture with a discussion on intertemporal law, highlighting that past crimes against humanity were always violations of international law regardless of their formal legality at the time.

Boriša Falatar ‘00, "Facts Matter: OSCE Monitoring of Human Rights in Ukraine"

Boriša Falatar is an AUP alumnus and Bosnian economist who lectures at Sciences Po, Paris. After serving for ten years as UNESCO's Coordinator for Crisis Response, overseeing humanitarian and development operations in South Sudan, Libya, Syria, Iran and Palestine, he attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as a Mason Fellow. Mr. Falatar stood in Bosnia’s 2018 presidential election for Naša Stranka, a member party of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. He currently works for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; his most recent posting was in Kyiv, where he led a team of several hundred local staff.

Mr. Falatar ‘00 opened the series’ second lecture, which was titled “Facts Matter: OSCE Monitoring of Human Rights in Ukraine,” by delineating the history of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), its work in Ukraine, and the current challenges it faces. Mr. Falatar started his lecture with a review of the developments leading up to the establishment of the OSCE, beginning with the Cold War detente period (1969–1980) and leading to the Helsinki Agreement (1975). The Helsinki agreement embodied the enduring global interest in de-escalation measures and attempted to create lasting cooperation between the western countries and the Soviet Union. The agreement outlined principles of engagement on political and military issues, economic cooperation, human rights protections, and the need for follow-up meetings and accountability measures. The most successful of these principles, said Mr. Falatar, was the development of common human rights protections. He suggested that these protections, referred to as the “human dimension” of the agreement, were instrumental in reinforcing commitments to human rights protections, promoting democratization and bringing about the end of the Cold War.

The human dimension is as important today, particularly in the context of war in Ukraine. The lecture continued with an overview of the mandate and achievements of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (2014–2022). Mr. Falatar discussed the challenges and responsibilities of the OSCE team as it works as an objective monitoring mission, establishing and reporting the facts of the conflict, and gathering information regarding the security situation on the ground. In addition, OSCE served as mediator between Ukraine and the Russian Federation in the Trilateral Contact Group, facilitating discussions on security and humanitarian issues, and arranging critical ceasefires in conflict-affected areas of the country. Discussing the complexities of the current situation, Mr. Falatar spoke on the accomplishments of the Special Monitoring Mission in providing a detailed account of the security and human rights situation in the years before the Russian invasion. Unfortunately, with the evacuation of the mission, and the lack of consensus on mandate extension, the future of OSCE and its operations in Ukraine remains unclear, according to Mr. Falatar, despite continued efforts to achieve diplomatic agreement which would enable it to continue its important work.

Dr. Ibrahim Salama, "Reconciling Religion and Human Rights"

Dr. Ibrahim Salama is a UN diplomat who serves as Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR in Geneva. Dr. Salama has been instrumental in the establishment of the Faith4Rights framework at the United Nations, piloting the 2017 Beirut Declaration and its Faith for Rights 18 commitments. This innovative, soft law standard provides a comprehensive rights-based approach to religion. It aims ‘to foster the development of peaceful societies, which uphold human dignity and equality for all ...where diversity is not just tolerated but fully respected and celebrated’. This new approach is equally interesting and useful for both researchers and practitioners, as it adopts a peer learning methodology that is adaptable to different audiences and situations.

Dr. Salama has recently co-authored with Michael Wiener an influential work on Reconciling Religion and Human Rights (Edward Elgar 2022).

In his lecture titled “Reconciling Religion and Human Rights,” Dr. Ibrahim Salama discussed the intersection between religious expression and human rights protection. As a founder of the UN initiative Faith4Rights, Dr. Salama began the lecture by discussing the relationship between human rights protection and religion practices. The main goal of this initiative is to allow for the maximum expression of both religious freedoms and human rights protection. Dr. Salama explained how human rights and religious expression share many commonalities at their core, placing religious leaders and faith-based actors in a unique role as human rights defenders in their own right. He said that this role requires empowerment and promotes interdisciplinary and critical thinking, including in the religious sphere. 

In the development of Faith4Rights framework, Dr. Salama designed a space for both human rights and faith actors to develop a shared methodology to optimize respect for both  human rights and faith practices without sacrificing components of either. These concepts are detailed in the Beirut Declaration, and its eighteen commitments on “faith for rights” calling for intersectional cooperation in promoting human rights. Accompanying the declaration is a living document, or “toolkit,” that guides the facilitation and engagement of human rights and religious practices. The document is updated periodically to meet current standards and emerging related initiatives and explain the nuances of different practices. The accomplishments of the declaration have filled a gap in the canon of human rights commitments, directly recognizing the reality of the modern world. Dr. Salama provided examples of the methodology used in the creation and application of the faith for rights framework, such as avoiding the word “religion” and replacing it with “faith” to promote inclusivity to those of all beliefs. Further, elements of human rights laws are paired with quotes from religious texts, to further develop an understanding of commonalities. To conclude, Dr. Salama stressed the importance of engaging in consistent and continued dialogue to increase mutual understanding and respect.  

Alex Whiting, Esq. "Ukraine as a Justice Moment"

Alex Whiting, a visiting professor of practice at Harvard Law School, is currently serving as the Deputy Prosecutor of the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague. Mr. Whiting has extensive experience with both domestic and international prosecutions, including stints at both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), in addition to a distinguished list of scholarly publications. Mr. Whiting is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.

Mr. Whiting began his lecture titled “Ukraine as a Justice Moment” by establishing the unprecedented nature of the conflict in Ukraine, and posing the questions of: What does justice look like for Ukraine? And does it represent a new phase of international justice developments? To answer these questions, Mr. Whiting established two major developmental milestones in the progression of international criminal justice precedent: the Nuremberg trials, and the 1993 Yugoslavia tribunal. These trials and their enduring impact on the international justice system were possible, explained Mr. Whiting, because “the stars aligned,” meaning there was a coordination of political will and desire, and the advocacy of actors who were willing to fight for justice. Beginning with an evaluation of the Nuremberg trials, Mr. Whiting discussed the complexities of “winner versus loser” trials, and designing an international investigation and prosecution procedure without existing precedent. The political opportunity allowing for this trial, he explained, was the magnitude of the crimes and the global desire to pursue justice. Key developments presented from the Nuremberg trials, he notes, was the ex post facto prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and war of aggression, referred to as crimes against peace.

After noting the relative stalling of legal developments despite the occurrence of numerous atrocities worldwide during the Cold War period, Mr. Whiting explained the second phase of international criminal justice development: the 1993 International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Mr. Whiting established the political circumstances allowing for this trial's formation, such as the televised nature and media exposure of the war, the location of the crimes in Europe, and the global interest in international cooperation in the post-Cold War period. This trial produced two main concepts, detailed by Mr. Whiting. First, the trial improved elements derived from the Nuremberg trials, prosecuting all sides of the conflict and enhancing the defense of procedural rights. Second, key figures such as Madeleine Albright continued to push for the trial's development, creating the necessary political space and will. Deriving from this trial, continued Mr. Whiting, was the development of Ad Hoc tribunals leading to the eventual creation of the ICC. Moving on to discuss the current period of international criminal justice in relation to Ukraine, Mr. Whiting returned to his initial question at the start of the lecture. Mr. Whiting presented the possible legal avenues based on historic legal and political progressions, exploring the possibility of the creation of a new court specifically for Ukraine, specifically one with the ability to present charges on crimes of aggression. Noting the past success of holding trials for crimes taking place around European territories, Mr. Whiting ended his lecture noting the tentative hope that an active legal response to the conflict in Ukraine could have a similar sequence effect to Nuremberg and Yugoslavia, broadening the reach of international criminal justice proceedings to atrocities committed around the world.

Dr. Kim Seelinger and Dr. Adia Harvey Wingfield, "Intersectionality: Protecting Women’s Rights in International and Domestic Law"

Kim Thuy Seelinger is an expert on sexual violence in armed conflict and forced displacement. She currently serves as Special Adviser on Sexual Violence in Conflict to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, in The Hague. Dr. Seelinger is also a technical advisor for the Global Survivors’ Fund, established by 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winners Dr. Denis Mukwege and Ms. Nadia Murad. Previously, Seelinger was an inaugural member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement, and Protection. Seelinger co-edited The President on Trial: Prosecuting Hissène Habré (Oxford Univ. Press, 2020) and has won various honors for her work, including a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residency (2015). Prior to joining the Brown School for Public Health at the University of Washington in St Louis, Seelinger taught at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where she directed the Sexual Violence Program at the Human Rights Center (2010- 2019).

Adia Harvey Wingfield is the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Arts & Sciences, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St Louis.

Dr. Wingfield’s research examines how and why racial and gender inequality persists in professional occupations. Dr. Wingfield’s work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals including Social Problems, Gender & Society, and American Sociological Review. She is a former President of Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) and President-elect of the Southern Sociological Society (SSS), the largest regional professional sociological association in the US. She is the recipient of the 2018 Public Understanding of Sociology award from the American Sociological Association. Her most recent book is Flatlining: Race, Work, and Health Care in the New Economy (UCal Press, 2019).

Dr. Kim Thuy Seelinger and Dr. Adia Harvey Wingfield presented the lecture titled “Intersectionality: Protecting Women’s Rights in International and Domestic Law.” Beginning the lecture, Dr. Harvey Wingfield detailed the roots of intersectionality present in legal frameworks pertaining to issues of gender discrimination, such as the gender wage gap and the #MeToo movement. Exploring how these frameworks neglect the distinguishing aspects of racial and gender discrimination in the workplace described in the research conducted by critical race theorist Kimberlé Wills Crenshaw, Dr. Harvey Wingfield explained how legal developments make the mistake of clumping the experiences of women together – using white women as a model. This approach fails to recognize the complicated nuances between race and gender discrimination, and fails to protect or deter the discrimination of Black women in the workplace. The issue, as detailed by Dr. Harvey Wingfield, is further impacted by the lack of recognition of the divide between public and private workplace protections for domestic professions, as well as the larger inconsistencies in wage gaps worsened by combined gender and racial discrimination. Addressing the #MeToo movement, Dr. Harvey Wingfield noted the prominence of white women and their voices in the movement, ignoring the experiences of abuse reported by women of color, leaving them underrepresented and ignored.

Dr. Seelinger continued the lecture with a discussion of the emerging articulations of women's rights in international criminal law. She raised the concept of intersectionality and questions regarding its application in the international criminal justice setting. Speaking about its manifestations in jurisprudence, Dr. Seelinger emphasized the importance of viewing victims of atrocities through the layers of their vulnerabilities, explaining how those targeted in atrocities are often discriminated against due to multiple aspects of their identity. Providing examples of international cases which involved multiple layers of vulnerabilities, Dr. Seelinger identified the complicated nature of addressing cases in which numerous factors such as gender, economic status, and religion played a role in persecution. Dr. Seelinger moved on to discuss the operational challenges of addressing intersectionality in international courts, and the bias and prejudices interwoven into both the legal frameworks and the power dynamics present in the courtroom. Presenting the possibility of a survivor-centered courtroom, Dr. Seelinger detailed how currently, victims of sexual violence and other atrocities are often reduced to one aspect of their persecution, and little is done to increase sentiments of comfort and trust between victims and other members of the court. Part of developing a survivor-centered courtroom, as elaborated Dr. Seelinger, is the participation of civil society in the amicus curiae briefs to raise cultural and gender questions, and the importance of intersectoral collaborations within trial proceedings and between the ICC and its national members. Speaking about the recent United States Supreme Court ruling on the Dobbs v. Jackson case, Dr. Harvey Wingfield discussed from a sociological perspective, how the ruling will increase the economic, social and gender-based challenges endured by women of color. Unfortunately, concluded Dr. Harvey Wingfield, this ruling is a concrete example of the disproportionate consequences of legal developments on Black women, and serves as an example of the United States moving further away from developing a socially and economically equal society.

Dr. Bronwen Manby, "Statelessness: the Right to Nationality as the Right to Have Rights"

Bronwen Manby has written extensively on the right to nationality, comparative citizenship law, and statelessness, especially in Africa. Her book Citizenship in Africa: the law of belonging traces the history of citizenship law applied on the continent from the colonial era till today. Dr. Manby is a visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics, Africa coordinator for the GLOBALCIT program at the European University Institute, and a consultant working for UNHCR and others on these issues. She previously worked for Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa, Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Foundations. She has degrees from Oxford, Columbia and Maastricht Universities, as well as professional legal qualifications in England and Wales.

Dr. Bronwen Manby began the lecture titled “Statelessness: the Right to Nationality as the Right to have Rights” with a question: What is statelessness? Dr. Manby followed this question with an exploration of the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, defining a stateless person as “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.” Looking at the use of the phrase operation of its law, Dr. Manby explained how the question of statelessness is viewed as a mix of fact and law (UNHCR Handbook on Protection of Stateless Persons 2014, paragraph 23), involving both interpretation of the law and analysis of how it is applied in practice. Explaining the classifications and causes of statelessness, Dr. Manby provided examples of how one might meet the criteria to be considered “stateless” such as being unable to provide documentation of birth, inheriting statelessness through one’s parents, or clashes of law based on one’s location of birth or place of living.

Moving on to address the concept of nationality, Dr. Manby discussed the different uses of the terms citizenship and nationality. In some fields of scholarship, citizenship is used to imply participation and civil rights when referring to issues at a national level, whereas nationality may be used to refer to ethnic and cultural identity or, alternatively, legal status at an international level. Dr. Manby explained that both of these terms are used as synonyms in international law, and refer to the legal link between a person and a state, giving a person certain rights and obligations in that state. At the national level, either of the two terms (and their equivalents in other languages) may be used, according to the different legal traditions of each country. Dr. Manby addressed the ways in which a person can acquire the status of citizen or national in national law, such as through jus soli attribution based on birth in a territory, by descent, by marriage or by naturalization.

The lecture continued with a discussion of nationality and its place in the international legal order. Dr. Manby established the historical progression of international legal frameworks addressing nationality and statelessness. Dr. Manby discussed the evolution of international norms through the UN system and the connection between nationality and the rights of individuals. The lecture continued with an evaluation of the trends in international and national law, and the impact of placing the matter of nationality in the discretion of the states. Although some constraints on state discretion have been articulated in international law, especially in relation to removal of discrimination based on sex and the obligation to prevent statelessness, states still strongly assert their sovereignty in this area.

The vulnerabilities of stateless people are numerous, explained Dr. Manby, leaving many without the rights and protections to exercise freedom of movement, engage in political participation, or access education and healthcare. Although these vulnerabilities may apply to other non-citizens without a legal status in the country of residence, stateless people are the most vulnerable of all. Dr Manby quoted Hannah Arendt, one of the first theorists of statelessness, who framed citizenship as the “right to have rights”: if no state recognizes a person’s citizenship, other human rights may be unprotected. Dr. Manby ended the lecture by opening a discussion regarding what rules regarding nationality should look like. The conversation raised issues such as the role of a bonded community in the enforcement of human rights, as well as issues of contention such as the status of Indigenous communities, and the impact of political and economic factors on granting citizenship.

Ricki Helfer, Esq., "Human Rights and Finance: Are They Compatible?"

Ricki Tigert Helfer was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from 1994 to 1997. She was the first woman to head a US federal bank regulatory agency. She also served on President Clinton’s Working Group on Financial Markets and on the Basle Committee on Banking Supervision. Ms. Helfer was appointed as the chief international lawyer for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1985 to 1992.

Ms. Helfer continues to serve on not-for-profit boards of directors, including Brady United against Gun Violence, and has served as Vice Chair of the Board of the Grameen Foundation US engaged in supporting economic development in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and as Vice Chair of the Board of the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corp. in the South Bronx, NY. She is a member of the US Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute.

Ms. Ricki Tigert Helfer began her lecture entitled Human Rights and Finance: Are They Compatible? with a discussion of whether the financial sector is essential to achieving universal human rights goals. She answered the question by stating that finance is essential to achieving human rights goals IF three conditions are met. First, financing decisions must be made without corruption or cronyism. Second, financial dealings must be conducted on arm's length terms, meaning that negotiations between a lender and a borrower must be carried out without biases, fraud, or personal relationships affecting the results. Third, the transactions should be under-girded by sound regulatory and governance standards that are coordinated with domestic and international efforts to achieve sustainable development. 

Ms. Helfer emphasized that the global recognition of finance as a necessary tool for the promotion and enforcement of human rights was developed under the auspices of the United Nations and other bilateral and multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.  Since at least 2000 these efforts have sought to address poverty, disease, environmental degradation, gender inequalities, and other human rights issues. In 2011 the UN convened an international forum with member countries and private financial entities to enlist their help in achieving human rights goals through the achievement of sustainable development.  The UN emphasized the responsibility of private financial entities to join the public sector in upholding, respecting, and increasing adherence to human rights goals and, moreover, to assure that individuals whose human rights are harmed by business activities should have access to remedies.

To explain why finance has a key role to play in achieving sustainable development, Ms. Helfer discussed the key functions of the financial system:  to provide information on potential investments and to allocate capital; to monitor investments and assure sound corporate governance in making investments; to facilitate trading, diversification, and management of risk; to mobilize and pool savings; and to facilitate the exchange of goods and services.  When these functions are performed on a sound economic basis, they foster economic development, boost efficiency, encourage cost savings, reduce the possibility of fraud and corruption, and promote good governance.  Ms. Helfer emphasized, in contrast, that when banks and other participants in the financial system perform these functions poorly or corruptly without sufficient regulation and governance, they hinder economic activity, destabilize economies, and promote inequality and cause other human rights abuses.

Ms. Helfer discussed the impact of a poorly functioning financial system on sustainable development goals with reference to the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008.  It affected much of the world, as did additional financial upheavals in Europe in the following years, leading to the Great Recession of 2008 to 2012. The US and other countries experienced financial institution failures that were so significant they posed a risk to the stability of the international financial order.  The growth rate of the world’s gross national product declined to minus 1.3 percent with developing as well as developed countries very negatively affected and funding for sustainable development greatly diminished. 

Governments responded with financing programs to try to offset some of the damage but the recovery was sluggish for a considerable amount of time. In addition, according to Ms. Helfer, in an effort to prevent future financial crises of the same magnitude the US and other governments enacted legislation and promulgated new regulations to provide greater safeguards against a broader range of unsafe and unsound financial practices and to require that each financial institution regularly develop specific plans to mitigate a potential financial failure.  In the US these regulations led to much greater bank regulatory supervision of internationally active financial institutions of a size and scope of business that could threaten the stability of the financial system if they failed. 

Ms. Helfer commented on her experiences with respect to earlier financial crises when she was a bank regulator with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the US central bank, and later as Chairman of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the largest deposit insurance system in the world.  She explained the role of a bank regulator in requiring financial institutions to comply with applicable rules and operate in a safe and sound manner by retaining more than sufficient capital to offset losses, assuring adequate liquidity, strong lending practices, and other means.  The key to successful regulation is to have mechanisms in place to assure that no failure or combination of failures could create systemic economic disruption.  The role of regulation is not to prevent all financial failures because that would lead to inefficient, poorly managed institutions surviving as burdens on the government and taxpayers. 

Returning to the initial question of the relationship between human rights and finance, Ms. Helfer detailed some of the initiatives being undertaken to implement protocols applying environmental, social, and governance principles to private sector investment decisions.  The progress has been slow but is increasing and shifting from negative screens for investment decisions to more positive approaches promoting investments specifically aimed at ESG goals.  Ms. Helfer emphasized that sustainable development for the purpose of achieving universal human rights requires many forms of financial support -- from public resources, private resources, and blended resources.  For developing countries without sufficient resources to support development from their own resources, there is concessional funding available from bilateral and multilateral institutions IF the country is willing to make necessary changes to its policies and laws to work toward sustainable development and achieve human rights goals.  For emerging market and middle-income countries there are lending programs that serve the same purpose of offering funding in order to achieve human rights goals on a non-concessional or blended basis.  Rich countries have ample resources to address human rights abuses for themselves, but the weakness is often in the lack of political will.  Ms. Helfer gave as an example the massive gun violence problem in the US and the failure of the federal government and many state governments to enact meaningful legislation, something she is working on as a member of the board of a gun violence prevention organization.

With respect to possible ways to experiment with strategies for development aimed at those individuals that have been excluded from the financial system altogether, Ms. Helfer gave the example of the Grameen Bank founded by Dr. Muhammed Yunus of Bangladesh.  Grameen used microfinance strategies to provide loans to women for entrepreneurial ventures so they could earn money to support their families. The loans were offered at interest rates lower than a private commercial bank could justify because of the lack of credit history of the borrowers.  Grameen created a village cooperative where women were co-guarantors of each other’s loans and worked together to encourage village enterprises.  The approach allowed raw materials to be purchased and loans to be repaid while leaving the borrowers with enough money to support their children and families.  The success of this initiative has resulted in the spread of this tool across more than one hundred countries and an improvement in equality of financial opportunity for very low-income women.

At the conclusion of her lecture, Ms. Helfer spoke about the importance of new generations of committed individuals working to achieve human rights goals in governmental, multilateral, and private sector institutions and for them to stay the course until the goals are achieved.

Patricia Sellers, Esq. "Sexual Slavery and International Customary Law"

Patricia Sellers has served as Special Legal Consultant to UN Women, to the Gender and Women’s Rights Division of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the UN Secretary’s General’s Special Representative to Children in Armed Conflict. Ms. Sellers was the UN Legal Advisor for Gender, the Acting Head of the Legal Advisory Section and a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) from 1994 until February 2007. She also developed the legal strategies and was a member of the trial teams working on the Akayesu, Furundzija, and Kunarac cases. These landmark decisions remain the pre-imminent legal standards for the interpretation of sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, torture and enslavement.

Patricia Sellers is a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College of the University of Oxford where she teaches international criminal law and human rights law. She is the author of numerous distinguished scholarly publications.

Prof. Sellers presented the lecture titled “Sexual Slavery and International Customary Law.” It examined the pervasive misconceptions of the institutions of slavery and the slave trade, notably in the 18th and 19th century. Prof. Sellers referred to this period as “historical slavery.” Failure to recognize key elements of these international crimes and their multi-generational interlocking practices manifest in what Prof. Sellers termed as an “ahistorical perception.” Prof. Sellers illustrated in the lecture how such an ahistorical perception impacts on the current pursuit, and lack of pursuit, of the crimes of slavery and slave trade at international courts and tribunals. The “ahistorical” perception also adversely affects current initiatives to deal with what she posits is incorrectly referred to as “modern slavery.” To illustrate the consequences of failing to address the complexities of Slavery Crimes, Prof. Sellers first delineated the historical experiences of the enslaved, who were slave traded, then held in slavery by the routes of the East African Slave Trade network and the Trans-Atlantic or Middle Passage Slave Trade. Prof. Sellers clarified multiple aspects of institutions of slavery, that expanded beyond the common perception of plantations that only conjures images of cotton, tobacco or rice fields and the exaction of harsh manual labor. The nuanced reality, as established by Prof. Sellers, manifested in enslavement practices and norms that were based upon systemic degradation, physical brutality, psychological torment, rapes and other sexual and gender-based exploitation that transcend the customary views of enslavement. Prof. Sellers noted that sexual mutilation of male slaves, the forced use of female slaves as wet nurses in the United States and in Brazil, as well as the industry of grooming female slaves as “fancy girls” to serve as sexual objects and status symbols were rampant slavery practices in North and South America. Prof. Sellers’ analysis extended to the effect that the gradual criminalization of the international slave trade had on the expansion of the internal or domestic slave trade and, consequence of the further constraints on the enslaved to breed, thus, increasing their owners’ wealth and producing a subsequent generation of enslaved persons.

Prof. Sellers identified how the historical disregard for the internal slave trade, owed to its prominence impacted on the development of legal frameworks to redress the slave trade and slavery. Presenting the 1926 Slavery Convention, Prof. Sellers explained how its drafting took place after most nations had abolished slavery. The 1926 Slavery Convention, as a secondary purpose, aimed to distinguish between what was forced labor from practices of slavery, in order to legitimize the intentions of Western countries who continued to colonize parts of Africa and Asia. Prof. Sellers then established the legal difference between the crime of “slavery” and that of the “slave trade.” Using the definition provided in the 1926 Slavery Convention and reiterated in the 1956 Supplementary Slavery Convention, slavery entailed the exercise of any or all of the powers (de jour or de facto) attaching to the rights of ownership over another person. The slave trade could be defined by any mechanisms used with the intention to place a free person into a situation of enslavement. Prof. Sellers emphasized that the crimes of slave trade and slavery are intentional crimes, that are often inter-dependent. She noted that the slave trade is not a lesser charge or an accessory to slavery, rather it is a separate crime that works in tandem with slavery. Prof. Sellers established the failures of international law to always characterize slavery and slave trade as international crimes. Their omission as war crimes from the Rome Statue, that governs the International Criminal Court, is possibly an oversight. Provisions covering sexual slavery are insufficient to protect persons from slavery and the slave trade. Moreover, Prof. Sellers observed that by reducing the slave trade to a conception of “modern slavery” analogous to trafficking, a transnational crime, is yet another diluted and ahistorical perception that limits the pursuit of international Slavery Crimes and betrays the historical legacy of enslaved peoples, The lecture concluded with Prof. Sellers imploring the audience to respond to future conversations about modern slavery by asking, “how modern is it?”

Alex Phuong Nguyen ’11, "Business and human rights"

Alex Nguyen is currently a Program Manager at Ulula, a Canadian company engaging in ‘tech for good’, guaranteeing ethical supply chains for multinational companies. Ms. Nguyen formerly worked for 4 years at the United Nations as a Management and Program Analyst for the UN Secretary General, where she provided data visuals for UN leadership to enable prompt, concise understanding of complex issues. Ms. Nguyen began her international career with a 4- year stint as a policy analyst at the International Labor Organization, after graduating from AUP’s MA in Policy and International Law (ancestor of MADIL).

Ms. Nguyen presented the lecture titled “Business and Human Rights” articulating the solidified presence of businesses in the human rights field for the foreseeable future. Ms. Nguyen illustrated the impact of human rights on businesses throughout all major sectors, presenting three examples of human rights violations leading to systemic reforms in major industries: technology, fashion, and mining. Ms. Nguyen explored how various companies respectively responded to tragedy with the implementation of social support mechanisms, developed important reporting systems, and created continuous improvement cycles to aid in the recovery and prevention of industry related crises. Ms. Nguyen explained how businesses have wised up to the operational risks of failing to improve human rights conditions, the potential for positive attention and relationships available to responsible companies, and the growing presence of investor and governmental screening of human rights elements in corporations. The expansion of globalization throughout the 1990s and the subsequent international legal frameworks, such as the UN Global Compact, explained Ms. Nguyen, provided integral overarching mechanisms for promoting sustainable and socially conscious practices and reinforced the practice of documenting and reporting conditions. Ms. Nguyen nonetheless noted the difficulties of regulating international companies, identifying regulatory measures taken in the United Kingdom and Germany to hold businesses accountable for their adherence to human rights principles.

Looking at the 2015 United Kingdom Modern Slavery Act, Ms. Nguyen noted how the act requires large domestic companies to take action to prevent and deter modern slavery throughout the supply chain, and to publish an annual statement publicly on the company website. The 2021 Act on Corporate Diligence in Supply Chains taking effect in Germany in 2023, further expands upon human rights due diligence measures, elaborated Ms. Nguyen, requiring companies to identify risks of human rights violations and environmental destruction in direct and indirect suppliers, and submit their findings directly to the government. Ms. Nguyen explained how these domestic policies, strengthened by international legal frameworks have forced businesses to adapt their practices to meet the requirements of the modern system. Moving on to address how businesses will continue implementing human rights protections in the long term, Ms. Nguyen discussed how the interconnected nature of the global supply chain requires companies to maintain a clean human rights record to succeed, how many corporations are joining together in the implementation of responsible practices, and how promoting human rights protections reduces the potential for volatility and promotes sustainable profit-making. Furthermore, Ms. Nguyen established the enduring nature of human rights sectors within businesses, meaning once they are implemented they tend to stay in effect, as well as the global responsibility of businesses to protect the planet. Concluding the lecture, Ms. Nguyen explained how in her current work at the Canadian company Ulula, a company that records and documents anonymous submissions of workplace conditions, she has witnessed first hand the enduring trends of human rights practices in businesses worldwide.

Dr. David Erikson, "Children’s Rights in America"

David J. Erickson is senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where he heads the community development and economic education teams. His areas of research include community development finance, affordable housing, economic development, and institutional changes that benefit low-income communities. David has been a leader in the collaboration between the Federal Reserve and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in bringing the health sector together with community development.

Dr. Erickson’s book on the history of community development, The Housing Policy Revolution: Networks and Neighborhoods, was published in 2009 by the Urban Institute Press. He also co- edited Investing in What Works for America’s Communities: Essays on People, Place, and Purpose (2012); What Counts: Harnessing Data for America’s Communities (2014); What It’s Worth: Strengthening the Financial Futures of Families, Communities and the Nation (2015); and What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities (2017). David has a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College.

In the lecture titled “Children’s Rights in America,” Dr. Erickson discussed his experiences at the Federal Reserve bank in New York, and his goal to develop sustainable and impactful solutions to create a fairer society in which the needs of all communities are met. Dr. Erickson discussed the concept of a “quasi-market” for neighborhood improvement, citing inspiration from Robert Kennedy’s community development corporation. The quasi-market, functioning as an artificial market similar in structure to niche industries such as the market for airbuses, explained Dr. Erickson, functions as a government subsidized program sustained by community investment initiatives, tax code reforms, and strategic tax credits to supply communities with the amenities they need. A key element of this concept, described Dr. Erickson, is the direct involvement of community members, noting the success of developments such as the Eden housing project in the California Bay Area. Dr. Erickson identified the challenges of current poverty work in the United States, much of which focuses on treating the consequences of poverty, rather than working to prevent the underlying drivers of poverty. Dr. Erickson explained how many of the downstream costs could be prevented with proper coordination and investments into the overall health of the community through improving aspects such as education, nutrition, and social services.

Discussing the enduring challenge of deciding whether to invest in people or infrastructure, Dr. Erickson identified three key components to develop sustainable solutions. First, Dr. Erickson described the importance of understanding poverty and the financial market as being complex adaptive systems. Complex adaptive systems, as explained by Dr. Erickson, function as complex entities without an overarching leader, and are developed by countless inputs and outputs of data. Poverty is sustained as a result of these decisions, and requires a complex machine to reach solutions, using the financial market as a tool. Second, Dr. Erickson emphasized the importance of recognizing the social determinants of health, influenced by environmental factors and most importantly the reinforcement of a sense of control over one’s destiny. Third, Dr. Erickson recognized the challenges of attempting downstream interventions to combat poverty, instead arguing that initiatives should look to foresee potential damage and prevent it, rather than invest in treatment. Dr. Erickson went on to identify avenues of influence, such as the providers of healthcare, investors looking to see a social return on their investments, and kindergarten bonds and similar initiatives which seek to engage communities with enrichment experiences such as travel, arts, and sports. Dr. Erickson noted the importance of connecting providers with communities in need, through health investments for the entire community. What is most important is to maintain the sense of control over one's destiny, which Dr. Erickson described as seeing the brightness in children's eyes, and in order to do so, creative solutions have to be implemented to meet the complex challenge of poverty.

Charlotta Blomqvist, Esq. ’17, “Human Rights Litigation in the Context of Aggression in Ukraine.”

Charlotta Blomqvist is a human rights professional currently working as Project Officer at the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University in London, UK. She currently manages a two-year human rights advocacy and litigation project which seeks to address gross human rights violations perpetrated by security forces in several countries in the FSU. Her experience involves coordinating cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights and engaging other international mechanisms, including United Nations Special Procedures, on serious human rights violations such as enforced disappearances.

Charlotta is a graduate of the MADIL programme at the American University of Paris, holds an LLB from the University of Southampton, UK, and is a recently qualified attorney at the New York State Bar (3rd Div.).

Ms. Blomqvist detailed the challenges of seeking justice in the current environment in the lecture titled “Human Rights Litigation in the Context of Aggression in Ukraine.” Ms. Blomqvist began the lecture with an explanation and review of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the procedure by which cases come to judgment. Describing the ECtHR as the main forum for human rights litigation in Europe, Ms. Blomqvist distinguished the Court and the Council of Europe which founds it, from the economics and trade-focused European Union (EU), as the Council expands membership outside of EU member states, and is oriented around principles of the rule of law, peace, and democracy. Within the Council, the Human Rights Commissioner acts in a similar mandate as UN Special Rapporteurs, while the Court’s finalized cases move to the Committee of Ministers who are tasked with enforcing the judgments. Discussing the legal framework of the Court, Ms. Blomqvist noted the importance of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, prohibiting torture, which serves as the base for much of litigation action before the Court. Ms. Blomqvist emphasized the volume of cases the Court receives, with around 50,000 new cases lodged and 70,000 cases pending annually, and around 1,000 judgments, many of which consist of numerous individuals’ applications grouped together. Explaining the litigation process and the engagement of the Court, Ms. Blomqvist explained how the Court is accessible only after exhausting all domestic legal options, and despite its status as a court of last resort, for many in countries such as Russia, it has served as one of the only available avenues for justice. Ms. Blomqvist went on to describe the procedure of the Court, beginning with the initial submission, noting how often friendly settlement is refused as many applicants are seeking validation of their experiences rather than financial compensation. The timeline of a case is often quite long, with the time an applicant may have to wait for the case to be communicated and decided by the Court, reaching even five to ten years. Noting the importance of NGO participation and assistance, Ms. Blomqvist highlighted the importance of Third-Party Interventions (TPI/3PI) to speak to the jurisprudence and the standards of law from the broader international human rights field.

Moving to discuss how Russia’s actions will impact the function of the Court, Ms. Blomqvist explained the current questions pertaining to the consequences of the war in Ukraine on the operations of the Court. Ms. Blomqvist raised the issue of how the Court will manage the unprecedented number of cases flowing from a war between two member states, an issue that has recently become even more relevant after Russia’s complicated exit from the Court. The Court and Committee of Ministers will continue to maintain jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of cases brought against Russia for human rights violations committed until September 16th of 2022, explained Ms. Blomqvist, as well as over issuing Interim Measures, which respond in a limited scope to issues with a perceived immediate risk of irreparable harm. Clarifying what Russia’s expulsion from the Court means for future attempts to litigate violations, Ms. Blomqvist highlighted the role of Ukrainian NGOs, lawyers and human rights defenders, to monitor violations, gather evidence, and provide domestic legal counsel. Ms. Blomqvist reestablished the complexity of the current situation, and concluded the lecture with an assessment of the challenges facing the Court, acknowledging how conflicts have the potential to rapidly alter the fabric of international institutions creating more questions than answers.

Commissaire en Chef Peggy McGregor, "Human Rights on the High Seas"

Peggy McGregor is the deputy to the head of the French Navy HR policy department at the Ministry of Armed Forces in Paris. Commissaire Mc Gregor served as a legal advisor to the head of the center for the operations planification and conduct (CPCO) at the strategic level in Paris and as a senior advisor for law enforcement at sea and International Relations affairs in Abu Dhabi to ALINDIEN, the Admiral in charge of French joint operations in the Middle East and in the Indian Ocean. She was recently deployed as a senior legal advisor to the Operational Commander of CSDP operation IRINI based in Rome and dedicated to the enforcement of the arms embargo and the fight against the human smuggling business model in Libya.

Commissaire McGregor is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris and the Ecole de Guerre (French War College).

CDR McGregor discussed the complexities of navigating human rights and jurisdiction, specifically in response to piracy, in the lecture titled ‘Human Rights on the High Seas.’ CDR McGregor detailed the challenges raised by the interplay between human rights frameworks and the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), highlighting the unique nature of enforcing human rights protections in the high seas. Beginning the lecture by establishing what is considered the ‘high seas’, CDR McGregor explained how UNCLOS enshrined the freedom of the seas doctrine in its articles defining the high seas legal regime even if this freedom is not absolute. Moving to discuss the main extraterritorial applications of human rights on the high seas and the principle of flag state exclusive jurisdiction, CDR McGregor emphasized the significance of cases of relevance regarding piracy, drug trafficking and terrorism at sea, throughout the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), and national case law to explain past issues of prolonged detainment, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, and the right to life.

CDR McGregor continued the lecture with an analysis of potential dilemmas faced on the high seas, such as the issue of non-refoulement in deporting individuals charged with piracy, subject to universal jurisdiction. In the framework of EU Atalanta operation for instance, if they could not be returned to their country of origin out of risk for their own safety, they were granted temporary stay within Europe or a host country to await trial. CDR McGregor discussed the challenges of developing a chain of evidence in cases such as these, requiring some of the officers to testify in the courts. To illustrate the complexity of adhering to national, international, and maritime laws, CDR McGregor discussed cases such as Ali Samatar and Others v. France, where after waiting two days on French soil before seeing the judge, a violation was found by the court under article 5-3 for their detainment time. CDR McGregor continued the lecture by providing examples of issues such as freedom of expression and of meeting on the high seas facing challenges in the court, and assessed persisting issues such as the ease at which ship registration can be changed and the unfulfilled obligations of some countries in the search and rescue area under their responsibility. Concluding the lecture with an assessment of current initiatives, CDR McGregor spoke on the future development of the Geneva Declaration on Human rights at sea to establish standardized human rights protections across the high seas.

Caroline Klaeth Eriksen ’08, “Responsible Investment and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global”

Caroline Eriksen is Head of Social Initiatives at Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM). NBIM is the investment management division of the Norwegian Central Bank and manages the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, the largest public pension fund in the world. The Social Initiatives team leads NBIM’s stewardship engagement with portfolio companies on social topics, including on human rights, tax transparency and anti-corruption.

Prior to joining NBIM in 2018, Eriksen worked for the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman. She has a broad range of experience working on social topics, human rights and responsible business conduct with organizations such as Human Rights Watch, UNESCO, and the Norwegian Mission of Norway to the UN. Eriksen holds a B.A. in International Affairs from the American University of Paris and M.A. in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University.

To conclude the lecture series, Caroline Eriksen ’08 discussed the intersections between human rights and business from the perspective of investors in the lecture titled “Responsible Investment and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global.” Ms. Eriksen highlighted the important role of respect for human rights principles throughout the business sector, speaking about her experiences at Norges Bank Investment Management, the manager of the world's largest pension fund. Beginning the lecture with a review of the organization of the fund, and the role of the bank as a responsible investor, Ms. Eriksen explained how the fund bases its work on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD guidelines to reduce risk and ensure that the bank is investing in a responsible manner. The fund, a sovereign wealth fund to serve future generations of Norwegian people, is established with a governance model that is anchored with the Norwegian Parliament, explained Ms. Eriksen. An independent Council on Ethics is set up to evaluate whether or not the fund’s investment in specific companies is inconsistent with its Ethical Guidelines. The recommendations made by the Council can result in companies being excluded or placed under observation. The bank may also exercise active ownership to reduce the risk of norm violations and improve human rights conditions. Ms. Eriksen went on to discuss how sustainability and responsibility are fundamental to the fund’s strategy, both to increase the profitability of investments and to ensure respect for human rights throughout companies’ operations and value chain.

Elaborating on the expectations articulated by Norges Bank to companies they invest in, Ms. Eriksen discussed some current initiatives to promote rights such as children’s rights, climate change and water management amongst others. Ms. Eriksen further discussed the risk assessments done from a “risk to people perspective,” noting the interlinked nature of financial risk, reputational risk, and potential legal implications of human rights violations throughout the supply chain of corporations the fund invests in. To mitigate these risks, the bank conducts ongoing due diligence of their extensive portfolios. Ms. Eriksen further illustrated the fund’s approach to responsible investment, detailing how the fund discloses their shareholder votes five days before the vote in an effort to promote transparency, and engages in dialogue with company boards and management. Ms. Eriksen continued, describing the bank’s support for Shift’s Valuing Respect Project, including the business model red flag tool they have developed, providing examples of business models that may carry inherent human rights risk. This is a tool that can assist investors and others assess potential human rights risks throughout business sectors. Ms. Eriksen noted how tools such as these provide additional insight into potentially high-risk business models. The fund uses tools such as this in combination with other methods of due diligence and stewardship dialogue to collect the most accurate picture of policies and processes companies have to respect the human rights and ensure that the fund adheres to the standards of the Norwegian government and represents the fund’s mission.