The City College of New York

The series of lectures, conversations, film showings, exhibitions, and courses brings together faculty, students, and staff at CCNY and the New York City community to examine human rights through multiple lenses.




November 17, 2014 - “Moving Children: Young Migrants and the Challenge of Rights" with Jacqueline Bhabha and Susan Bissell

“Why, despite massive public concern, is child trafficking on the rise? Why are unaccompanied migrant children living on the streets and routinely threatened with deportation to their countries of origin? Why do so many young refugees of war-ravaged and failed states end up warehoused in camps, victimized by the sex trade, or enlisted as child soldiers?

Jacqueline Bhabha's Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age provides the first comprehensive account of the widespread but neglected global phenomenon of child migration. Spanning several continents and drawing on the actual stories of young migrants, the book shows how difficult it is for children to reunite with parents who left them behind to seek work abroad. It looks at the often-insurmountable obstacles we place in the paths of adolescents fleeing war, exploitation, or destitution; the contradictory elements in our approach to international adoption; and the limited support we give to young people brutalized as child soldiers. Part history, part in-depth legal and political analysis, this powerful book challenges the prevailing wisdom that widespread protection failures are caused by our lack of awareness of the problems these children face, arguing instead that our societies have a deep-seated ambivalence to migrant children—one we need to address head-on. Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age offers a road map for doing just that, and makes a compelling and courageous case for an international ethics of children’s human rights.

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October 23, 2014 - Human Rights Law & Documentary Filmmaking with Almudena Bernabeu and Skylight Pictures (Webcast)

In the spring of 2013, General Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala was tried and convicted of genocide (even if the conviction was overturned one month later). This was the first time in 500 years that genocide against indigenous Americans was tried. Clips from the documentary Granito (Skylight Pictures, 2011) were used as evidence in the trial. Now filmmakers are working on the third fi in the Guatemala trilogy, triggered by the trial and its aftermath, called 500 Years. Almudena Bernabeu, one of the lawyers who worked on the Guatemala Genocide Case, still serves transnationally on cases throughout the world. The event explored the path-breaking work of Spain in human rights law and the relentless commitment of intellectuals and activists in the making the seemingly impossible possible. By bring together documentary film, ethnography, and law, the filmmakers and lawyer who joined us for this event are exemplary of how human rights can make a difference, even if the odds remain seemingly insurmountable.  

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October 29, 2014 - “LGBT Rights as Human Rights" with Daniel O'Donnell, Charles Radcliffe, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, and Val Kalende, moderated by Andrea Weiss

A panel discussion on "LGBT Rights as Human Rights," featuring New York State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a prime sponsor of the Marriage Equality Act; Charles Radcliffe, Chief of the Global Issues Section of the UN Human Rights Office in New York as well as Senior UN Human Rights Adviser on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, founder of St. Paul's Reconciliation and Equality Centre, which defends the human rights of marginalized and LGBT people, particularly in Uganda; Val Kalende, Ugandan LGBT activist and Fellow, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; and moderated by Andrea Weiss, Professor of Media Communication Arts at CCNY and an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker and nonfiction author.  From local and global perspectives, the panelists will reflect on the recent cultural and political shifts in which LGBT rights have suddenly become part of the global conversation. The panel will discuss the gains made locally, nationally and globally in terms of marriage equality. The speakers will look at how these gains came about, and consider the paradox between newly won rights and protections on the one hand, and the persistence of socially acceptable violence and discrimination on the other.

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May 8, 2014 - “Human Rights in China Twenty-Five Years After Tiananmen," Andrew J. Nathan, Professor, Political Science, Columbia University and Vincent Boudreau, Dean, Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership (Webcast)

Twenty-five years after Tiananmen, China has made progress in economic and social rights and has engaged more deeply with the international human rights system, but has sustained and even intensified its repression of civil and political rights. Pressures continue to build for political freedom and rule of law, but each new set of leaders has disappointed hopes that it would institute political reform. What explains the persistence of authoritarian politics? Does the Chinese experience disprove the theory that economic growth must lead to a growth of freedom?

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May 5, 2014 - "Women And Leadership: How We Do It All," A Conversation Between Carme Chacón And Jessica Lappin, Moderated By Vince Boudreau, A Breakfast Event 

In the past few years, conversations about women and work have made headlines, notably in books and articles by Ursula Burns, Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, or Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Whether it’s about “leaning in,” or “doing it all,” women are without a doubt occupying leadership positions and making personal lives work. This conversation will focus on how leadership, and the role of women in governance, work both in the United States and Europe. Are there cultural differences? How do societal norms structure how a ‘woman’ operates in the workplace? Which lessons might we learn from such a transatlantic dialogue? Carme Chacón is Spain’s first female Minister of Defense and a professor in residence at Miami Dade College. Jessica Lappin is President, Alliance for Downtown New York, former New York City legislator and Lower Manhattan business leader.

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April 10, 2014 - “Challenging Impunity in Domestic Courts: Human Rights Prosecutions in Latin America,” A Conversation with Professors Jo-Marie Burt, Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies, Director of Latin American Studies, and Associate Professor in the Deparment of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University, and Victoria Sanford, founding director of the Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Lehman College (CUNY), moderated by Irina Carlota Silber, Associate Professor, Anthropology, City College of New York (CUNY)

Since the first truth commissions began to issue reports on atrocities committed in the Southern Cone during the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, transitional justice has become a cornerstone to building democratic spaces for citizens and bringing pariah states back into the fold of international relations. While hailed by the international community as significant advancements toward reconciliation and justice, the lived experience of citizens in Latin America has been mixed. Some thirty years after the atrocities, including genocide in Guatemala, most intellectual authors and perpetrators of crimes against humanity live with impunity. Or do they? In this conversation, Professors Burt and Sanford discuss the successes and failures of transitional justice in Latin America. Drawing on their vast experience working on domestic and international human rights cases over the past two decades, they consider the successful prosecutions in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Guatemala as well as the precedent setting international human rights cases in the Spanish national court. What is the role of the international community in securing justice for victims after dictatorship? Are truth commissions a path to reconciliation and justice? What role does prosecution play?

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April 2, 2014 - “The International Criminal Court,” with Luis Moreno Ocampo, Senior Fellow Jackson Institute, Yale University, Founding Chief Prosecutor International Criminal Court, in conversation with Lynda Hammes, Publisher, Foreign Affairs published by the Council of Foreign Relations, moderated by Rajan Menon, Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair in Political Science at the City College of New York(Webcast)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been long in the making. Coming out of the precedents of the United Nations, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, finally, since 2002, we now have an institution with which to prosecute high-level criminals. What is at stake in making it work? In keeping it functioning?

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March 27, 2014 - "Torture, International Law, and the Fight Against Terrorism,” with Juan E. Méndez, Visiting Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Webcast)

Torture is of special concern to the international community. International law has developed standards to prohibit it absolutely and mechanisms to prevent it.   The normative framework favors a total abolition of torture in practice.  And yet various forms of torment are practiced every day in at least half of the countries of the world.  Public condemnation of torture has been temporarily replaced by resignation or even tolerance in the wake of the "war on terror."  We must interrogate ourselves as to whether those mechanisms are working and what else needs to be done to abolish torture in our lifetime.

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Feb 27, 2014 - “Search for Josef Mengele,” with David Marwell, John C. Torpey, and Eric D. Weitz

As the Chief of Investigative Research at the U.S. Department of Justice, Dr. Marwell was deeply involved in the search for Josef Mengele. Marwell will describe the international manhunt and forensic investigation into the whereabouts and identification of the infamous Auschwitz doctor using newly declassified, and previously unknown material from the case files. Illustrated with unpublished photographs and documents, this talk will take you behind the scenes of one of the largest and most complex historical and forensic investigations ever undertaken.

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Feb 20, 2014 - “Bearing Witness: The Role of Culturally Specific Museums in the Public Discourse on Human Rights,” with Kinshasha Holman Conwill and John Haworth, moderated by Cheryl Sterling

How do museums decide upon their vision? What type of programming fits into their vision? How are issues of human rights related to their programming? 

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Feb 5, 2014 - "Uprisings and Aftermath: Human Rights in Syria, Libya, and Egypt, A View from the Ground," with Sarah Leah Whitson and Jillian Schwedler

The uprisings in six countries in the Arab world generated tremendous optimism about a future for the Middle East that would include democratically elected governments committed to respecting the human rights of their citizens. 

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Jan 30, 2014 - "The Law of the Land in the Palestinian Territories:  How Israel Occupies the West Bank," with Anat Saragusti and Dov Waxman

Since 1967, the Israeli military has controlled the West Bank, with the exception of East Jerusalem, which was unilaterally annexed to the Jerusalem municipality shortly after 1967 and extended Israeli sovereignty.

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Dec 10, 2013 - “What Do We Mean by Human Rights? An Historian’s Perspective,” with Eric D. Weitz and Joel H. Rosenthal (Webcast)

“Human Rights” is one of those terms that nearly everyone claims to support. We all think that we have a good understanding of what it means, things like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and so on. 

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