Students in “New Debates in International Women’s Rights” seminar present policy proposals to United Nations leadership
Few law school classes involve convenings at the UN. Even fewer give students a forum to discuss their policy proposals with UN leadership. Yet Penn Law students in Associate Dean for International Programs Rangita de Silva de Alwis’s seminar on “New Debates in International Women’s Rights” did just that when they convened at the United Nations on April 29 to present their research to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Women, Office of Legal Affairs, and the newly appointed Office of the Secretary-General’s Victims’ Rights Advocate. The students had the opportunity to present to Under-Secretary-General and Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares and Assistant Secretary-General Jane Connors and other experts. For students eager to share a semester or more of research, this audience of key policy leaders was an inspiration.
In 1900, Lord Kelvin declared to a conference of physicists, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” Just five years later, a young Swiss physicist published the reports known as the Annus mirabilis papers, which included the first mathematical description of quantum mechanics, along with the infamous mass-energy equation: E=mc2. International law has yet to have its miracle year, but if 2016 was any indication, sovereignty has become and will remain relevant again after years of scholarship proclaiming its demise.
Through the normalization and unanimous acceptance of treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), history has proven that despite our cultural differences, diverging political and economic systems, and unique social norms, the world can agree that certain actions are unquestionably immoral. On the one hand, it, therefore, appears that the world has conceded that there are certain moral absolutes. On the other hand, however, the belief that there are rights and wrongs relative to our own moral convictions abounds. Saudi Arabia is a case in point.
Studying abroad in law school is definitely not the norm. That being said, while studying in Colombia has been a giant change, it has given me a completely different perspective on both international law and domestic law in the United States.
“By Strengthening Others, We Strengthen Ourselves”: Welcoming President Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation to the University of Pennsylvania
As world leaders convene at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, the University of Pennsylvania is honored to host President Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation on September 27th.
To many, the law in Saudi Arabia is the prison shackling women to their homes, their husbands, and their fathers. This perspective, however, is superficial. Even if the law is the prison, more often than not the law is not the prisoner’s shackles. Culture, religion, society, and conformity: these are the true shackles keeping women bound to their posts.
The Importance of a Penn Law Global Education in Strengthening Democracy, Multilateralism, and Inclusive Institutions
An interview with Elise Kraemer, Executive Director of Graduate Programs. Interviewed by Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Associate Dean of International Affairs
The United Nations (UN) has long characterized the Rohingya as the world’s most persecuted population. Historically, the Burmese viewed the ethnic and religious minority as illegal immigrants permitted entry by their former British colonizers. Such historical context informs contemporary views of the group as “foreigners.” And that has helped justify decades-long persecution by both private and public actors culminating in the Rohingya’s legal exclusion as citizens and other discrimination codified as law. Despite the group’s pre-colonial ancestral ties to the land, messaging that Rohingya are “outsiders,” “Bengalis” and even, “terrorists,” has helped the government justify mass atrocity crimes. The current humanitarian and human rights crises also implicate national security.
It is a timely issue of resonance and consequence, the confluence of a class of committed students and an engaging Professor of unparalleled expertise. Our vigorous classroom discussions sounded more like policy debates and revolutionary cries than staid academic deliberation We represented a handful of different countries and states, a global array of religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds. More like a weekly conference than a class, we spent our two hours every Tuesday afternoon in friendly arguments— was it enough to have women at the table, or have people been ignoring a critical variable in the equation, having the right women at the table? And if that is the case, then how do we ensure women in the international community were prepared to lead? And is the top-down approach to securing women’s rights effective, or is that method only paying lip-service to the women living in rural villages who are legally barred from accessing capital to run a business and from attaining a passport without a male guardian’s permission?
This year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) proved to be a historic one where member states gathered to discuss the substantial progress made in favor of gender equality. While each country addressed areas still in need of work, each event of the CSW offered an inspirational promise of hope. The excitement was palpable whenever discussing the significant progress already made—how women’s voices have been amplified and legitimized through legal reform and political activism.
In 2017, the UN and its members, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies, committed themselves through regional and international dialogue to developing a new framework to address the challenges confronted in and by migration. As the world recognized the need for greater international collaboration, the Trump Administration moved the United States towards a more isolationist approach while implementing restrictive and enforcement-oriented policies and practices, in a notable shift from prior administrations. As we head into 2018, the United Nations and its members have set out to draft and agree upon an international cooperative framework for managing migration, while also ensuring that the rights of migrants are respected, protected and fulfilled. 2018 will be the year to see whether the political resolve exists to meet this goal, with or without the United States’ participation.
According to the United Nations, Rohingya Muslims are considered to be the most persecuted minority group in the world. These unfortunate people are an ethnic Muslim minority numbering around one million living in the Buddhist majority country of Myanmar. The Rohingya have been residing in the northern parts of “Rakhine”, which is a geographically isolated state in western Myanmar. The word “Rohingya” is considered taboo in a country where they have been residing for more than a century. The continued victimization of Rohingyas at the hands of the Myanmar government is not a contemporary issue. The former British colony after achieving independence in 1948 has been struggling with armed ethnic and religious conflict.