Human Rights at Stanford
October 14, 2009
Good Afternoon. On behalf of all of my colleagues in the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and in our parent organization, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, I would like to welcome you warmly to this afternoon’s event. Today we launch a new CDDRL research program on Human Rights, and a new under undergraduate summer fellowship program in human rights, based at the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society.
We at CDDRL are very pleased to be sponsoring this event jointly with the McCoy Family Center and its Director, Debra Satz, and we look forward to much fruitful interaction in the months and years ahead with the Ethics Center and many other parts of the campus, including the impressive array of student-based organizations and publications dealing with human rights.
Today’s event is a natural outgrowth of more than two decades of extensive and often passionate work on human rights by Stanford faculty and students, and of the early and seminal impact that our colleague Terry Karl in particular has had in this field through her teaching, research, advocacy, and expert testimony in groundbreaking court cases. I want to thank Terry for the knowledge and inspiration she has generated in this field over the last quarter-century at Stanford. And I also want to thank the Human Rights Program coordinator, Helen Stacy, for the outstanding initiative she has taken in organizing this event and giving shape to the new program, as one of the principal investigators along with Terry Karl and Josh Cohen.
The launch of the Human Rights program marks an important step forward for Stanford, but also for CDDRL. In establishing this program, we underscore the ethical, intellectual, and policy importance of human rights, and the way that rights are inextricably linked to the rule of law and the quality of democracy. I have long been convinced that democracy is an important condition for enabling people to protect and extend their human rights, but there are many superficial or illiberal democracies in the world where rights are still heavily abused. It is vital that we understand and support the conditions for advancing human rights in all countries, whether they are formally democracies or not.
In the past decade, a diverse array of new questions has emerged about international human rights. Today’s human rights intersect with new and urgent global issues— climate change, immigration, cross-border security, poverty, women’s rights, and child soldiers, to name a few. One thing these issues share in common is that they cannot be comprehended from the narrow confines of a single discipline. Today, more than ever, human rights issues need investigation by a wide range of research disciplines—not just political science and sociology, but anthropology and philosophy, economics and medicine, law and history, science and engineering. What you will see here this afternoon is the first of many efforts in our program to address human rights issues from the perspectives of many disciplines, and to forge a dynamic, innovative, and multidisciplinary approach to human rights research.
The Human Rights Program also bridges the divide between the normative and empirical, and between research and practice. Thus, it builds on the work of its partner Program on Global Justice at CDDRL, and as I said it will be working closely with the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. And thus it is committed to providing the campus community an effective clearinghouse of information on job opportunities, internships, research projects, conferences and new developments in the field of human rights. We hope that all of you here will frequent our activities and website and seek out these opportunities.
Our first panel this afternoon, moderated by Helen Stacy, will feature innovative human rights work conducted by Stanford faculty across the University, from political science and anthropology, to law and engineering. It will be the first of many interdisciplinary discussions facilitated by the Program on Human Rights.
As I indicated, we are also launching here the new Human Rights Fellowship program of the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in. Grants will be given to up to four undergraduates (rising sophomores, juniors and seniors) each year over the next 3 years to enable them to spend their summers working with human rights organizations in both the U.S. and abroad. It is the McCoy Center’s hope that these fellowships will encourage students to build human rights work into their future careers, whether those careers are in academic life, in governmental or intergovernmental organizations, as activists, or as legal practitioners.
The second panel will feature Professor Debra Satz, the Director of the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, and a panel of Stanford students who have completed human rights projects. They will be discussing the details of the new fellowship program and student experiences working in human rights.
Finally, Professor Paul Wise, a pediatrician and also Senior Fellow here at FSI, will deliver today’s keynote address entitled “Between the Concrete and the Clouds: Living Your Human Rights Principles.” Paul Wise is one of the truly great intellects and human beings on the Stanford University campus, and we are extremely proud to have him as a member of the CDDRL faculty. He exemplifies how a rigorous and esteemed professional life can embrace principles of human rights, in everyday, practical ways that make a difference in the lives of those who struggle.