Global Human Rights Initiative

Global Human Rights Initiative


All people on earth deserve basic human
rights. These rights may include the right to education, the right to health,
and the right to personal security. What makes me passionate about doing
this work is advocating for people who can’t advocate for themselves. This Big Idea can change
the world because we are taking, at UC Davis, a comprehensive look
at human rights and humanitarian action. We have a perfect
structure in this Big Idea. The UC Davis Global Human Rights Big Idea is based on the proposition that
the human rights and humanitarian challenges of our contemporary world are
so enormous and so daunting that it will take the entire force of a major
research university like UC Davis to begin to try to address those problems.
Our idea is to bring the full force of one of the world’s leading research
universities to bear on the world’s most pressing human rights and
humanitarian problems. World a day is looking for ideas for positive change. We’ve spent
much time on blaming refugees and migrants for our social problems. We
are ideally poised to change the entire discussion of immigration and refugee
protection through our work, our research, our teaching and our policy advocacy. I can think of no other campus as diverse as the UC Davis campus in terms of
student body and when it comes to scholarly interest in immigration, located
as diverse a region as UC Davis. The Mass Atrocity and Genocide Studies
Center is one of the three proposed pillars of what will eventually become an Institute
for Global Human Rights at UC Davis. This is a pillar that really is focused on
pedagogy. It’s focused on our students, it’s focused on teaching but also has
a very important research component. I’d like to be optimistic and think that
history doesn’t repeat itself but of course we know that it does and we
know that it’s very important to raise awareness and raise consciousness about myriad human rights violations that are happening. UC Davis School of Law, who’s
doing immigration before it was cool, we had an immigration law clinic that
allows students under the guidance of faculty members to represent immigrants
who were facing removal from the United States. Besides the asylum work, the clinic students provide representation to
lawful, permanent residents, legal immigrants, so our clinic is able to help
people in dire need. At the same time, the students are able to learn the lawyering
skills that need to be learned to be a lawyer. I’m currently in Beirut, Lebanon where
one of the largest humanitarian projects ever undertaken by UC Davis in the
Middle East is currently underway to address perhaps the most pressing of
those challenges which is the fact that 65 million people are displaced or
refugees today. This is a project developed to extend and expand
opportunities for higher education to refugees from the war in Syria and
elsewhere but also other at-risk youth and it’s built around the Article 26
Backpack Project and it’s named for the 26th Article of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights which tells us that education is a human right,
including access to higher education. None of this can happen without donor
support. I have students who come to my office every day who are really passionate.
They come to the Human Rights minor. Eventually we’re dreaming about
having a major as well and they want to go out and do things. They want to do
internships but they just don’t have the resource. A lot of them are kind of
struggling to put themselves through school; they’re paying for their own
education; they’re working from multiple jobs, so I would love it if we had some
resources, some endowments, some scholarships available to help connect these
students to the experiences that are out there. Why do I feel so passionate
about human rights and why am I so confident in UC Davis’s role in the
protection and promotion of those rights? It’s because I’ve lived in places like
Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt where human rights are routinely
violated and people live in terrible conditions under the worst forms of
tyranny and oppression you might imagine. And I am certain that those societies in
which human rights are protected and promoted, are societies that are more
peaceful. They’re more secure. They’re more prosperous and they help build a
better world. The kind of world I want my children to grow up in.

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