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The Bernstein Symposium began in 1997 in honor of Robert Bernstein, the founding chair of Human Rights Watch, for his extraordinary contributions to the international human rights movement. The symposium is an integral part of the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights, which was established the same year. Each year, current and past fellows are invited back to Yale Law School to engage in human rights discussions and to connect with each other and with symposium participants.
The 2018 Bernstein Symposium will be held on April 12-13. The working title is: Solidarity: Sustaining the Struggle for Human Rights in a Fractured World.
Twentieth Anniversary of the Bernstein Fellowship
Solidarity: Sustaining the Struggle for Human Rights in a Fractured World
April 12-13, 2018 at Yale Law School
This year, the Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights will host the twentieth anniversary of the Bernstein International Human Rights Fellowship. Rather than focus on a particular subject, the 2018 Symposium will feature a variety of discussions among some of the 83 Yale Law School graduates who have worked in 27 countries on the Bernstein Fellowship. The theme of the Symposium is how to sustain human rights work in the face of daunting challenges, and even outright hostility. With renewed questioning of human rights, from the left and right, the 2018 Bernstein Symposium will offer a chance to rethink – and perhaps recommit to – essential principles of solidarity.
The conference is free and no registration is required.
Vivek Maru ’01
Chief Executive Officer of Namati, which trains community legal workers, sometimes called ‘barefoot lawyers,’ to enforce basic rights and protect local resources.
(More in progress)
Tendayi Achiume ’08, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, UCLA Law School, and UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
Sari Bashi ’03, Israel/Palestine Director, Human Rights Watch
Elizabeth Brundige ’04, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Assistant Dean for International Programs and Jack G. Clarke Executive Director of International and Comparative Legal Studies, Cornell Law School
Maria Burnett ’05, Director, East Africa and the Horn, Human Rights Watch
Colleen Gilg ’08, Associate Trial Lawyer, International Criminal Court
Etelle Higonnet ’05, Campaign and Legal Director, Waxman Strategies
Julie Hunter ’13, Attorney, Blue Ocean Law, and Clinical Fellow, International Justice and Human Rights Clinic, Allard Law School, University of British Columbia
Michelle Jonker-Argueta ’11, Legal Counsel, Greenpeace
Sharanya Kanikkannan ’11, Staff Attorney, Aids-Free World
Allana Kembabazi ’15, Fellow, Institute for Economic and Social Rights, Uganda
Scarlet Kim ’13, Legal Officer, Privacy International
Molly Land ’01, Professor of Law and Human Rights, University of Connecticut
Tienmu Ma ’14, Special Advisor for International Human Rights Law to the Ombudsperson of the Republic of Kosovo
Meghan McCormack ’14, Professor, American University of Central Asia
Tara Jane Melish ’00, Professor and Director, Buffalo Human Rights Center, University of Buffalo School of Law
Efrén Olivares ’08, Director, Racial and Economic Justice Program, Texas Civil Rights Project
Jason Pielemeier ’07, Policy Director, Global Network Initiative
Jeff Prescott ’97, Strategic Consultant, Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement
Nick Robinson ’08, Legal Advisor, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Marco Simons ’00, Americas Regional Program Director, EarthRights International
Matiangai Sirleaf ’08, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh
Ryan Thoreson ’14, Researcher, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program, Human Rights Watch
Leah Zamore ’14, Senior Policy Analyst, Center on International Cooperation – NYU
All events will take place at Yale Law School (127 Wall St, New Haven, CT). Return to this webpage closer to the conference to get more detailed venue information.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
4:10 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Welcome & Opening Remarks
James Silk, Binger Clinical Professor of International Human Rights, Yale Law School
Dean Heather Gerken, Yale Law School
Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School
4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Keynote Address: The Global Movement for Legal Empowerment
Vivek Maru, CEO, Namati
Friday, April 13, 2018
9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Panel 1: Humans, the Environment, and Rights
The exploitation of natural resources often occurs in tandem with human rights abuses. This panel will provide snapshots of pressing, current issues: communities displaced by the palm oil and rubber industries; climate change and oil drilling in the Arctic; and island nations confronting climate change and deep-sea resource extraction. Participants will discuss the place of human rights in their work and in reckoning with severe, and even existential, threats.
Moderator: Marco Simons, Americas Regional Program Director, EarthRights International
- Michelle Jonker-Argueta, Legal Counsel, Greenpeace
- Etelle Higonnet, Campaign and Legal Director, Waxman Strategies
- Julie Hunter, Attorney, Blue Ocean Law, and Clinical Fellow, International Justice and Human Rights Clinic, Allard Law School, University of British Columbia
11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Panel 2: The Ethics and Politics of Finding Facts and Making Truth
A core function of human rights practice is to document abuses. Often, given the fragility of human rights institutions, the most concrete outcome will be “fact-finding” (in the case of NGO reports) or “truth-seeking” (in the case of commissions and tribunals). This session will consider how those processes have evolved over the last few decades, what standards have emerged, and what questions remain.
Moderator: Elizabeth Brundige, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Assistant Dean for International Programs and Jack G. Clarke Executive Director of International and Comparative Legal Studies, Cornell Law School
- Maria Burnett, Director, East Africa and the Horn, Human Rights Watch
- Colleen Gilg, Associate Trial Lawyer, International Criminal Court
- Molly Land, Professor of Law and Human Rights, University of Connecticut
- Matiangai Sirleaf, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Panel 3: Culture and Change
This session will consider the many interactions between human rights and cultural change through the work of four former Fellows. Their work traverses diverse locations and issues: systemic barriers to holding UN peacekeepers accountable for sexual violence; challenges to birthright citizenship in Texas; the role of newly married women (kelin) in Kyrgyzstan society; and discrimination against transgender children in the United States and the Philippines. How do advocates use rights to respond to or to influence cultural and institutional change? What roles do claims of “culture” play in forestalling – or advancing – efforts to advance the rights of disfavored groups?
Moderator: Tara Jane Melish, Professor and Director, Buffalo Human Rights Center, University of Buffalo School of Law
- Sharanya Kanikkannan, Staff Attorney, Aids-Free World
- Efrén Olivares, Director, Racial and Economic Justice Program, Texas Civil Rights Project
- Meghan McCormack, Professor, American University of Central Asia
- Ryan Thoreson, Researcher, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program, Human Rights Watch
3 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Panel 4: Rising Threats, Emerging Strategies
In every region of the world, including the United States, states are using populist rhetoric to justify limits on an independent and robust civil society, often to the detriment of dissent and of protection of minorities and non-citizens. Meanwhile, some threats, such as the refugee crisis, transcend national boundaries by their very nature, and politicians invoke fear of refugees to support populist and nationalist agendas. This session will consider the extent to which, in this moment of heightened nationalism, international human rights carry significant moral and legal weight, or whether new – and perhaps not-yet-imagined – strategies are needed.
Moderator: Jason Pielemeier, Policy Director, Global Network Initiative
- Tendayi Achiume, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, UCLA Law School, and UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
- Scarlet Kim, Legal Officer, Privacy International
- Nick Robinson, Legal Advisor, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
- Leah Zamore, Senior Policy Analyst, Center on International Cooperation – NYU
4:45 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Jeff Prescott, Strategic Consultant, Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement