Prof. John G. Ruggie to speak at the Sackler Lecture

From the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the Dodd Center has invited John G. Ruggie to speak at its annual Sackler Lecture. Prof. Ruggie will speak on the topic of Principles in Business with regards to Human Rights. The press release of the upcoming event can be found here.

For information on how corporate responsibility has played out over the last 50 years, please consult our collections on Human Rights for topics on labor practice and Alternative Press collection for the environmental impact of business, particularly Roberto Romano’s digital photograph collection.

Archives as targets for destruction in Timbuktu

In the recent ongoing clash between Islamist militants and the Malian government forces, backed by French military support, thousands of historical records and manuscripts have been burned in Timbuktu. Records dating back 1204, were targeted by the militants who were using the Amed Baba Institute as sleeping quarters, where the archives are housed. 

These records had been designtated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and were undergoing a digitization project in conjunction with Institutions in Norway and Luxembourg.  A prime example of the use value of digitizing at risk collections for future electronic preservation and use, even archives that may appear to be protected under the UNESCO designation.  Having also destroyed mausoleums and shrines to Sufi saints throughout the city, it is evident that heritage of a people is under attack. 

As an archivist, the alarms immediately go off when the legacy of a people are designated as targets in war, as they have been countless times throughout history.  However, in the immediacy of events, we far off onlookers must retain an awareness of violence happening to people first and foremost and not just property – be it commercial, private, or State owned.  These are all crimes, but protection of people and their rights is a historical preservation in itself.  What good is protecting a statue if 10 civilians were killed across the street from it?  What story is lost when endangered peoples of our time are wiped out?  The users of archives and the witness to events are primary sources that embody an archive.  It is through the preservation of life that records are given meaning.           

The Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut holds records relating to the Darfuri people and their existence in refugee camps which exemplifies a people under threat without land, losing their traditions and culture.

Idle No More

On December 10th, mass actions were coordinated across Canada by Indigenous peoples and allies to challenge the Harper government’s neglect of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit issues. The pervasive resource extraction on native lands, stifling poverty and mortality rates on reserves and ongoing indifference to treaty rights by the Harper administration are the major focal points for agitation. This continued movement, self named Idle No More, represents all First nations, Inuit, Metis, and allies of every shade who seek to decolonize not just the political landscape but the forms of protest as well. From Victoria, BC to Montreal, QB and solidarity actions from LA to London, the possibilities for grass roots actions ranging from Flash Mobs to teach-ins has enabled a broad array of people to engage the movement’s call for everyday resistance. The issues facing Indigenous peoples have always been a part of Canada’s nation building and myth making, just as they are in the United States and the Americas. Further to the point for archives, the ongoing attempt at gathering and recording the human rights abuses of the church and state in the past through Indian Residential Schools will remain a disembodied historical corpse as long as the Canadian government, and large swaths of the settler population, continue to ignore the past’s clutch on the colonized present.  What better way to make good on the apology issued by Harper before parliament than to present some truth and reconciliation by addressing how the current “institution neglects and abuses” those of the generations after residential schools.  How tar sands, pipelines, damming and mining operations will ensure the destruction of the ecosystem.  How incarceration rates of Indigenous peoples is nine times greater than the national average.  How the ongoing disassociation of urban population to rural land grows with each economic deregulation venture. 

Nigamo Pejig!      

UConn Archives & Special Collections, on Algonquin land, has a wide array of materials relating to struggles of Native Peoples throughout the 20th century in our radical Alternative Press Collection.

Welcome to Human Rights Day 2012

Our old blog has a new home!  Thanks for finding us. 

Today there are two things I would like to introduce you to: 1. Myself, 2. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 64th Anniversary

As the new Curator of Human Rights Collections in the Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at UConn, it is my goal to bring the global challenges of human rights to the archives.  My experiences in archives and activism working with the LGBTTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, Two Spirited, Queer) community, peace activists, Latin American Solidarity groups and Human Rights NGOs has provided me with the tools to address new concerns in the evolving discourse of human rights and archives.  My intention is to focus collections policy and public programming toward the inherent needs of individuals and groups researching, advocating and seeking/experiencing human rights. 

Now that you know who I am, lets talk about who you are and why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights matters.  In 1948, most of the world was reeling from the horrors of war and oppression under fascism and imperialism.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted as a wish-list of rights to safeguard humanity from the atrocities of those who marshaled state power.  The model of human rights was voiced through the vessel of state bodies both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction” (UDHR Preamble).  In the globalized 21st century, rights have undergone a neo-liberal shift from the state-sanctioned arena of expressions and charters, to now being scripted to bolster a new and ever evolving individual.  Economic individualism through the 20+ year old Free Trade agreements in North America have led the way in demonstrating that states are still very much involved in securing rights, largely for business to move freely and express rights of ownership.

The focus of this year’s 64th anniversary is on the liberation struggles in the Middle East and at home in the Occupy movements.  The necessity of the individual’s rights to assemble and demonstrate as well as participate in the election of state representatives, are guarantees that attempt to eschew the inherent flaws in the system in place.  However, what remains important is the historical legacy of this document which seeks to promote the always becoming nature of well being.  Where these worlds collide are in the textile factories of Bangladesh, where last week 112 workers died in a fire that was preventable.  Infuriatingly just the most recent travesty from the deregulated periphery, the factory made clothes for Wal-mart (among other US clothing managers)which benefits from cheap labor and nonresponsibility for externalities – such as fire safety measures which they refused to pay for.  Meanwhile, workers in Wal-mart stores across the US on November 23rd (Black Friday) participated in the largest demonstration in their history in order to demand adequate pay and benefits.  

Now you’re wondering where archives come in.  The role which history plays is that of the sounding board for current democratizing movements in the Middle East, the US and all over the world.  Archives provide context for how things came to be.  Collections which document the push and pull of state and society throughout the 20th century help build the framework for what is to be done in the future.  How the State responded to communities and organizations of people who challenged its ability to provide.  The newly administered States and their guarentees to the rights of the past must be advocated and built upon in the Middle East, the individual rights to work in a safe environment must be acquired in Bangladesh and South Asia as a region, and the economic ideology of US consumers and producers need catalyzing evidence which demonstrates that economic disparity is a human rights issue at home and abroad. 

On this day and everyday we can take action through historical reflection, it is paramount that we acknowledge where people have come from and what they had to overcome to get there/here/everywhere and what is still becoming the individual, the group, the community, the global.



New Tactics in Human Rights Online Diaglog on “Monitoring Accountability for Human Rights,” May 18 to 24, 2011

New Tactics and its featured resource practitioners will hold an on-line dialogue on Front Line Watchdogs: Monitoring accountability for human rights from May 18 to 24, 2011.

Front line watchdogs come in all shapes and sizes. They can be seen in courtrooms ensuring fair trials, accompanying threatened human rights defenders, holding vigil outside police stations to prevent torture, protecting election ballot results, testing for discrimination, monitoring development aid projects, investigating toxic waste from companies, etc., etc. While government bodies and corporations are often expected to monitor and regulate themselves, self-regulation does not always successfully uphold rights. Front line watchdogs take on this important citizen role of holding communities, government and corporations accountable.

Watchdog monitoring provides an opportunity to analyze, understand and influence abusive systems of power and to engage community members in human rights work.

In this dialogue, we will explore successful front line watchdog tactics, discuss lessons learned, challenges and opportunities for practitioners to adapt these tactics for their own issues and communities.

For information on how to participate, visit:

2011 Raymond & Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Human Rights

Please join us for the 2011 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Human Rights.

“International Justice, Transitional Justice: What Have We Learned about What ‘Works’?”
Diane Orentlicher
Deputy, Office of War Crimes Issues, U.S. Department of State
Thursday, April 21 4:00 PM
Konover Auditorium, Dodd Research Center

Diane F. Orentlicher is serving as Deputy, Office of War Crimes Issues, in the Department of State while on leave from American University’s Washington College of Law, where she is a Professor of International Law. She has served in her current position, on appointment by Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, since October, 2009. The Office of War Crimes Issues advises the Secretary of State and formulates U.S. policy responses to atrocities committed in areas of conflict and elsewhere throughout the world.

Described by the Washington Diplomat as “one of the world’s leading authorities on human rights law and war crimes tribunals,” Professor Orentlicher has previously served in various public positions, including Special Advisor to the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Professor Orentlicher is also co-director (on leave) of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of American University. From 1995 to 2004, she served as founding director of the law school’s War Crimes Research Office, which provides legal assistance to international criminal tribunals and courts established jointly by the United Nations and national governments. Professor Orentlicher has presented congressional testimony on a range of issues of international criminal law, including U.S. legislation on genocide.

Testimony, Oral History, and Human Rights Documentation Conference: March 24-25, 2011

Testimony, Oral History, and Human Rights Documentation:
A Conference Workshop at the University of Connecticut

Sponsored by the Human Rights Institute and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Thursday, March 24 – Friday, March 25, 2011
Homer Babbidge Library, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Flame outside the Kigali Memorial Center, Kigali, Rwanda. Photograph by Valerie Love, 2009.

The first day of the conference will consist of a day-long workshop for academics and practitioners currently engaged in oral history work on human rights themes. 

On the second day, selected participants will present their work to a larger audience of students, faculty, librarians, and interested members of the public.  (Non-UConn affiliated attendees are requested to register.)  The Thursday workshop is now full, but space is available for the Friday sessions.

Schedule for Public Presentations on Friday, March 25, 2011:

9:30 – 10:00 AM:  Tea and continental breakfast

10:00 – 10:05 AM:  Welcome: Valerie Love, Curator for Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections, University of Connecticut

10:05- 10:10 AM: Opening: Bruce Stave, Director, Oral History Office, University of Connecticut

10:10 – 11:00 AM: Presentation by Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University, and co-founder of the of the September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Presentation by Daniel Rothenberg, Professor of Practice and Executive Director, Center for Law and Global Affairs, Arizona State University, and former head of the Iraq History Project, which collected over 8,000 testimonies from Iraqis following the US invasion  

12:00-1:00 PM:  Lunch Break

1:00- 1:45 P.M: Presentation by Lee Ann De Reus, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Penn State Altoona, and 2009 Carl Wilkens Fellow with Genocide Intervention Network, who has interviewed women survivors of rape in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

1:45-2:30 P.M: Presentation by Socheata Poeuv, Founder, Khmer Legacies, which documents stories from the Cambodian genocide

2:45- 3:15 P.M: Closing: Emma Gilligan, Professor of History and Human Rights, University of Connecticut

More information is available on the Dodd Research Center’s website.

December 10- Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day 2010 on 10 December recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination.  The day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.

Acting alone or in groups within their communities, every day human rights defenders work to end discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws, reporting and investigating human rights violations and supporting victims.

While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

The UN Human Rights Day 2010 website has profiles of some human rights defenders working around the world to end discrimination, including:

Courageously combating discrimination against homosexuals: Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel (Mongolia)

Mr. Tsedendemberel is the Advocacy Programme Manager for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Centre based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The LGBT Centre is the first-ever Mongolian non-governmental organization mandated to uphold, protect and ensure the human rights of sexual minorities. The Centre submitted a report on LGBT rights in Mongolia to the UN’s Human Rights Council in 2010, risking their personal safety to do so. When Mongolia was reviewed by the Council’s Universal Periodic Review process in November 2010, Mr. Tsedendemberel traveled to Geneva to conduct advocacy and to “make sure the often suppressed voices of the Mongolian LGBT community were heard at the United Nations.”

Speaking out for indigenous rights: Dora Alonso (Guatemala)

Eighteen-year-old Dora Alonso is from Guatemala’s vast Mayan indigenous community and raises her voice against discrimination towards all indigenous people, in particular women and girls. She is a member of Guatemala’s Children’s Parliament, a national organization for Mayan, Xinca, Garifuna and Ladino children and youth. The Parliament’s work focuses on the promotion of health, education, gender equality, respect for identity and the prevention of sexual exploitation and child abuse. The Parliament also promotes non-discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS. In her own role, Dora is responsible for the Parliament’s communications arm, providing information about the organization and implementing prevention campaigns.

Documenting human rights violations around the world: Roberto Garretón (Chile)

During the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, Mr. Garretón was arrested for publishing an article on human rights violations by the regime. He was a member of the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, an organization symbolic of the struggle for human rights, which spoke out against repression under Pinochet, defended the rights of torture victims and prisoners and sought to locate the disappeared. Mr. Garretón’s personal background lends itself to his work as a human rights lawyer and his current role as a member of the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which considers petitions from individuals or groups concerning cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty. From 1994 to 2001, Mr. Garretón also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, documenting human rights violations in that country.

Using the law to combat racial and other discrimination: Gay McDougall (USA)

Currently serving as the first United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues, Ms. Gay McDougall is a human rights lawyer with a long history of activism in civil rights. Growing up in segregated Atlanta, Georgia, Ms. McDougall was excluded from many public places as a child. She was the first black student admitted to her college and faced discrimination and racism on a daily basis. She went on to become Executive Director of the US-based international non-governmental organisation Global Rights between 1994 and 2006. Among her many international roles, she has served as an Independent Expert on the UN treaty body that oversees the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and was one of five international members of South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission, which successfully organized and administered that country’s first non-racial elections.

Breaking a vicious cycle of discrimination against Roma communities: Sri Kumar Vishwanathan (India/Czech Republic)

Mr. Sri Kumar Vishwanathan, originally from India, has been a human rights defender of the Roma for 14 years. He has worked tirelessly to build bridges between Roma and non-Roma communities and his leadership and initiative led to the creation of the Common Life Village in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where families of both Roma and non-Roma ethnicities live together as a single community. He has also established dialogue between the Roma and the police forces, starting a project where Roma women work as assistants (inter-cultural mediators) with the police to help break the vicious cycle of exploitation of Roma families by thugs from their own community. He has also been consistently involved in providing assistance to Roma families who have been victims of brutal racist attacks. He still lives with his family in one of the most repressed Roma ghettos.

Providing hope and inspiration to HIV positive patients: Me Maphallang Ponoane (Lesotho)

Ms. Me Maphallang Ponoane has experienced firsthand the high levels of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS. As a widow and mother of four children living in Lesotho, southern Africa, she bravely decided to disclose her HIV status to her family, community and her entire district. In 2004, after recovering from a long HIV/AIDS-related illness, Ms. Ponoane joined a support group in her district. The group is now mandated to mobilize communities against stigma and discrimination and to provide care and support for members. Ms. Ponoane works as an “expert patient” and lay counselor in the government hospital in Quthing, promoting positive living for both HIV-positive and tuberculosis patients.

More stories of human rights defenders can be found on the Human Rights Day website.

2010 UConn Democracy Dialogue with Raj Patel

Please join us for the 2010 UConn Democracy Dialogue at Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, Nov. 15 at 7 pm. 

Author and activist, Raj Patel will speak at UConn on November 15.

For information and library and other local resources on food security and food politics in conjunction with the event, please visit

Stuffed & Starved – The Value of Food in the World Today
Lecture by author and activist, Raj Patel
Part of the UConn Democracy Dialogue Series

Monday, November 15, 2010
Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts
Free with UConn ID, but monetary donations accepted for the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, CT

Half the world is grossly overfed; half of it is starving. Food policy expert, journalist, activist, and author of the international bestseller Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, Raj Patel traces the causes of this crisis from farm to fork, revealing a greatly flawed food system dominated by a few, powerful, major corporations. Ultimately, it is the power of these modern food giants influencing the environmental, social, and economic factors that determines how food ends up on tables throughout the world.

Educated at Oxford and Cornell, Raj Patel has worked for prestigious international organizations including the World Bank and WTO as well as for regional groups like the Land Research Action Network and the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute.

For his harsh criticism of global corporate methods, Patel has been tear-gassed on four continents. His thoughts on food, hunger and globalization have appeared both in scholarly journals and in such major news sources as the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, NBC’s The Today Show, the BBC, and NPR. He recently returned from working in South Africa and is currently a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. His appearance at UConn is open to the public with a $5 donation to the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, CT.

A Bit of Queer History for National Coming Out Day

The idea for National Coming Out Day was proposed by Rob Eichber and Jean O’Leary, who was then head of the organization National Gay Rights Advocates.   The date, October 11, was chosen to commemorate the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, held on October 11, 1987.   A few months later, a group of over 100  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C.  Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate visibility and coming out.

But even before National Coming Out Day was created over 20 years ago, there was a long history of LGBT activism and movements to increase the visibility of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, and queer individuals (and far more identities beyond just those I’ve listed here as well!)  While visibility of the LGBT community in society is increasing, visibility of LGBT history is unfortunately not.  Bayard Rustin should be a household name.  While the Stonewall Riots are generally lauded as the birth of the gay rights movement, fewer know of the riots at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco in August 1966, or that the first recorded queer sit- in actually took place in 1965 at Dewey’s, a coffee shop and lunch counter in Philadelphia:

 According to an article by Doug Ireland from In These Times,  

“The establishment began refusing service to this LGBT clientele, prompting a protest rally on April 25, 1965. Dewey’s management turned away more than 150 patrons while the demonstration went on outside. Four teens resisted efforts to force them out and were arrested and later convicted of disorderly conduct. In the ensuing weeks, Dewey’s patrons and others from Philadelphia’s gay community set up an informational picket line protesting the lunch counter’s treatment of gender-variant youth. On May 2, activists staged another sit-in, and the police were again called, but this time made no arrests. The restaurant backed down, and promised “an immediate cessation of all indiscriminate denials of service.”

Unfortunately, violence against the LGBT community continues in the present day.  The 2010 gay pride parade in Belgrade, Serbia was marred by violence between police and protestors.  And in the United States, far too many gay teens have committed suicide in the past month as a result of continued bullying and harassment in schools. Sex columnist Dan Savage has launched a new advocacy campaign on YouTube called “It Gets Better,” in order to give hope to gay teens who are experiencing harassment and bullying.

From his column explaining the project:

“Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother’s property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body.   Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment at school, and gay teens are four times likelier to attempt suicide. Many LGBT kids who do kill themselves live in rural areas, exurbs, and suburban areas, places with no gay organizations or services for queer kids.  “My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas,” a reader wrote after I posted about Billy Lucas to my blog. “I wish I could have told you that things get better.”   I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.”

Nor is gay history taught in the majority of schools.  As the postcard puts it, “History has set the record a little too straight.”   For the most part, students aren’t taught that so many authors, artists, engineers, doctors, politicians, and visionaries in our society that played HUGE roles in history, both in the US and around the world, were gay.  And the only gay people we do hear about in history seem to always be the ones who died, such as Harvey Milk, or in relation to the AIDS crisis.   

As State Senator Sheila Kuehl pointed out in 2006 regarding textbooks in California, “According to the textbooks now, no gay person ever made any contribution to anything in California.”

With so much left out of textbooks and the curriculum, even in higher education, archival resources play an invaluable role in uncovering hidden histories.  The Dodd Research Center has a large collection of materials documenting gay and lesbian history in the United States.  The LGBT Studies Subject Guide has information on finding archival sources both at UConn as well as a list of repositories around the country with significant LGBT history collections.  So please do come to the archives, and discover the richness of LGBT history!

A poster announces a “Gay In” in Central Park in New York City, as part of Gay and Lesbian Pride events in 1978. Poster from the Alternative Press Collection at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut. Not to be copied or reproduced without permission.