Organized and moderated panel discussion “U.S. Drone Policy in the Mid-East: The Legal, Political and Moral Implications,” directed at the university community and wider Buffalo community. Jointly sponsored by the Buffalo Human Rights Center and the Federalist Society.
Invited guest on WGBH 89.7 Boston radio program “Action Speaks: Underappreciated 20th Century Dates that Changed America,” with host Marc Levitt. Taped before a live audience at the AS220 in Providence, R.I. The “underappreciated date” for discussion was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1944 Second Bill of Rights Speech, in which he proclaimed a long list of core economic, social and cultural rights — the rights to health, adequate housing, fair wages and working conditions, education, and an adequate standard of living — as rights that were “expected” by the American people and which Congress had the duty to implement through prompt legislative action. Why these rights seem so foreign to public interest mobilization, politics, and advocacy in the U.S. today was a primary point of discussion.
Organized a city-wide event on “Bringing the Women’s Human Rights Treaty to Buffalo: Implementing CEDAW Locally,” designed to grow a local initiative to create a city-based monitoring and accountability system to implement CEDAW’s human rights commitments locally, following the example of a growing number of cities nation-wide. CEDAW, the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is an international human rights treaty, ratified by 187 of 193 United Nations member states worldwide, that creates an important set of principles-driven framework obligations for addressing gender-based discrimination in all areas of public and private life, including employment, wages, job security, public safety, child-care, domestic violence and reproductive health. Participants included Karen Mulhauser, Chair of the United Nations Association-USA, and driver behind the national and Washington-based “Cities for CEDAW” movement; Sawrie Becker, Chair of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women; Mary Travers Murphy, Executive Director of the Family Justice Center; Alyssa Weiss, Chief of Staff to Buffalo Common Councilmember Michael LoCurto; and a wide range of other women’s rights advocates and activists from throughout the Buffalo community. The response was remarkable; it was agreed that Cities for CEDAW in Buffalo was not only a good idea, but a necessary initiative. Participants committed to form a steering committee to begin the launch of a campaign to get Buffalo city government to adopt a CEDAW ordinance, with binding annual audit and reporting requirements on the gender impacts of city policies, drawing from the example of San Francisco and Los Angeles, yet tailored to the unique needs of Buffalo, N.Y. This effort will be taken forward over the 2015-2016 academic year, although important strategic advocacy initiatives before the Buffalo Common Council have been underway over the past months, including initiatives to transform the current Commission on Citizens’ Rights and Community Relations into a genuine Commission on Human Rights for the City of Buffalo, the latter being able to serve as the institutional monitoring umbrella for the CEDAW Task Force.
Engaged in advocacy, lobbying, letter-writing and provision of testimony before Buffalo Common Council to win a line-item in the city budget for participatory budgeting (PB). PB, adopted in thousands of cities around the world, is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with government to make budget decisions that affect their lives. Although $1 million was originally sought, on May 19, 2015, $150,000 was approved in budget negotiations to fund a pilot program on participatory budgeting. A PB Steering Committee (on which I sit) was established, and efforts are now underway to organize and implement this pilot program in the Masten District over the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and hence open the way to a city-wide participatory budgeting program for the following fiscal year. Students have been engaged in lobbying for PB in Buffalo and will be encouraged to participate in the Assemblies for idea generation.
Provided testimony to the New York Wage Board, impaneled by Governor Andrew Cuomo, to recommend a new minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York, on why an increase to $15/hr, indexed to consumer price increases, is required under the legal “adequacy” standard for “health and livelihood” under New York’s Labor Law. In so doing, provided a narrative account of the legal standards envisioned under “minimum” or “living” wage laws in U.S. and international labor history.
Provide testimony and background materials to the Legislative Committee of the Buffalo Common Council on the need for the creation of a new Office of Public Advocate and an independent Human Rights Commission for the City of Buffalo. Engage in advocacy and public awareness-raising around the initiative, and assist in drafting Council resolution and legislation on the need to transition the current Commission on Citizen’s Rights and Community Relations into a stronger, more independent Human Rights Commission, with a broader, more inclusive and more participatory mandate. Students have been involved in providing testimony, gathering background materials and comparative experiences, and will be involved in a broader lobbying campaign over the coming year.
Participated as an invited expert in a two-day experts’ workshop at the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts (ICourts) at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, on the three major regional human rights systems in the world: the European, Inter-American and African. Presented solicited paper on the interpretive standards used by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights in their rapidly evolving social rights jurisprudence.
Traveled to Nepal to provide trainings to Nepali judicial authorities and public health officials on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and comparative national experiences with implementing its provisions on non-discrimination, health rights and living in the community on an equal basis with others (including through judicial and quasi-judicial decisions). Other trainings were offered directly to persons with physical, sensory and psycho-social disabilities on the CRPD and strategies for its effective enforcement. See full description of workshops here.
Presented in annual meeting and continuing legal education (CLE)-credit event of the Bringing Human Rights Home (BHRH) Lawyers’ Network at Skadden Arps Law Firm in New York City, titled “Engaging with the Inter-American Human Rights System for U.S. Advocacy” to over 200 lawyers and advocates. Co-sponsored by Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Robert F. Kennedy Partners for Human Rights, International Justice Resource Center, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the University of Pennsylvania Transnational Legal Clinic.
The Judicial Exchange and Study Academy — Academia de Intercambio y Estudios Judiciales (AIEJ) — develops judicial training programs in many areas, including the values of judicial independence and work efficiency for judges, prosecutors, advocates and court staff in Latin America. Since 2013, I have presented trainings on the Inter-American Human Rights System to the 35-40 judges from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru who have participated in the annual program at SUNY Buffalo Law School. The Latin American judges include jurists working in civil and criminal courts, appeals courts and labor courts. The AIEJ was founded in 2010 and is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.