From Global Law to Local Justice

by Professor Hope Lewis, who co-founded the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy

It is now a standard observation: the legal academic, activist, and employment world is globalizing. U.S. Based law schools are partnering with schools in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and East Asia. LL.M. And S.J.D. Students from around the world have arrived in the U.S. To enrich classroom discussions and practice with their perspectives about the U.S. And about their home countries. Many well-prepared “domestic” lawyers will, at one time or the other, encounter clients, adversaries, partners, and issues that raise “global law” problems (i.e., International Comparative, Foreign, National Security, Immigration/Refugee/Asylum, Trade, Business Transactions, and the like). Many of our students and colleagues take advantage of our human rights program to engage in on-the-job learning in Switzerland, India, and Colombia. In addition to the wonderful opportunities for travel and exposure to other cultures, such opportunities offer the chance to hone language skills and to learn innovative problem-solving strategies. The “Bringing Human Rights Home” movement has once again stimulated U.S. Social justice activism on issues as broad-ranging as post-Katrina housing in New Orleans, misuse of force, racial discrimination, extrajudicial killings of young minority men, and violence and trafficking against girls and women with disabilities.

On this Annual Human Rights Day, marking the end of this year’s “16 Day Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence,” let us use our new-found focus on working, traveling, and “skyping” across borders as a means to strengthen understanding and let go of violence. At the very least official and systematic violence, as well as violence in the home, should never be met with impunity. As the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women recently pointed out during her visit to Northeastern, those responsible must be held to account, educational efforts must begin in early childhood, and survivors compensated through money damages, law reform, apologies, and other community-based public acknowledgments. Much good has come out of the decades old international human rights movement, but we see how much left there is to do. Law students will, no doubt, help move that work forward.

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