POL 320: Researching Issues in Human Rights DUE: Tuesday, December 1
John Jay College: Fall 2020
Prof. Andreas Karras
The purpose of this assignment is to provide for a broad overview of the topics that reflect your respective research interests. Scoping out your topic in this way is a first step towards the exploratory research that allows you to consider different questions and the hypotheses that emerge from these questions. The goal of all systematic research, in both the physical and social sciences, is to prove or disprove hypotheses.
In a different sense, imagine your assignment to be the creation of a briefing paper that you must produce for your busy boss (say a higher level government official) who needs a concise overview of the topic you are writing about. He, or she, needs something informative that can bring them “up to speed” on the topic in a hurry.
Your paper should run at least 8 full pages of text, double spaced, with 1 inch margins and a 12 point font size. The cover page and the bibliography count separately.
How I want you to put this paper together
Start with a specific incident and then move from the specific to the general. For example, start with a particular instance of violation; i.e. the killing of a particular indigenous leader who was opposing a particular set of economic interests or the violation of democratic rights in the context of a particular election. You should readily be able to find 4 newspaper articles (from a newspaper of record like the NYT, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal) about the specific incident you are honing in on. You can wriet about anything that would constitute a violation of any of the Articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights; but start with a specific violation. Consult with me as to the specificity and appropriateness of your topics.
What Article(s) of the UN Declaration of Human Rights has been violated?
What is the history specific to the incident of violation? How far back you go depends on the topic and what you want to say about it. But you needn’t go back more than 20 years on background.
What’s going on now? What are the current developments relevant to your topic? The point of giving me historical background is to provide for a deeper understanding of these current developments.
What are the broader human rights issues that are relevant to your topic?
2) Treaties, Protocols, National and International Laws, Other Agreements and Conventions:
Beyond the UN Declaration, what other laws or agreements have been violated? Start with your text book and proceed from there to other sources. Did the parties involved sign on to these agreements or give any assent to their implementation?
3) Who are the relevant political actors who are involved in your human rights controversy?
Who is the aggrieved group (or individual)? Who are the violators? Who are the parties (governments, NGO’s, media, protest movements, armed actors) who are advocating on behalf of the aggrieved group? How do these groups inter-relate? Describe how they network together to provide for a mental map of the issue arena. What are the strategies and tactics of those who are advocating on behalf of the aggrieved parties? Are the aggrieved parties doing anything themselves on their own behalf? What are their strategies and tactics?
4) What is the response of the offending private parties or governments?
How do they defend or justify their actions? How do they reframe their actions to draw attention away from human rights violations? How do they use the media to get their point across and to favorably enhance their image? What are their “damage control” strategies?
5) Litigation and/or Legislation:
Is there any human rights litigation (relevant to your topic) pending at the national level? Is there any human rights litigation pending at the international level? Has the case been taken up by a national government under the doctrine of “universal jurisdiction”? Are there any laws passed at the national level that address the violation? Are there any treaties and or conventions that have been agreed to on the international level that now constitute international law. How enforceable are these treaties and conventions (if applicable to your topic)? Are there any ministerial decrees or executive orders that were issued in response to the human rights violation that you are writing about?
How is all this playing out? Has the human rights situation of the aggrieved parties gotten better or worse as a result of the advocacy on their behalf? How can you tell? Are the outcomes measurable? As someone interested in upholding human rights, what recommendations do you have for the aggrieved group and for those advocating on their behalf? Are there, perhaps, more effective strategies and tactics that can be utilized? What should be the position of the United States in all this? What are the prospects for a successful outcome for the aggrieved group? Do you expect the human rights situation to get better or worse?
Where to Start:
The John Jay Library has an extensive data base of newpapers, periodical and academic journal articles relevant to your topic. To get initial leads, try articles in Foreign Affairs and the Economist. Also use Google and Google Scholar here at John Jay to get access to articles that are cross indexed with the Library’s data base. Also check the websites of relevant NGO’s for reports that may pertain to your topic (like the Human Rights Watch report on the NYPD/Black Lives Matter incident in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx).
Your bibliography should contain at least 10 non newspaper sources.
Cite your sources in the body of your text and also provide the full reference in your bibliography.
APA is the established style here at John Jay, but if you are more comfortable with MLA I will accept that. Make sure that you are consistent with whatever style you choose.
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