Israeli Apartheid Week 2014

Israeli Apartheid Week this year is February 24 through March 2. IAW is the annual event to educate Americans about the reality of the situation in Israel/Palestine. Some events are planned across the state include film showings and panel discussions. Since the week overlaps with the end of African American History Month, there are also events planned to celebrate both African Americans and Palestinians.Educating Americans about Israel/Palestine has always been an uphill battle. The facts have been out there, but the media, academia and government have ignored all but a single narrative. Continue Reading

Rights to water and sanitation now legally binding

On November 21, the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee (The Committee) adopted a resolution on “The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.” All U.N. member states agreed that the rights to water and sanitation are derived from the right to an adequate standard of living. As a result, these rights are now implicitly recognized as being part of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Organizers, immigrants explain October 5 march in Minneapolis

Hundreds are expected for the National March for Dignity and Respect in Minneapolis on Saturday, October 5. The City of Minneapolis permits are approved. It will start at noon from the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, and will finish at the Hennepin County Government Center with speakers from labor groups, faith organizations, immigrant communities and allies. The forecast predicts 60 percent chance of precipitation and organizers are asking attendees to plan accordingly. Organizers are excited and hopeful.FULL DISCLOSURE: Emilia Gonzalez Avalos is one of the organizers of the march.Emulating actions across the nation, the March for Dignity and Respect aims to continue the pressure on the House of Representatives to pass a comprehensive immigration reform. Continue Reading

30 years of working for dignity and justice

Thirty years ago, Sam Heins gathered a group of lawyers for a lunch meeting at Windows on Minnesota, the restaurant that then sat on the top floor of the IDS, and asked them, “Is there something that we can do as lawyers, here in Minnesota, to further the cause of human rights both here and overseas?” Continue Reading

The challenge to frame the right to food as a human right

Writing last fall in The Nation Anna Lappe makes a powerful point about why it is hard for Americans to think of the right to food as a human right. Lappe avers that “it’s extremely difficult to get the concept of the right to food across in the United States because of your constitutional tradition that sees human rights as ‘negative’ rights – rights against government – not ‘positive’ rights that can be used to oblige government to take action to secure people’s livelihoods.” Continue Reading

Working together for women’s human rights in Moldova

Chisinau, Moldova, is a place where the Soviet footprint is still visible. Stray dogs greet you at the airport. Tall, half-destroyed bloc apartments are the first buildings you see on your way into town. People live there, and lots of them, to judge from the laundry flapping out over each unfurnished balcony. The trees in the shabby but gracious old city are whitewashed from their roots up nearly three feet to encourage their growth. Most of the buildings are one or two stories in various states of disrepair, with the formerly lovely intricate stucco trim now crumbling. But I don’t let the appearance of things fool me—the people and government of Moldova are making real progress on protecting and advancing women’s rights. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | Tenzin Pelkyi: From refugee family to U of M law student

In a coffee shop full of University of Minnesota students behind glowing screens in the peak of finals weekend study hours, there is nothing outwardly remarkable about Tenzin Pelkyi. Her quiet demeanor and small stature are in stark contrast to this college senior’s accomplishments, life story and dedication to advocating for human rights of the Tibetan people and of the diaspora.As a former Tibetan refugee born in New Delhi, India who can still envision India’s yogis, monkeys and beautiful natural environment, she considers herself much like her native Minnesotan U of M classmates.“The great thing about this state is that there are a number different refugee populations here,” Pelkyi said. “With this exposure, many Minnesotans take civic engagement seriously, are aware of the larger world, and are able to think more broadly about society, racism, and education.” Pelkyi’s mother and father escaped Tibet in the 1959 Tibetan Uprising and lived in exile in India till the 1990s. In 1992, Pelkyi’s father obtained one of only 1,000 visas given to Tibetans to resettle in the United States.Minnesota has the second-largest Tibetan refugee population in the United States. Some may wonder why refugees from India, Tibet, or anywhere would come to such a cold and landlocked state as Minnesota. The Twin Cities became the largest of the settlement sites as volunteers successfully organized host families and jobs for the immigrants. Because of restrictions of the U.S. Tibetan Resettlement Project, Pelkyi and the rest of her family were not able to join her father in the United States until four years later. Human Rights ScholarshipTenzin Pelkyi won the Sullivan Ballou award this year from the University of Minnesota. Here’s what she had to say:First of all, it was really amazing and overwhelming to have the Tibetan peoples’ struggle recognized and have all my efforts toward this end read aloud to a room full of people who were as passionate as I am about human rights. Continue Reading