Accountability Counsel Internships

One of the premier human rights law firms in the country – Accountability Counsel – is looking for students and recent graduates interested in international law, human rights, accountability, dispute resolution, complex negotiations, environmental justice, corporate accountability, women’s rights, and/or international development.

Accountability Council:

assists communities around the world to defend their environmental and human rights. …

and seeks to

hold corporate and institutional violators accountable through our dual approaches: direct support to communities and policy advocacy.

The organization in particular works on behalf of people and communities harmed by internationally-financed projects through community driven and policy level strategies to access justice.

The following opportunities are now open for our Fall 2016 unpaid Fellow and Intern Programs:

  • Law Fellow – San Francisco – 2L and 3L law students or recent law school graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • South Asia Law Fellow – Washington, D.C – 2L and 3L law students or recent law school graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • Policy Fellow – Washington, D.C. – law students, graduate students currently studying policy and/or another related field, or recent graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • Data Analyst Fellow – San Francisco – graduate students and recent graduates (within one year of graduation) in a related field of data or statistics.
  • Communications & Operations Intern – San Francisco – undergraduate students or recent graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • Data Intern – San Francisco – undergraduate students or recent graduates (within one year of graduation).

Any interested students/recent graduates should consult the website for more information.  To apply, students must complete an online application form.

Telling Places with Georgian IDPs

Photograph of Georgian IDP camp, copyright Hannah Mintek, 2010.

Telling Places with Georgian IDPs

Although it created new opportunities for many Soviet peoples, the end of Soviet rule also left many wounds unhealed, while creating new traumas. In the Caucasus, the post-Soviet decades were marked by frequent bloody conflict, from Chechnya to Nagorno-Karabakh to Abkhazia. Wars raged among Georgians, Russians, Ossetians, Chechens, Ingush, and Abkhazians over borders that had been contested since the advent of Soviet rule, if not earlier.

In the Republic of Georgia, one upshot of over two decades of violence is the nearly 300,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who now reside a country with a total population of 4.6 million. How can these IDPs be integrated into Georgian society, and move on with their lives, given all the damage that has been inflicted by war and the fact that many of them still lack permanent homes? How, in short, do people build new lives after catastrophe?

A new project I am organizing with geographer Elizabeth Dunn of Indiana University, “Telling Places: Forced Migration and Spatial Memory in the Caucasus,” seeks a partial resolution to the emotional upheavals of the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. In partnership with Georgian NGOs and Georgian scholars, we will use digital mapping technologies (GIS) to create a resource that will be eventually managed by IDPs. This resource will provide a transferable technology usable by IDP communities around the world seeking to reconstruct their lives.

We are calling this resource a ‘convening point’ rather than a website, given the degree of interactivity we envision. The Telling Places convening point will interactively map the villages from which IDPs were ethnically cleansed, and keep the pasts these villages represent for IDPs alive in digital form. As a spatially-organized multi-media repository, Telling Places will gather interviews, video, and writings by IDPs with the family documents and maps that IDPs have preserved during their displacement. This resource will help IDPs rebuild their attachments to their home villages and preserve their memories for future generations.

 

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The World Cup Spotlight: (The Lack of) Women in Charge

(see previous posts in this series herehere, here, here, and here)

Plenty of issues plagued the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) before and during the Women’s World Cup earlier this month. From field conditions to unequal prize money to FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s absence from the final game for the first time in twenty years, it seemed that each day brought negative attention to international soccer’s governing body.

Of course, these issues are just symptoms of a bigger problem: the corruption that has permeated FIFA for years. Various groups, including the U.S. and Swiss governments, are now taking a closer look at how the nonprofit FIFA functions. The U.S. Department of Justice issued indictments for fourteen FIFA officials in May of this year; the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing today on the governance and integrity of international soccer.

Isha Johansen (photo credit)

Isha Johansen
(photo credit)

What hasn’t been mentioned much, if at all, is the lack of female representation at FIFA and in international soccer generally. The FIFA Congress, which elects the President, approves the annual report, and elects the members of the Executive Committee, is made up of representatives of the affiliated member associations. Of the 209 associations, only Sierra Leone (Isha Johansen) and Turks & Caicos (Sonia Bien Aime) have women occupying the position of association president.

Sonia Bien Aime (photo credit)

Sonia Bien Aime
(photo credit)

Lydia Nsekera (photo caption)

Lydia Nsekera
(photo credit)

The main decision making body at FIFA is the Executive Committee, which is made up of the president, eight vice presidents, fifteen appointed members, and one female member elected by the FIFA Congress. Currently, the Executive Committee includes only three women:

Moya Dodd (photo credit)

Moya Dodd
(photo credit)

  • Lydia Nsekera (Brundi) – Member
  • Sonia Bien Aime (Turks & Caicos) – Member
  • Moya Dodd (Australia) – Co-opted Member for special tasks

In an era where the Women’s World Cup broke viewing records and where some people posit that FIFA would be less corrupt of there were more women at the helm, FIFA and the 209 soccer associations could stand to reevaluate the level of female participation in the governance of the world’s most popular sport, and how women might be able to turn the current corrupt structure around.

On the Job! American Red Cross hiring an IHL Legal Advisor

The American Red Cross (ARC) International Services Department (ISD) is hiring a Legal Advisor in the area of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Summary

The Legal Advisor will work as part of the IHL team where he/she will teach an IHL CLE/professional course; assist with research, writing and analysis on IHL and conflict-related issues; and will support the team in complementing and revising educational materials on IHL to highlight the contemporary relevancy of humanitarian issues. Knowledge of international humanitarian law required and a strong interest in international issues, public international law, human rights and international relations or related fields is essential. This position will report to the Director, International Humanitarian Law.

Responsibilities

• Lead NHQ hosting of the Clara Barton IHL Competition, conferences, meetings, webinars, as required
• Organize law school workshops in key regional cities/hubs with law school partners
• Conduct research on IHL and policy-related areas and draft memoranda on relevant issues of IHL as needed for program development
• Track and identify current events and relevance to IHL and prepare updates on developments in IHL
• Draft talking points, backgrounders, potential presentation material to support our IHL networks
• Develop supplemental materials for IHL teaching materials, presentations, other events
• Attend briefings/conferences on IHL-related issues and provide updates of key points to IHL team
• Develop and foster networks for possible partnerships with actors within legal community and external audiences (law schools, faculty, professional associations, etc.)
• Assist with content and messaging for social media tools
• Supervise IHL legal interns
• Support the IHL CLE/professional training courses, as needed
• Perform other job-related duties, as assigned.

For more information and to apply, please visit https://www.americanredcross.apply2jobs.com/ProfExt/index.cfm?fuseaction=mExternal.showJob&RID=56011&CurrentPage=1.

Ketamine under international law

Psychoactive substances or ‘drugs’, often associated with recreational use, are in fact commonly used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It is even less understood that the supply of more than 100 of these drugs is regulated by a complex system of international drug control underpinned by three United Nations treaties with near universal ratification. This post explores the relationship of drugs and international law, specifically international drug control law and international human rights law, using the topical example of placing ketamine under international control.

International drug control law

The legal framework of international drug control is shaped by three treaties: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic or Psychotropic Substances. Scheduling is the process established by the treaties to bring certain psychoactive substances under a graded scale of international control. Scheduling a substance creates positive obligations for States to implement regulatory processes that meet or exceed requirements established by the treaties. In some overburdened health systems, this can lead to over-restrictive controls that inhibit medical access to essential drugs, well documented in the case of opioid analgesics.

Uses of ketamine

Ketamine’s unique properties make it one of the most important and widely used drugs in emergency and surgical medicine globally.   Where most anaesthetics require electricity for ventilators and gas masks, ketamine—an injectable anaesthetic—can be safely administered in settings without regular access to power, for example, war zones or impoverished rural areas. The analgesic properties of ketamine make its use during emergency surgery, such as for caesarean sections, indispensible for improving mortality outcomes in less-developed countries throughout the Global South. It is because of these properties that the World Health Organisation (WHO) placed ketamine on its list of essential medicines for both children and adults.

Outside of clinical settings, ketamine is used recreationally, although such use is mainly in more developed countries. China, in particular, views the illicit production of ketamine as an “increasingly serious” domestic issue and has repeatedly requested the substance be subject to international control. It is with this direction from China, that ketamine has made its foray onto the international legal stage.

Scheduling ketamine under international law

Established in 1946 by ECOSOC, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) serves as the principal policy-making body of the UN drug control system and under the three drug control treaties, it is mandated to oversee the scheduling system. China is currently one of 53 members of the CND, and is authorised under the treaties—in the case of ketamine, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances—to introduce substances of concern for scheduling consideration.  Procedurally, article 2 of the 1971 Convention requires the CND to submit scheduling recommendations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for an evidence-based review to determine if the substance meets the criteria elaborated under article 2(4) to require scheduling (or not) and its degree of restriction under the graded scheduling system. Under article 2(5) of the 1971 Convention, the WHO’s recommendations are “determinative” when it comes to the “medical and scientific” basis for adding substances to a schedule.

This is not the first time China has requested ketamine be scheduled. The WHO’s review this year and each time before (see here and here) determined the public health risks associated with recreational use did not merit any measure of scheduling. The conclusive nature of this recommendation under the 1971 Convention has been subject to much interpretative debate. The current prevailing interpretation has placed the status of such a recommendation within broader considerations such as “economic, social, legal, [and] administrative” factors listed in article 2(5).

What this interpretation signals is that despite WHO’s determinative assessment that ketamine does not meet the criteria for scheduling under article 2(4), its scheduling may now be subject to a purely political process (a two-thirds vote by the CND would place ketamine under international control).

The control of ketamine and international human rights law

The impact the control of ketamine has upon human rights is a critical consideration. While human rights are not explicitly mentioned in the 1971 Convention, they are contained within the meaning of “legal” considerations as written in article 2(5), which States must take into account when deciding to add a substance to a schedule.

As mentioned previously, scheduling a substance creates regulatory barriers that have made essential medicines completely inaccessible for those most in need. These barriers result in on-going violations of human rights—most notably the right to health. The normative scope and content of the right is contained within article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and imposes upon States core obligations to be given immediate effect. General Comment 14 on the right to health elaborates further that amongst this minimum core is the obligation to provide medicines as indicated on the WHO’s essential medicines list. As such, ensuring ketamine is available, accessible, acceptable, and of sufficient quality forms part of a State’s core right to health obligations.

Should ketamine fall under the scope of international control, any restrictive measures a State subsequently imposes cannot interfere with current levels of access. The imposition of international control requirements would in many States, restrict current levels of access to ketamine and amount to a deliberate retrogressive action in violation of the right to health. This is relevant to any scheduling level under the 1971 Convention. While Schedule 1 imposes the most restrictive control measures, States can apply equally or more restrictive measures for any schedule level under article 23. As such, the same human rights assessment would apply as States with less complex regulatory systems often lump controls into one or two highly restrictive categories—see the example of phenobarbital, a Schedule 4 drug under the 1971 Convention.

As the vote fast approaches, a human rights framework offers States a powerful normative counterweight to the political pressure they face to place ketamine—an essential, life-saving medicine—under unnecessary international control.

Visit the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy for more resources.

Daily updates from the CND can be found here.

Will the World Bank cut back on social, environmental and human rights protections?

This week, the World Bank holds its annual meeting. Amid the delegates rushing in and out, the Bank is expected to discuss a number of organizational changes ushered in by President Jim Yong Kim. As usual, a large number of civil society events critical of the Bank are planned, including a protest outside the Bank’s headquarters. This year, the protests have a specific focus: backsliding on the Bank’s commitment to environmental, social and human rights safeguards in Bank-financed projects.

Ever since the 1970s, affected communities and activists have complained that some development projects, despite the promise of raising living standards or incomes, have done more harm than good. Starting with the Narmada Dam in the late 1980s, communities began targeting financing of these projects by international financial institutions (IFIs). Pressure to avoid or minimize these harmful collateral effects has over the last quarter century led to an expanding set of guidelines, operational procedures (OPs), and impact assessment requirements for IFIs. These were joined over time by monitoring and redress mechanisms of various sorts, all aimed at improving the quality and outcomes of projects and programs as well as avoiding controversy, bad publicity and legal challenges from dissatisfied local communities or workers. For example, in 1993 the World Bank created the Inspection Panel; the regional development banks soon after created their own accountability mechanisms. The World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, created a Compliance Advisor Ombudsman; the US Overseas Private Investment Center has an Office of Accountability.

In all these cases, the performance of the lender is measured against a set of internal guidelines and operating procedures. The most common complaints involve failure to do an adequate environmental and social assessment, or to comply with involuntary resettlement rules and those involving indigenous peoples. Other current safeguards involve dam safety, pesticides, and cultural heritage. In 1997, the World Bank grouped ten Operational Policies as specific safeguard policies – six environmental, two social, and two legal policies.[1]

The safeguards system for IFIs created in the 1980s is being pulled in two directions. On the one hand, growing lending in infrastructure and natural resource-related sectors has made it even more imperative that those providing the funding have some way of assessing, and avoiding or reducing, harmful effects on local communities, water and land. In particular, investments in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects in countries with tropical forests have raised concerns that indigenous and forest communities will be the losers in a global market for forest carbon. To the extent that other actors, especially multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, fund similar projects, they become subject to the same pressures. Indeed, UNDP and several bilateral aid agencies now have – or are developing – their own safeguards. Combined with this, social, environmental and human rights assessment and monitoring, and accountability for unanticipated effects of private as well as public projects is becoming a key demand of civil society in forums ranging from the negotiation of the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Businesses, private banks and bilateral aid agencies are all, to one degree or another, developing their own safeguard, assessment, and due diligence systems.

On the other hand, the IFIs have to contend with the rise of new financial and political actors.   Sovereign wealth funds and Chinese and Brazilian development banks now provide alternative sources of development project finance, often without any environmental or human rights strings attached. According to the Economist, these banks’ lending “already dwarfs the $52.6 billion the World Bank disbursed last year. In 2013 BNDES of Brazil doled out $88 billion. Its Chinese equivalent made loans worth $240 billion.” (“An Acronym with Capital,” July 19, 2014) Last July, the BRICS countries created a New Development Bank (NDB) and Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) as potential alternatives to the World Bank and IMF. The NDB has an initial capital of $50 billion and the CRA of $100 billion. The Bank must figure out how to compete in this new landscape.

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The World Cup Spotlight (Introduction)

By now, Brazil’s lack of adequate preparation for the World Cup soccer tournament is well documented (see here, here, and here, among others). As the month-long competition kicks off tomorrow, it is likely that roads, transit lines, and stadiums throughout Brazil will still be under construction. Yet, insufficient infrastructure is but one of the myriad issues that may potentially plague this and other World Cups. Legal-political issues such as sex trafficking, forced migration, slavery, questions about the amount of public money spent on this quadrennial event, and national security concerns all threaten to mar the glossy surface of the world’s most popular sporting event.

This series, The World Cup Spotlight, will examine some of the effects this quadrennial event has on the host country and beyond.