Archive for development

Opinion: 4 ways to bring human rights into development work (via APSIA)

We’re resharing this post by the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), originally posted here.

APSIA brings leading graduate schools around the world which specialize in international affairs – including SIPA! We’ll be at the APSIA graduate fairs in Madrid, Paris and London this week. If you’re in the area, come meet SIPA admissions and find out more about an advanced career in public policy and international affairs.

4 ways to bring human rights into development work

Seventy years ago, the world laid out a common standard of fundamental rights for all people, which they said should be universally defended.

Now, the global environment is shifting. Nations that once led the way in promoting cross-border protections are retrenching. Scandals undercut major international development agencies when they fail to uphold these sentiments. Meanwhile, corporations — once vilified for their behavior — are building human rights into their work.

“Human rights touches every aspect of a company’s operations,” Margaret Jungk, managing director for human rights at Business for Social Responsibility, said in 2016. Today, corporations such as Facebook see “the responsibility [they] have to respect the individual and human rights of the … global community” — and hire accordingly, as stated in a recent job vacancy at the social media network.

Incorporating human rights into development work may require you to consider national politics, social media, sexual discrimination, and everything in between. To successfully navigate a new public, private, and nonprofit development landscape, four traits will be critical.

1. Context is key

Just as in broader questions of global development, human rights considerations are rarely clear-cut. Context matters. Are you trained to understand the economic, political, social, cultural, and historical factors at play? Can you identify the forces influencing a situation? Are you qualified to perform proper due diligence?

“Human rights work has to be focused within the contexts where development is playing out,” said Francisco Bencosme, Asia-Pacific advocacy manager at Amnesty International.

“In Myanmar, an entrenched system of apartheid can change the analysis of a seemingly positive housing project. [For example, under] the guise of development for Rakhine State, we have in the past seen new homes constructed for ethnic minorities on top old homes that used to belong to the Rohingya. It is these kind of development practices that need to take human rights contexts into account,” Bencosme said.

Seek out educational and professional opportunities that develop a flexible framework for evaluating decisions. One size will not fit all.

Mark Maloney, vice dean at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, explained: “Adaptability is a key skill … [one] even more important in humanitarian work because the stakes can be considerably higher when things go wrong.”

“For that reason, understanding the context, including relationships within and between parties, is a fundamental skill we try to develop through our Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action” he added. “This skill also maximizes the likelihood that our graduates will make the ‘right decision at the right moment’ when undertaking action on the ground.”

2. Be ‘client-ready’

Development professionals must tailor their work to many constituencies.

Have you practiced framing a discussion to make sense to diverse groups? Have you learned to persuade people while recognizing their different needs? Do you have the credentials to make people listen to what you have to say?

Learn to write and present arguments in clear, concise, and compelling ways. Work to improve your cross-cultural competencies. Expand proficiency in different languages. Look for opportunities to get close to the communities you want to serve, as well as to the funders, governments, and companies working on the ground.

“The human rights framework brings a human-centered analysis to the work of development professionals,” said Barbara Frey, director of the human rights program at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“This analysis starts with the question: Who is the rights bearer and who is the duty bearer in a situation? [It] tests how the consequences of actions can help or harm the clients [you] seek to serve.”

3. Develop connections

Access to individuals and information is critical to getting the job done.

With whom have you cultivated connections? From whom can you get critical information? Have you developed academic and professional networks to open doors?

Maintain relationships throughout your career via social media and in-person ties. Seek the counsel of former classmates, professors, or colleagues. Look for undergraduate or graduate schools with close ties to the field.

For example, students at the International Human Rights Center at Korea University’s Graduate School of International Studies incorporate concern for human rights into a wide range of activities. They build networks, workshops, and symposia in partnership with Human Asia, a human rights NGO in South Korea. According to the school, these opportunities prepare students to “serve as productive members of their organizations and to play leadership roles in the international community.”

4. Character is destiny

Easy answers do not always present themselves.

Are you bold enough to choose the difficult route? Can you withstand criticism from naysayers who cannot or will not envision anything beyond the status quo? Do you know how to rejuvenate your spirit when things look bleak?

“Forces larger than yourself will make you face some tough moral choices,” said Reuben Brigety, dean of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. From his time at Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department, he has counseled young professionals to realize that “your character is your destiny. Have courage!”

To succeed at the intersection of human rights and development, you must ask good questions. Tailor your approach; build diverse networks; and, cultivate an internal moral compass to navigate the changing human rights and global development landscape.

what’s happening at SIPA next week

SIPA events are held each week but it begins to slow down around now as students get ready for exams and the winter break.  Events will be back in full swing in January.  But to keep you engaged for another week, below are some upcoming events at SIPA.  Guests are welcomed.



A New World of Migration and Development: A Discussion with Ambassador William Swing

12:00 pm to 1:15 pm, International Affairs Building, Room 1512

A discussion with Ambassador William Swing.  Moderated by Professor Michael Doyle.

Sponsor: Columbia Global Policy Initiative, Center on Global Governance at Columbia Law School



Augmented Humanity, Drones, Self-Driving Cars, Furbys, and Robot Politics: Freedom and Security in the Robotics Age

12:15 pm to 2:00 pm, International Affairs Building, Room 1302

Camille François, Visiting Scholar, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and moderator Sean Lonergan, Captain, US Army and Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, Columbia will debate current research and discuss freedom and security in the robotics age.

Sponsor: Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies



Jamesian Precisions in Natsume Soseki: Contending with Light and Dark

6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Kent Hall, Room 403

Lecture with John Nathan, Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. No registration required.

Sponsor: Weatherhead East Asian Institute


The Seminar on Modern Europe

4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Fayerweather Hal, Room 302

We will also host our last seminar of the semester with Anton Hemerjick, Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. He will discuss fault lines in European social models and will address the current Euro crisis, welfare reform, and the future of affordable social investment.

Sponsor: Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies



Development Workshop: Stelios Michalopoulos

4:15 pm to 5:45 pm, International Affairs Building, Room 1101

As part of Columbia University’s Fall 2013 Development Workshop, Stelios Michalopoulos, Assistant Professor of Economics at Brown University, will discuss his latest work.

Sponsor: Center for Development Economics and Policy



Diversity Symposium: Public Policy: A Global Prospective

12:00 pm to 7:00 pm, International Affairs Building, Kellogg Center

SIPA Alumni panel and SIPA student led policy roundtable discussions.  Please RSVP.

Sponsor: SIPA Admissions & Financial Aid Office


Click here to see more events on the SIPA Calendar.


Think EPD is your thing?

What does it actually mean to do development at SIPA?

Would you like to work in developing countries? Are you interested in improving people’s quality of life and access to resources?

If you think this is your “thing” then Economic and Political Development (EPD) is your concentration. This is one of the six policy concentrations offered at SIPA and the largest one with almost 250 students. Through this program, students are prepared for careers in international development through classes and projects that provide them with an understanding of the processes of economic, political, and social change in the developing world.

Having said that, we know development is a broad concept and it might entail completely different tasks, especially in the work field. You could be doing anything from consulting on a microfinance project in Uganda to working in a gender equality campaign with the UN Women in Peru. Taking into account the number of options and different realities in the developing world, how does SIPA focus its EPD program and who are the so-called “EPDers” (students who pursue this concentration)?

One of the unique aspects of the program is that, along with the economic and political requirements, it allows you to choose one of the four professional tracks: economic development, political development, social development or sustainable development. The goal of these tracks is to help you navigate and narrow your interests in the world of development so you have a better idea of the type of work you would like to do afterwards. In terms of classes, they are focused on technical skills, like design and implementation of projects, and in analysis of the political, social and economic realities of developing countries. Another key part of the program is the Capstone Project (final graduation project), which allows you to work with an actual client anywhere in the world, develop and execute a development project and yes, travel to the field to see it.

We, the EPDers, are as heterogeneous and diverse as it gets; with students from all countries and backgrounds. You could be coming from the developing field, or trying to enter it, there is a place for everybody. Our faculty is comprised by top leaders in the field, one example being the Director of the Program Jose Antonio Ocampo. Additionally, we have access to resources focused on development issues like  The Center on Economic Governance, the student led Columbia Partnership for International Development and the Microfinance Working Group.

the flexibility (and foundation) of human rights and humanitarian policy

The Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration (HRHPC) provides a unique perspective into today’s moral normative framework affecting international politics and policies, to the extent that these are driven by a human rights value system.  Engaging issues of international security, development, and social justice, a rights-based perspective increasingly informs the work of international organizations and agencies, as well as politicians and policy analysts.  Thus, HRHPC focuses on conceptual, rights-based issues that shape public action.  It prepares students for careers within governments, international organizations, corporations, community organizations, as well as national and global NGOs.  The field is diverse, and this is reflected in the areas where graduates work: those specializing in human rights policy may address issues such as education, security, corporate social responsibility, economic development, and social justice; those who choose the humanitarian policy track may also find themselves engaged in advocacy, relief operations, or post-conflict recovery programs, often working in fragile states.

The concentration benefits from the proximity of some of the world’s most prominent human rights institutions, especially the United Nations (e.g., the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with its strong investigative and normative capacities, as well as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and the UN programs and agencies bringing human rights into the practice of relief and development, such as UNICEF, UNDP, and UNFPA.  Then, New York hosts several leading relief and advocacy NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, MSF, the International Rescue Committee, Care International, AIUSA, Human Rights First, Open Society, the International Center for Transitional Justice, Witness, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). All these provide ample opportunities for research and for networking, and that, in turn, facilitates internships, junior consultancies, and ultimately job openings.  Moreover, many of the concentration’s practitioners and adjunct faculty are drawn from this pool of knowledge and experience.

The Humanitarian Policy Track is widely recognized as a leader in its field, with a focus on the policies and practices of the major humanitarian actors represented in New York. It is unique among academic humanitarian programs by emphasizing human rights as a normative framework. The current trend in the humanitarian community is moving away from a stand-alone approach (i.e. neutrality, independence, and impartiality) to a rights-based approach, linked closely to early recovery and peace-building strategies. These ties in with humanitarian action in the context of long-term recovery and restoration of rights.

The HRHP Concentration offers a rigorous program combining analytical and skills-based training, including classes on diverse topics such as International Human Rights Law; Human Rights Skills & Advocacy; Gender, Globalization and the Human Rights of Women; History & Reconciliation; Conflict Resolution; Peacekeeping/Peacemaking; Business and Human Rights; Labor Rights; Human Rights & Development; Understanding Complex Emergencies; Managing Complex Emergencies; Psycho-social Impact of Complex Emergencies; and Education in Emergencies.  There is an option to complete a dual degree program with the Mailman School of Public Health’s Forced Migration program.

The flexibility of the HRHP concentration encourages students to frame their intellectual and professional interests, delving into any number of these.  The faculty combines both scholarly and practitioner perspectives, often drawn from the ranks of the many organizations in the city.

HRHPC students also benefit from Columbia’s rich and diverse offering in human rights outside of SIPA, including among others the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), the Law School, Mailman School of Public Health, School of Social Work, and the School of Journalism.  There are numerous events outside the classrooms, including the opportunity to meet with many global activists in intimate settings.  In addition the concentration provides opportunities for students to develop their own interests through student working groups, off-campus activities, and meetings with alumni.

Students participate in Capstones, which enable them to gain experience working in diverse projects and with diverse clients globally.  HRHPC students can also choose to take part in the EPD Workshops. Each year, a group of students is selected to participate in a humanitarian crisis simulation, conducted by the European Union’s Network on Humanitarian Action, and hosted by the University of Bochum, Germany. These exceptional opportunities provide both stimulating learning experience and often networking possibilities.  The concentration offers many other simulations and practicums, which provide additional opportunities to bridge the analytical with the experiential knowledge, which is so critical for the field and for becoming a successful practitioner.

Development Boy

One of the most beloved SIPA traditions is SIPA follies, an annual variety show put on by second year students poking fun at life at SIPA. Some of the skits are scandalous that they are never put online! (#WishIwaskidding). One skit that DID make it on to the internet (and go viral) was Development Boy, a light hearted parody of SIPA’s lauded MDP (MPA-DP) Program to the tune of Estelle’s American Boy.

You too can enjoy it here!



"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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