Global Studies at the United Nations
Bryant University students traveled to the United Nations in NYC to attend a special session on the Right to Science. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a UN document created in 1948, after World War II, provides a template for member countries to address human rights violations.
Even after seventy years in existence, however, many of the rights in the Declaration do not have clear guidelines on the best means to protect each right globally. The UN meeting attended by Bryant students continued a dialogue on the best content of the "General Comment" that the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights is currently developing and that, once approved by the Committee in 2019, will establish the authoritative interpretation of the Right to Science.
After the session, the GS faculty and students went to Human Rights Watch to hear a smaller session with legal and scientific experts on the way forward for the Right to Science. Human Rights Watch is a leading organization in documenting and raising concern over global human rights violations. The meeting at their offices provided an open session on the Right to Science where different organizations, scholars, as well as the rapporteur for the United Nations General Observatory on Science, Technology, and Human Rights, Mikel Mancisidor, could speak about the best ways forward for this right. The meetings focused on how to build an international coalition in support of the Right to Science, which, in conjunction with the approval of the General Comment, would advocate for raising the profile of this under-appreciated right.
Both the meeting at the United Nations and the law firm of Reed Smith showed the significance of defining key ideas. While the UN committee attempted to develop a comprehensive interpretation of the Right to Science, the awesome task of establishing guidelines that could be agreed upon by a majority of member countries illustrates the many challenges that lay ahead. Similarly, the effort to defining the meaning of social impact funds, which could operate globally, shows the importance of clearly thinking through the meaning of ideas meant to benefit a broad array of individuals, communities, and countries.
Overall, students greatly benefitted from the trip to NYC. Even though the conversation occasionally proved technical or challenging, the students could appreciate the importance of these sessions. Global Studies major Alyse Beauchemin stated, "This trip allowed me to have a taste of international policy making I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else." The trip also demonstrates the significance of the Global Studies programs as it sets out to prepare students to be a part of these exciting developments and cultural movements.
The Bryant students were the only invited college students at the special session. Professor Andrea Boggio (Legal Studies) spoke at the meeting about establishing an index that could document and track the successful implementation of laws meant to protect the Right to Science. The fruitful discussion on human rights, science, and ways to allow all people to benefit from scientific innovation pushed the UN Committee toward useful developments in exploring this right. Importantly, however, many agreed that the process of defining the Right to Science would take time given the breadth and possible meanings of Article 27. Global Studies major Jenny Mitchell described the experience: "It was wonderful to be able to see the inner workings of the UN, and to see how these policies and actions come to be."
After the meeting at Human Right Watch, the students traveled uptown to the law offices of Reed Smith. The meeting included a discussion about incorporating social impact with private and public equity funds. According to Parikshit Dasgupta, a partner at Reed Smith, many private law firms want to establish and generate funds that support organizations that have a social impact. The issue at hand includes defining social impact. As Dasgupta stated, many companies and organizations can claim that they have a social impact even if their impact is minimal. Setting some standard or establishing guidelines, therefore, becomes necessary in order to avoid watering down the significance of a social impact fund.
The group that traveled to the UN included Professors Alex Perullo, Andrea Boggio, and Katie Alidadi (pictured at left) and Global Studies students Claire Gracia, MiaLynne Park, Jenny Mitchell, and Alyse Beauchemin.
If you are interested in learning more about the Right to Science or the trip to the United Nations, please contact us. Hopefully, we will be able to report on and attend future sessions a the United Nations.