International Human Rights
Mission: The Robert F. Kennedy Center continues his mission through domestic and international programs that help the disadvantaged and oppressed and that recognize, train and support our next generation of leaders.
Results: Educating and Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders: In 2010, the RFK Center partnered with the New York State United Teachers to launch an online human rights curriculum (Speak Truth To Power/STTP) with 31 teacher-developed lesson plans. “…in every child, is the potential for greatness…” – Robert F. Kennedy, 1965
Connecting Great Achievement with Great Potential: In late 2011, the RFK Center partnered with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union to create 16 new human rights lessons based on Nobel Peace Prize winners. In April 2012, the Nobel Peace Prize winners fanned out across the city, visiting 17 schools in Chicago that included STTP as part of their curriculum.
Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders: In 2012 and 2013, the RFK Center will work with the Washington College of Law to create a training seminar program for law school students to teach high school students about human rights. High school students will learn empathy, tolerance, and discover valuable role models. Law students will gain experience and training to better translate rights-based concepts to a diverse audience.
LGBTI Rights in Uganda: The RFK Center held meetings with members of Congress regarding LGBTI rights in Uganda. Congressman Barney Frank helped arrange an official meeting between a member of the Ugandan Parliament and one of Uganda’s only openly gay activists: Mr. Frank Mugisha. In 2011, the RFK Center partnered with Uganda activists to convince key Kenyan legal organizations to end their silence and speak out against the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Success in keeping funds available for the Gulf Coast: The RFK Center helped hundreds of New Orleans residents travel to the District of Columbia in 2006 to protest announcements that federal disaster recovery funding would soon end. Attendees met with government officials; the federal recovery funding was reinstated.
Zimbabwe: Despite the Zimbabwe Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld their right to assembly, police have continued to arrest and harass members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). The RFK Center will assist WOZA in filing a petition to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR). Recently, the RFK Center secured a $10,000 U.S. State Department grant to provide security and a new office for WOZA. In addition, the RFK Center will help digitize WOZA’s extensive handwritten archives.
Advocacy: The RFK Center continues to urge the UN to include human rights monitoring in its Western Sahara mandate. In 2010, staff members helped gather an international coalition to file a written submission to Morocco’s Universal Periodic Review. The RFK Center brought Aminatou Haidar to the U.S. where she met with members of the United Nations and the U.S. government in preparation for the vote on the mandate’s renewal. In June 2012, the RFK Center presented its submission to the Council in Geneva. In August 2012, Kerry Kennedy led a delegation of human rights experts to Western Sahara and Morocco. The media attention given to this mission resulted in several attempts to tamper with our website, traced back to Morocco, and a threat of kidnapping Ms. Kennedy (not substantiated).
Global advocacy efforts: Through the RFK Center’s persistent advocacy work, the U.S. State Department has called on the Dominican Republic government to end these discriminatory policies. The U.S. State Department has consulted with the RFK Center, created a federal working group, and empowered the UNHRC to open a field office in the country.
Organizing: Since 2007, the RFK Center has led a coalition of U.S.-based human rights groups working on nationality and migration rights issues in the Dominican Republic and arranged several congressional briefings, monitoring trips, and conferences. Most recently, the October 2011 Dominican Republic advocacy week enabled the U.S. government to demonstrate its public support to the cause and encourage the Dominican government to open a productive dialogue with the RFK Center’s coalition.
Cases of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú: The RFK Center works to pressure the Mexico government to transfer cases of military abuse of citizens into civilian court. In 2011, two cases such cases were successfully transferred to the civilian Attorney General’s office. In both of these cases women were raped and tortured by soldiers; the cases had languished in military jurisdiction for almost a decade. RFK Center secured a precedent-setting decision by Mexico’s supreme court giving victims of military violence the right to try their cases in civilian court.
Press coverage: The RFK Center uses its resources to bring substantial press coverage to Tlachinollan’s emblematic cases and arrange regular delegations to the area led by Kerry Kennedy.
Protection: The RFK Center pressures the state government to ensure basic protections for Tlachinollan’s work. We helped restore an office that had been closed since 2009 following to the murders of two indigenous defenders and attracted representatives from numerous embassies and NGOs to the opening. We organized the state government to provide police protection for the office during business hours.
Release from arrest: The RFK Center intervened when Mixtec human rights defender Maximino Garcia Catarino was arbitrarily imprisoned and subjected to false charges in 2012. In response to our campaign, Maximino was granted unconditional release by a Guerrero tribunal after two months of detention.
Programs: The RFK Center has a successful history of collaborations with NGOs, universities, legal clinics, and the media on behalf of oppressed communities. It has six programs, whose goals are:
o To create genuine partnerships with courageous human right activists around the world and help them achieve their goals over a six-year period (Partners for Human Rights)
o To create change by introducing students an innovative curriculum, based on courageous human rights defenders, now used by over 500,000 students worldwide (Speak Truth To Power)
o To work with fiduciaries and investors to factor human rights, environmental degradation, and governance (like corruption) concerns into their calculation of risk (Compass)
o To support investigative journalists and authors who bring light to injustice (RFK Book and Journalism Awards)
o To develop a presence in Europe for advocacy, STTP, and human rights training (RFK Europe)
o To help develop effective policy for adjudicated youth transitioning to freedom (Juvenile Justice Program)