Graduate School


Google Creative Commons By: djipibi

The Canadian government recently opened an office of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in order to help their mining and extractive industries achieve their CSR responsibilities. Canadian mining companies have come under considerable scrutiny lately. One report, which received much attention in the global media, labeled Canadian firms among the worst in the world for their negative environmental impact and poor community relations.

As European governments continue to divest in Canadian mining firms, some argue the Canadian government ought to have stricter regulations in place to prevent negative social and environmental impacts. Historical evidence supports claims of mismanagement and shows a pattern of neglecting environmental and social impact. Activists and leaders from some of the communities where Canadian mining firms are conducting business have complained about the effects of mining on their health and contamination of the surrounding natural resources and environment, including local water supplies. Those representing the industry argue that NGO reports on firm activities are biased and exaggerate the negative impacts of their activities.

We do not have sufficient information to determine whether NGO reports on the Canadian mining industry are indeed exaggerated. However, a combination of the Canadian mining industry’s zeal to mine areas in developing countries of potential great wealth, the desire by developing nations to foster foreign direct investment in their countries, and current international and domestic laws and regulations are not sufficient to mitigate the vast negative environmental and social impacts that pervade the extractive industries.

Just me and my mustache

It’s mid-October. Baseball and midterms season. Welcome to grad-school: Take 2!

So here I am, in the library on a Thurs. night, hungry, unsure how it is already mid-October, feeling the gruel of being in the midst the ~2 weeks of midterms, wishing for warmer weather, and anxious for this weekend. This Saturday we have a double header in the Fletcher School community with the first cultural night of the year, Africana Night, followed by the school’s “official unofficial” band, Los Fletcheros’ first gig of the year!!!

But what’s really gotten me (distracted and) excited this evening is an email from the folks over at MOVEMBER. What is Movember you ask? Mustache growing + Month of November = Raising money towards and awareness of Men’s Health! Every year students at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy organize a group to grow mustaches (at school) and raise money (online) for this sweet cause. The results are filled with fun and “making fun” while addressing this important issue.

Check out the Movember site here, and consider participating in the mustache-growing extravaganza next month, or donating to a fellow chap/friend/Fletcher student who does!

Stay tuned for profiles of some of Fletcher’s Movember participants!

Hey everybody!

It’s been more than a month since…

I’ve gotten back from Cambodia.

I was basking in fun under the sun at Burning Man 2010.

I started my 2nd year at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

I’ve posted a blog on Asi es la vida.

It’s time to start writing again.

Yup. So here I am;

Ready….. begin!

In addition to irregular posts at Asi es la vida, I will now also begin irregularly blogging forThe Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Fletcher has several blogs. This summer I posted a few on “Fletcher Reflections” and I’ve since joined the “Year in the Life of….” [insert name of Fletcher student] crew of bloggers.

Here’s the first post of the (school) year…

View from a room with a view

So. Why? You might ask, did I decide I wanted to blog for The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy?

I like to think, try out, and process things out loud and with other people

I want to “work on my writing” (lifelong process people)

I wanted another (fun) form of procrastination

I have so many interesting things to tell you! (Uhhhm, you be the judge)

I really and truly love The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the experiences that it brings

I thought I might learn something new in the process

On the other hand, I didn’t start blogging for Fletcher because…

I get paid to do it and needed (another) job

I actually think you’re going to read my posts all the way through

I wanted to become famous or have future employers judge me by my blogging

I think I have spare time to read, write, rewrite, edit and perfect my posts

Now that we are clear, I’ve said it once and will say it again: If you have to come back to anywhere from an awesome, fun-filled summer, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is a fantastic place to land! It’s been wonderful being back. Everybody talks about the community at Fletcher and they are not exaggerating. The people, the places, the comeraderie, and most of all, the fun (!) that can be had while pursuing a degree in the field of international affairs, law, and diplomacy. Now that I’m settled and nestling back in, I’ll be bringing you up-to-speed on the pulse of a(nother) year in the life of… Me.

Talk to you soon ya’ll.

Cambodia to sign cooperation deal with Iran on oil

By: Reuters, August 6, 2010

Officials from Cambodia are to travel to Iran next week and the two countries will sign agreements covering cooperation in the oil sector, the foreign minister of the Southeast Asian state said on Friday.

‘Trafficked’ woman returns home

By: Phnom Penh Post, August 6, 2010

AN 18-year-old ethnic Tampuon woman from Ratanakkiri province returned home last week after neighbours allegedly took her to the capital for job training without her family’s permission. However, the woman, Leith Dauth, said yesterday that she had volunteered to go to Phnom Penh, and only decided to return to Ratanakkiri after learning that her parents disapproved of her plan to go work in Malaysia.

Photo by: Janos Kis

City police seize motorbikes

By: Tang Khyhay and Cameron Wells in Phnom Penh Post, August 3, 2010

TRAFFIC police in the capital have resumed seizing the motorbikes of helmetless drivers and those who lack side mirrors, despite the fact that the Land Traffic Law does not list vehicle confiscation as a possible punishment for such offences.

Cambodia reports 88 lightning deaths

By: TMC, August 5, 2010

Cambodian government said Thursday that 88 people, mostly in rural areas — have died of lightning strikes. Keo Vy, communication officer of National Committee of Disaster Management said that by the end of July, there were 88 people have died in lightning strikes. However, he said, the figure is still less than that in the same period last year as 110 died of lightning incidents.

Forestry, fisheries crimes lost in red tape: minister

By: Khouth Sophakchakrya in Phnom Penh Post, August 3, 2010

AGRICULTURE Minister Chan Sarun has accused courts of dragging their feet on forestry, agriculture and fisheries crimes, claiming 70 percent nationwide have not been to trial. In remarks delivered to Forestry Administration workers in Phnom Penh, a copy of which was obtained yesterday, Chan Sarun attributed the backlog to “a lack of cooperation”.

Jailed journalist reports graft

By: Chhay Channyda in Phnom Penh Post, August 3, 2010

A JAILED journalist whose Appeal Court hearing is scheduled for later this month said yesterday that he had been asked to pay US$1,000 before court officials would tell him the exact date.

Cambodia’s Struggle With Globalization

By:  Hal Hill, Jayant Menon & Chan Sopha in The Jakarta Globe, August 2, 2010

The charming riverside capital of Phnom Penh, home to about 1.5 million inhabitants, has seen a lot in its turbulent history. But arguably nothing is on the scale of its first skyscraper, the 42-floor Gold Tower now nearing completion, not to mention the university and bank complexes mushrooming throughout this ancient city.

Dam projects threaten giants of the Mekong: Conservationists

By: Ian MacKinnon, The Daily Telegraph, July 28, 2010

The survival of some of the world’s largest freshwater fish, including a giant catfish, is threatened by a series of hydroelectric dams planned for the Mekong River, a leading environmental group has warned. The construction of a particular dam in northern Laos would disrupt the migration of four of the world’s 10 largest freshwater species to crucial spawning grounds, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said.

Ask Cambodian Workers: What Good Has ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ Done?

By: Jeff Ballinger, In These Times, July 26, 2010

Tens of thousands of workers in Cambodia and Bangladesh have protested numerous times over the last ten weeks, due to expected national minimum wage adjustments (which are behind schedule); their wages are never raised through the dignified means of collective bargaining. Look back to 1998 when a prominent FLA member (Patagonia’s Kevin Sweeney) wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “We Can Work Up To a Living Wage.” So, what’s happened over the past dozen years?

From the Killing Fields, on a Mission of Truth

By: Stephen Holden, New York Times, July 29, 2010

“Enemies of the People” is another disquieting testament to the fact that ordinary individuals under extreme pressure will carry out the most monstrous crimes. If they hadn’t followed the orders of superiors, they say, they themselves would have been killed. One farmer, a Buddhist who believes in reincarnation, expresses his tormented certainty that it will be many lifetimes before he returns in human form.

CNN Hero Aki Ra Disarms Land Mines In Cambodia He Placed Decades Earlier

By: Huffington Post, July 30, 2010

Aki Ra, leader of the nonprofit Cambodian Self Help Demining team, works to make his country more safe by clearing land mines on a daily basis. He estimates that he and his team have cleared more than 50,000 land mines — some of which he planted himself.

Cocktails with Khmer Rouge killers

By: Angus MacSwan, Reuters, July 30, 2010

The sentencing of Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav this week and the forthcoming trial of former leader Khieu Samphan by a United Nations-backed court has brought renewed attention to their murderous rule of Cambodia in the 1970s — and a certain amount of satisfaction in the “international community” for its role in seeing justice done.

It’s time I give a proper introduction to what my object and purpose is  in Cambodia this summer.  Here’s an intro to the internship I’m engaged with when not out and about having fun…

Me at the Kampon Speur Court

As a part of my graduate studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy I am spending  13 weeks as a Legal Intern for International Bridges to Justice (IBJ).  IBJ is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization working to provide legal aid in Cambodia. The work of IBJ in Cambodia is threefold: 1) Ensuring that the rights of the accused are respected and providing adequate, well-trained lawyers to represent them 2) Informing the public of their rights as an accused and 3) Putting the laws that are already on the books into practice in the courts.

Some of my colleagues at IBJ, Cambodia

Another one of IBJ’s underlying goals is to eliminate the practice of torture in Cambodia. Torture is well-documented as a form of carrying out criminal investigation and extracting confessions from the accused in Cambodia and many other countries where more complex methods of investigation such as forensic science or even something as simple as fingerprinting are not the norm. The idea is that torture can be prevented or mitigated when the legal system (police, prisons, and courts) are held accountable by the presence of a lawyer representing the accused. Providing lawyers for the accused is not only a way of implementing the legal rights of Cambodian citizens and preventing torture, it is a step towards building the rule of law and strengthening the judicial system.

Courtroom in Kandal Province

The need for legal aid in a country like Cambodia where there is currently no state-sponsored legal aid system (i.e. free lawyers for those who cannot afford one) cannot be understated. Cambodian law includes provisions  that require individuals accused of a felony to be represented by a lawyer. My current understanding is, however, that without NGO-sponsored legal aid lawyers, those who are accused of  crimes (not misdemeanors) would either be tried without legal representation or continue to sit in jail waiting for a lawyer. In some countries legal aid is provided by the government.  Ideally the Cambodian government would support a government-funded legal aid system but currently they do not have the funds or capacity to do so. IBJ continues to work with the Cambodian government towards that goal. In the meantime, a couple of nonprofits like IBJ try their best to fill the gap in legal aid.

Cases (literally) stack-up at court

Working with an organization that supports a small number of lawyers in rural and urban provinces that would otherwise have zero lawyers for the poor is without a doubt a rewarding experience.  Hopefully we are also making important contribution as well. As an intern I am conscious of the balance between the time and energy that interns extract from organizations and companies (and spread beyond the organization and field after they leave) and the time and energy they contribute to that organization or company during their internship. There are five legal interns, a journalist, and a videographer interning with IBJ Cambodia this summer. Both a great presence and seemingly and occasional burden on the small Phnom Penh and rural offices.

Courtroom in Kampong Speu Province

As far as day-to-day work there is a good deal to be done. I spent much of June learning about the Cambodian legal system, the Cambodian context (historical, political, social, etc.) and about IBJ’s approach to providing legal aid, education, and overarching goals of strengthening the legal system and rule of law. In addition to helping to write funding proposals, giving English lessons to some of our Cambodian colleagues, each of the legal is paired to work with one of the IBJ lawyers. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ms. Pheak, accompanying her on prison visits and court dates to see her in action representing the accused at trials in the Kandal and Kampon Speu provinces neighboring Phnom Penh. An experiential learner at my core, I continue to learn the most from these experiences, out of which I am developing profiles and case studies of individual cases and issues that illustrate successes and areas for improvement in the legal aid system.

Ms. Pheak

There are so many elements that contribute to the creation and establishment of an independent, accountable, and sound legal system.  As I look critically and hopefully at the Cambodian legal system I continue to wonder where the crux of the complex issues lie. After the first trial I observed, I was convinced education, both basic education and educating people about the law and their rights, were the crux. I saw witnesses and family members unnecessarily scared and confused from court processes and procedures and felt it too much to expect people who have little to no education and no experience with the legal system to understand what is going on in a courtroom or to understand what their rights are even when they are explained to them if they have no context for what those rights mean and no means for exercising them. On the other hand, I know there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of uneducated, illiterate individuals around the world demanding their rights be respected and calling for fairness, justice, saying no to corruption, and working to strengthen democracy in their communities and countries.

Families talking with the accused from outside of court

Overtime I have thought the “real crux” was combating institutionalized corruption, establishing systems of accountability, continued intensive police training,, and the overall lack of lawyers in country. Of course no one crux is the problem nor the solution to these challenges. And little by little individuals working from all angles must contribute to improving their corers and cross-sections of the labyrinth.

For me at this very moment that means getting back to a questionnaire I was developing.

My favorite co-worker at the office

Happy thanksgiving weekend everyone!

This year I am especially thankful for a spontaneous life, an amazing, fun, talented, and supportive family and community of friends, the privilege to join the vibrant Fletcher community and work towards a graduate degree in Law and Diplomacy, and last but not least, the most delicious, nutritious thanksgiving meal ever, falling just behind my mom’s annual spread.

Shout out to Baby Ace for partying like a rockstar on his first thanksgiving on earth with mom, dad, and the “R Street Hunnies Family Night Crew”!

Back in Boston the weather’s chilly and rainy, and starting to feel more like winter.  Thought I’d share some fall foliage and fun snapshots before the snow starts to stick.

The first few are from an annual fall festival called Honk!Fest – groups of “activist bands” – mostly horns, playing in the squares all weekend and marching from Davis Square through Somerville to Harvard Square in Cambridge on a gorgeous fall day in October.

Honkfest comes to Somerville

Honk!fest comes to Somerville!

Each year Honk!festers set the Davis neighborhood afire with their shiny, bold brass and the sounds of horns honking throughout the streets.  I spent one perfect fall day off the grad school grid to follow the Honk! festival, enjoying the May Day -esque celebration, watching parade of political puppetry and listening to the activist brass bands.

Stick it to me baby: Health Care!

Stick it to me baby: Health Care!

Carrying the dead

Funky Brass-town

Funky Brass-town

Get it girl!

Kanye West Makes Appearance at HonkFest

Kanye West Makes Appearance at Honk!Fest

Just what the doctor ordered!

Just what the doctor ordered!

Only in Boston

Brazilian Style Drum Jam

Davis Square
Davis Square

Fall bright

Fall Bright 2

One Example of Brilliance at Tufts

Claro! Nokia! Uriburu

Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist recently posted a piece on why we overestimate the gap between the gap between nonprofit and for-profit jobs.  It’s a short and interesting read if you’re considering the pros and cons of working in one of these sectors.

In this post, Penelope talks about how both nonprofit and for-profit workplaces are changing and why our age-old typical stereotypes no longer hold true.  Not only are these sectors getting more creative about how to structure themselves internally and “how they give back” externally, their financial structures may be one of the only significant remaining differences between the two. Dan Pallotta, who writes regularly for Harvardbusiness.org, gives similar arguments while dispelling myths about the private sector in a recent piece on how the “Psychic Benefits of Nonprofit Work are Overrated”.

Personally I’ve found the establishment of an entire field around corporate social responsibility (CSR) as one example of the sensible meeting of the for- and nonprofit sector minds. But even that is an oversimplification of the existence of and potential for building bridges between sectors to accomplish positive change in the local communities where they operate to the global world within which they exist.

As a graduate student evaluating the pros and cons of each sector, and the goal of affecting positive local and global change, I find the shifting trends within these sectors as an encouraging and exciting affirmation that nonprofit and for-profit companies alike continue to have to adapt in order to compete in the evolving world.  It’s also a good reminder that it is more about what you want to accomplish, the specific workplace(s) you work at or seek to work with, and perhaps most importantly the individuals you work with that matter the most.

A recent panel I attended discussing work in the field of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (INCR), another field that crosses the nonprofit, public, and private sectors, confirmed just that. As one panelist put it, “It really does matter who you work with; you spend a lot of time with them!”

And if you’re looking to shift sectors, or like me, hoping to shift in and out of sectors throughout your career, the continued blurring and overlapping of the various sectors, public, private, nonprofit, for-profit, international, and domestic workplaces signifies an even more essential development: We may not have to choose!