Projects


Three main factors guide our project selection process. First, as the U.S.-based hub of the global University Network for Human Rights and consistent with our theory of social change, we prioritize human rights matters that involve the United States or in which the United States is implicated. Second, as an organization dedicated to training undergraduates in the practice of human rights, we select projects that facilitate the development of student skills. Third, our primary substantive focus is on challenging abuses and promoting accountability in these seven issue areas:

  • State repression (policing, surveillance, imprisonment)

  • Militarism

  • Corporate abuse

  • Environmental injustice

  • Deprivation of land and housing

  • Food and water insecurity

  • Abuses related to global migration

Some of our current projects are described below.


Gloria Dumas, pictured here, is a member of the Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish community group. Concerned Citizens has been organizing since 2016 to reduce chloroprene emissions from the neighboring Denka/DuPont neoprene facility.

Gloria Dumas, pictured here, is a member of the Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish community group. Concerned Citizens has been organizing since 2016 to reduce chloroprene emissions from the neighboring Denka/DuPont neoprene facility.

FIGHTING ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM IN LOUISIANA

ISSUE AREAs: environmental injustice; Corporate abuse

DESCRIPTION

In Louisiana, the area along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge has long been known as “Cancer Alley.” More than 150 chemical plants and oil refineries dot this 85-mile stretch of land, where most communities are predominantly African-American and many residents attribute staggering levels of cancer and other illness to toxic air emissions from industry.

One such community is located in the Reserve/LaPlace area of St. John the Baptist Parish, adjacent to a neoprene plant owned by the Denka and DuPont corporations. In 2016, after learning from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that residents of the census tract closest to the Denka/DuPont plant face the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air pollution, community members formed the Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish organizing group. The Concerned Citizens continue to demand that the Denka/DuPont facility reduce its emissions of the toxic chemical chloroprene—an EPA-designated “likely human carcinogen”—to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, the maximum level of emissions that would keep the risk of cancer from air pollution within the EPA’s “upper limit of acceptability.”

THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY NETWORK

After intensive collaboration with the Concerned Citizens group to determine the most effective course of action, a team of fourteen Stanford undergraduates traveled to the area of the Denka/DuPont chemical plant and implemented a household health survey over nine days. Students surveyed hundreds of households to document the cancer, respiratory, and other health effects of the facility. Over the course of the next year, research consultants and University Network staff analyzed the data collected in the health survey.

In July 2019, the University Network released the results of the health survey along with an accompanying video and webpage featuring narratives from more than twenty area residents in their own words.


University Network participants used digital mapping software to create an interactive map with data on airstrikes by U.S.-backed Saudi/UAE-led Coalition forces in Yemen.

University Network participants used digital mapping software to create an interactive map with data on airstrikes by U.S.-backed Saudi/UAE-led Coalition forces in Yemen.

EXPOSING THE U.S. ROLE IN THE SAUDI/UAE-LED AIR BOMBING CAMPAIGN IN YEMEN

ISSUE AREAs: Militarism

DESCRIPTION

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have led a Coalition of nine Arab countries in an aerial bombing campaign against Ansar Allah (Houthi) rebels in Yemen. The Saudi/UAE-led Coalition has relied heavily on military and logistical support from western allies, including the United States. The bombing campaign has killed tens of thousands of civilians and devastated critical civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, farms, roads, and bridges. A Coalition-imposed naval blockade on major ports in Houthi-controlled areas has obstructed imports of vital food and medical supplies to Yemen. Today, the war-ravaged country faces a massive humanitarian crisis in which nearly 12 million people are on the verge of famine and 85,000 children may have died of hunger and preventable disease.

THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY NETWORK

In March 2019, Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana, the University Network, and Dutch peace organization PAX released a report documenting the role of U.S. and European weapons in Saudi/UAE-led Coalition attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen. University Network undergraduates have also created several advocacy tools to highlight the U.S. role in the conflict, including an interactive map of Coalition airstrikes created with GIS mapping technology.


Hazariya Torsingh is an Adivasi farmer from Roligaon Village in Madhya Pradesh. Government and dam authorities harassed, threatened, and pressured scores of families, including Hazariya’s, to demolish their own homes in the summer of 2017.

Hazariya Torsingh is an Adivasi farmer from Roligaon Village in Madhya Pradesh. Government and dam authorities harassed, threatened, and pressured scores of families, including Hazariya’s, to demolish their own homes in the summer of 2017.

DEFENDING INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS IN INDIA

ISSUE AREAs: Deprivation of land and housing; corporate abuse; environmental injustice

DESCRIPTION

The Sardar Sarovar Dam is a decades-long project of the Indian government and the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The project seeks to harness the waters of India’s fifth-longest river—the Narmada—for electricity generation and irrigation of farmland in the arid, western part of the country. While proponents of the dam have touted its potential for national economic development and poverty alleviation, the project’s benefits have been distributed unevenly, leaving marginalized communities to bear its costs. With the completion of the Sardar Sarovar Dam’s construction in 2017, thousands of families now await the destruction of their homes, lands, and livelihoods, many with no prospect of adequate compensation or rehabilitation.

THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY NETWORK

In partnership with Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a grassroots organization based in Madhya Pradesh, the University Network and Stanford Human Rights Clinic will soon release a report, video, and website documenting the forced displacement and other human rights impacts of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Adivasi (indigenous tribal) communities living along the Narmada River. The report urges Indian government and dam authorities to prevent any further submergence of land until all dam-affected families are fully compensated for the loss of their lands and livelihoods, consistent with India’s domestic and international legal obligations.

University Network undergraduates designed and developed an advocacy strategy for the project, focusing on multinational corporations that benefit from the dam. Using GIS technology, students mapped the locations of corporate facilities along the Narmada River to identify those that receive water from the dam reservoir; researched the corporate social responsibility policies and practices of these companies; and prepared letters to send the companies in conjunction with the report release.


James Cavallaro, left, visiting the Ayotzinapa Teachers’ College in 2015. In September 2014, Mexican state agents and others forcibly disappeared 43 students from that college.

James Cavallaro, left, visiting the Ayotzinapa Teachers’ College in 2015. In September 2014, Mexican state agents and others forcibly disappeared 43 students from that college.

CHALLENGING IMPUNITY IN MEXICO

ISSUE AREAs: State repression

DESCRIPTION

Mexico faces what the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called a “severe human rights crisis,” marked by tens of thousands of forced disappearances and summary executions as well as widespread use of torture. Impunity for these abuses has been the norm; accountability, the rare exception.

THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY NETWORK

The University Network has been supporting the work of several institutions in Mexico to determine the causes of large-scale impunity for gross human rights violations, with a focus on the cooptation of state bodies by organized criminal elements.

Together with Amnesty International Mexico, several universities in Mexico and the Americas, and the Stanford Human Rights Clinic, University Network students have been working to identify the factors that undermine investigations and protections. The project will develop recommendations, including potential international involvement, to bolster efforts of Mexican authorities and civil society to end the country’s deadly cycle of impunity.