On December 8th the final seminar in the video-course on ‘Human Rights in the Globalizing World’ took place at the HSE. This video conference was chaired by Nina Belyaeva, Head of the HSE Department of Public Policy, and John Dale, Professor at George Mason University, USA.
This two month series of video conference classes is a part of a joint course entitled ‘Political Analysis of Human Rights Realization in the Globalizing World'which is taught to first-year HSE students at the Faculty of Applied Political Science.
According to John Dale, this ‘unique and exciting style of the course was intended to organize live debates between representatives of the two cultures and thus bring globalization to a university lecture room'. But this project, supported by the HSE Center for Educational Innovations, has become unique not only because of use of modern telecommunications, but also because students from the two universities have continued their joint work beyond the seminars. They have created workgroups and exchanged short papers (so-called ‘reflection papers') on the topics discussed at the seminars. By December 8th, the Russian group had accumulated about 50 of these papers. With their help, according to Professor Dale, students ‘should learn to compare different approaches to similar human rights problems:from freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly to the right to clean water and medical aid'. Nina Belyaeva also spoke about this, emphasizing that the main thing in the ‘international discussion'is not only to see their colleagues'reaction, but to ‘reflect'upon everything heard and seen.
And the range of discussions was very broad. One of the topics discussed in the ‘reflection papers'was, for example, the creation by the US and its allies of ‘human rights-free zones'. This refers to CIA secret prisons created in the countries of Eastern Europe during the ‘war on terror'.
The concluding video seminar, as usual, started at 6.30 p.m. Moscow time and 10.30 a.m. Fairfax time where George Mason University campus is situated. The American students presented summaries of their research projects on various human rights defence campaigns taking place all over the world. Among them were traditional pacifist campaigns against regional conflicts, particularly in Uganda and Darfur, as well as campaigns directly connected with US internal politics.
One of the students told the others about the movement for the support of poor citizens in the US:it was curious to hear almost socialist calls for fairness from an American. A presentation by a Catholic student girl in support of civil and family rights for gays was equally interesting. Another of Professor Dale's student brought up the topic of corrupt practices by pharmaceutical companies, who produce useless, and occasionally even harmful, medicines for American parents to give to their children.
But the most unexpected item was a report about anti-militarist movements which are now appearing in Great Britain against US military bases that are located there. Those movements are local:only the inhabitants of the small towns where those military bases are located take part in the protests. According to Nina Belyayeva, this is a rare case when a social movement does not demand the broad support of society, but is active through a specific group of citizens.
Closing the seminar, the Head of the HSE Department of Public Policy encouraged her students to be as active in the preparation of their final reports as their American colleagues. She also reminded them that though the current series of video conferences has ended, the collaboration with George Mason University will continue. In March 2010 Professor John Dale will again deliver lectures to the HSE students, but this time live in Moscow.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service
Photos by Polina Frolova