ASU Human Rights Scholar

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Meet Daniel Rothenberg, the new Executive Director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. He comes to ASU from the International Human Rights Law Institute at the De Paul University College of Law in Chicago. Learn about his plans for creating a set of human rights indicators, and hear his take on Arizona’s immigration debate.

Ted Simons: Arizona's state university, Sandra Day O'Connor College of law recently established the center for law and global affairs. Anthropologist and human rights scholar, Daniel Rothenberg is the first executive of the officer. His research is focused on human rights, amnesty and rule of law and represent operations and he hopes to make ASU a leader in human rights -- reparations by creating a set of human rights indicators. Here to talk about this is Daniel Rothenberg. Good to see you here. Thanks for joining us.
Daniel Rothenberg: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: What is a human rights indicator project?

Daniel Rothenberg: In any field, an indicator is the means of establishing the conditions of a particular situation. So if we think of human rights indicators, they would be analogous to the public health indicators we use widely to understand the status of children's health or maternal health and we're able to have a good sense of how things are at baseline or how they've improved or gotten worse in any country in the world.
Ted Simons: What rubric would you use?

Daniel Rothenberg: It depends on what area of human rights one wants to focus on it. Covers education and rule of law and healthcare, all sorts of elements of -- of human dignity and the way in which governments treat the people that live under their control.

Ted Simons: Can you give us a example of maybe social, cultural, economic rule of law, these thy kinds of categories you would be liking at?

Daniel Rothenberg: To point out that even though human rights has become a sort of standard ways in which we understand the world around us and more and more we see politicians and other people references human rights when they talk about the world. Particularly situations in other countries, so there's a demand now if we want to talk constructively to be able to make comparisons between one place and another and also to be able to understand how a situation in one place gets better or does not get better, particularly if we're going to invest energy and time in trying to improve the situation.

Ted Simon: I know you said before, and my readings of what you say, that more rigorous research is needed in human rights and what kind of research do we have now?

Daniel Rothenberg: Right now, we have an enormous number -- a diversity of different players out there gathering information. International organizations, human rights watch, amnesty international. The united nations and various bodies and the United States department of state that puts out a human rights report for each country and the human rights discourse has matured where it's time to bring some focus, rigor and coordination between the different efforts. We could do that by first figuring out what area of human rights we want to focus on and particular kinds of investigations. Particular, like for example, rule of law. Try to understand the way in which court systems operate in -- create a rubric for analysis analyzing that in different countries and gather data so we can compare across the board.

Ted Simons: So much of human rights, I would imagine human rights studies and publicity, if you will, seems to be advocacy sort of research. What I'm hearing from you is let's do a little more -- a little less the advocacy and more of the plain kind of research?

Daniel Rothenberg: It's a broad field. So human rights advocates should do advocacy, and that's what we expect of them and the world is a better place because of their efforts. At the Sandra Day O'Connor college of law, one of the areas we're interested in moving forward is to take the special status we have at a university to engage in serious intellectual areas of -- pressing concern, like human rights and try to make progress, because if it's possible to first intellectual where it's good to create a indicator system and then where they ought to be and field test, we -- we'll be able it take this very important area of politics, society, human rights and move it to the next level so it functions in a way that's more proscriptive and identify a problem and come up with an attempted solution and then be able to measure whether or not that solution is actually produced the benefit we hope to achieve.

Ted Simons: You have landed in the belly of the beast when it comes to the immigration debate in America. How does that debate fit into what you're doing, or does it? What do you plan?

Daniel Rothenberg: Well, human rights is fundamentally about human dignity and about the idea that all human beings, regardless of where they live or their specific situation, poor or rich, regardless of race or religion, that all human beings are fundamentally equal and there are obligations that all governments have to seek to provide conditions that allow individuals to maximize their dignity. From that perspective -- that perspective provides a lot of depth, understanding, most social problems and I would argue it's a good time in our country to start to understand a lot of problems from that perspective and it can be very unifying. It's a way to understand all of us as bound by some common structures, bound by common understandings. In terms of the immigration debate, at the moment, our center is really focusing on a lot of international issues but obviously it's one of the questions we run into, I can say, for example, I was just in Latin America where I do a lot of work and when I told people I was moving to Arizona -- it's my second week here -- and virtually everybody referenced the immigration debate here.

Ted Simons: I would imagine. Obviously, as time goes on that will be addressed in a variety of ways. You've been to Iraq, Afghanistan, all around the world. Talk about those experiences and how they're shaping what you're trying to do with your research.

Daniel Rothenberg: It's related to the indicators and fundamental question of what human rights is doing in the world. We've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan and been on the front pages of papers and television shows because of the U.S. involvement. I've worked the last seven years working on the rule of law in both countries and it's fascinating to see how basic ideas of human rights are implemented in countries where there's often a great difference between the ideas that the -- those problem, the United States government and the people on the ground. I had a interesting job of evaluating the rule of law efforts in 2007. All the international rule of law for a major conference that was supposed to help guide the future of that country. And since that time, it's gotten more dangerous and problematic. And these efforts which had to do with training judges and building court rooms, that these efforts with out of line with the needs and social reality of people on the ground and I can give countless examples. Going to courtrooms where there were no law books and where the intentions behind the project had little to do with the ground and there's an area where intellectual work and university-sponsored projects can do a great deal to make programs more rational and effective.

Ted Simons: Basically close the disconnect.

Daniel Rothenberg: That's a very good way to put it.

Ted Simons: We've got a minute or so left. What do you have going on here. You've been here a couple of weeks.

Daniel Rothenberg: Yeah.

Ted Simons: What can we expect to see? What's going on.

Daniel Rothenberg: In the short time I've been here, a week and a half working at ASU and we've had at the center three major projects that we're working on which you'll hear more about. One is a major conference on human trafficking. A concern throughout the country and world. And that will can in the spring. And we have another conference bringing together the tomorrow international scholars to the law school and another conference held in D.C. looking at the legal challenges brought on by drone attacks and remote targeting.

Ted Simon: Look forward to hearing some results from the research.

Daniel Rothenberg: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.

Ted Simon: Thank you.

Daniel Rothenberg:Executive Director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law;

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