Waiting for Godoy: Human Rights for $1 Million


Seattle is already a mecca for global public health work, as it's home to the headquarters of big-name organizations like PATH and the Gates Foundation and to the recently established UW Department of Global Health. Could it be a mecca for human rights work as well?

Perhaps it could, if Senator Paull Shin and ten co-sponsors can pass their bill to create a human rights center at the UW. Shin's bill would build on the newly created Helen H. Jackson Chair in Human RIghts, which just came into existence today. But it comes with a $1 million price tag, a tall order given a down economy and a huge budget deficit.

UW prof. Angelina Godoy is the inaugural occupant of the new chair, which is being accompanied by a smaller endowed fund for students. She says a center would "catalyze ongoing efforts" amongst faculty and students in the law school and the College of Arts & Sciences. "It's important for people to realize is how much clamor there is among students for more programs and work opportunities."

Godoy has regularly taken students to Guatemala to study labor abuses and the results of mass killings of the 1980s, and, if she gets the new money, plans to take students to Colombia to work with displaced Afro-Colombians. She emphasizes that much of the center's work will be local and envisions collaboration with the new global health department. "The concept of a right to health is at the cutting edge of current thinking [in both global health and human rights scholarship]."

Still, $1 million is $1 million, and an inquiry with the Senate Democratic Caucus has yet to result in a confirmed hearing for the bill. Thus, Godoy and others have contingency plans to scale their projects up or down, depending on funding. "In the current economy," she concedes, "it's going to be a very, very difficult climate for any bill appropriating new funds to get passed."

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