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Head of Center for the Study of Human Rights Addresses Latin American Army Officers

By James Devitt

J. Paul Martin

J. Paul Martin, executive director of Columbia's Center for the Study of Human Rights, gave the graduation address at Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in Fort Benning, Ga., on May 31. The graduates were officers from Latin American armies who had been participating in a military training program run by the institute.

In his address, delivered in Spanish, Martin emphasized the link between human rights and economic growth.

"Human rights are rules that every society needs if it is to be fair and just, if it is to enjoy peace and support a vibrant economy," said Martin, who joined the British Army at the age of 18, eventually rising to the rank of second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. "Human rights ensure that we and all our families can all live with dignity."

Detailing atrocities committed by armies across the globe, including Argentina and Chile, Martin said that "training in human and community relations is necessary if a modern army is to see itself as providing building blocks for the peaceful economic and political development of its country."

"Unfortunately in some countries, such China, Indonesia, Burma and until recently Nigeria, the military has used its power and logistics to control and profit personally from the economy," he added. "Such economies are not built on trust and the knowledge that the people you are dealing with will pay their bills in a timely fashion and supply us with the goods we have bought in good condition."

In October 2001, the Center for the Study of Human Rights launched the Human Rights Portal at Columbia, listing the array of Columbia University resources in human rights. The site links to information on events, academic programs, institutes and other human rights resources on both the Morningside and Health Science campuses in addition to human rights teaching tools. Also, a comprehensive listing of human rights faculty and courses will be an invaluable tool for students interested in human rights.

Founded in 1978, the center is one of the oldest university-based human rights institutions. It has pioneered the promotion of interdisciplinary human rights research, education and training at Columbia and overseas. At Columbia, in addition to the Human Rights Program at the School of International and Public Affairs, the Center has helped develop the independent human rights programs at the Law School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia College and Barnard College.

Published: Jun 13, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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