Studying the Influence of the International Legal System on Human Rights

              My name is John Bazant and I am a senior at the University of Montana majoring in Anthropology and Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. During my time with Franke Global Leadership Initiative I followed the inequality and human rights global theme, this in turn allowed me to study in Morocco at Al Akhawayn University. In addition to all of the usual characteristics that one would likely experience during a study abroad program, I was also able learn and experience the relevance and importance of International Law within human rights and inequality.

One program that I was fortunate enough to take part in looked at the history and role the international legal system through its conception into the modern day.

During this program we further examined the types of hierarchies that can be created throughout such international legal systems and the inequality that can take shape. Because of an unequal concentration of power between states this hierarchy is then incentivized to further perpetuate an imbalance. All of this running in direct contrast to the major benefits that the international legal system accomplished.

One case study that was used for such discussions was Morocco. The geographical placement and history of Morocco illuminates the country at the intersection of many different influences that have in turn interacted in such a way that show the stark differences Idyllic conception and brutal reality that faces the international legal system.

Throughout this program thanks the to the GLI organization and my professors at AUI my overall understanding of international law and the effect that it can have on the human rights and inequality has vastly expanded.  

Wilderness and Civilization Program

My passion for the earth has been a driving force for choosing my college, area of study, and goals post-graduation. When I heard about the Wilderness and Civilization program, I was so excited at the possibility of being able to spend a semester combining my passions with being outdoors, with education and my GLI theme of inequality and human rights. I wanted to explore my own relationship with nature and drive into how to make it accessible to everyone. The outdoors brings people together in way that is hard to match. Combining social work, journalism and my passion for the environment throughout this program has been an amazing opportunity.

Throughout this program I had went on multiple camping trips, filled with art, hikes, conversations and learning. The classroom learning was extremely eye opening in partnership with these adventures. Throughout this semester I dove into my personal ethics surrounding nature. Here is an excerpt from my writing on my code of ethics, “My definition of wilderness and personal ethics surrounding it is constantly evolving and has pushed me to reevaluate my relationship to the lands I take up space on. At the core of my personal ethics is decentering humans from being the main focus of the earth, broadening the scope of wilderness from only capital W wilderness to all forms of connection to the earth and acknowledging that pristine wilderness is an idea of colonialism and doesn’t not accurately represent American under the care of Indigenous peoples.” This exploration of my ethics directly related to my theme in GLI.

Lyon: Culture, Politics, Mice and City Bikes

Salut tout le monde! 

I was fortunate enough to spend fall semester in Lyon, making trips as well to places around France, the UK, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. My GLI Global Theme is Culture and Politics, with my challenge being to assess the ways in which multilateralism can be channeled into environmental sustainability efforts. I felt privileged to be taking classes on pertinent topics such as fascism, international criminal law, comparative constitutional law and others, the perfect opportunity to explore culture and politics while away. The French are characteristic debaters, with the expressions “in fact”, “but”, “honestly” or “I find” at the start of every other sentence. I felt like I arrived during such a period of flux for the EU; with the war in Ukraine, the death of the Queen, a couple of new UK PMs, and elections around the EU resulting in the rising far-right favor (Sweden, Italy), and of course the World Cup hot off the press in my time in France, there was much to discuss. 

(Buzzing streets after Morocco made it to the semi-finals, widely celebrated in Lyon due to the prevalent Northern African population in France. Such a historic moment, so cool to witness!)

Despite the French being classic debaters, I didn’t find that much was open for discussion in class. A lot of what professors had to say about cultures other than their own seemed broad-brush-y or “cancellable” from my perspective, had the same thing been said by an American professor. I have a few friends who walked out of class one day (in classic French “spirit of resistance” fashion) in the absence of the space for discourse. They left to demonstrate that there are other points of view that might’ve had different and potentially more respectful or informed points to contribute.  I struggled with the fact that there wasn’t room to be Socratic about certain statements that were made. Still, the intriguing subject matter of most of my classes kept me engaged, and feeling fortunate for the opportunity to observe the delivery of such information from a different cultural standpoint or method. 

It was interesting to witness how much better-ingrained issues of sustainability are in daily life in France. The indisputability of climate change, or more specifically, the importance of sustainable practices in transport, food systems and more was refreshing, and spoke to the feasibility of models that could help the United States achieve greater levels of sustainability.  Most of the produce displays in grocery stores listed the product’s origins, with many markets carrying only produce within France, or even the region; a lot of the markets carried exclusively fruits and vegetables in season. You could certainly get your hands on more exotic items like kiwis or avocados, but the simple listing of this information by the producer increases a more sustainable ethic around consumption in France. Not all of the fruit is picture perfect, reducing the amount of food wasted. Public bikes and other modes of transit abound, relieving people of  reliance on cars to get from place to place. There were days each week where you might find the city lights dimmed, part of Emmanuel Macron’s new ‘energy sobriety’ program, which is commendable, given most (69%) of France’s energy grid is powered by nuclear in the first place. 

(My roommate Carlota and I on our way home, via city bike)

Life in France required far more self-advocacy than I was used to in my hometown of Missoula, where I can comfortably bumble through life with my hands tied behind my back and blindfolded. I had been warned of the bureaucratic throes of France, and expected to be challenged. Challenges presented themselves when I’d find mice in my hundreds-of-years- old-apartment, have to tell a French ER doc what happened with my simple language skills, or asking if a menu item contained gluten (everything in France contains gluten). Learning to articulate my needs, whether it be dietary, school-related, interpersonal, or professional in French was an added challenge- but one that made success doubly rewarding when things worked out. To be an effective leader, one that represents and protects others, I believe self-advocacy is a crucial first step which allows us to remain consistent with our beliefs and needs in the face of challenges. I’m grateful to have had the chance to hone this skill! 

Coming out of this experience and during, I’ve wondered  how to translate what I learned into my life at home and onward. I can’t constantly hijack conversations and talk about my study abroad experience, but I can do my best to replicate the moments, practices and experiences I had in France here at home. I hope to continue my language practice, experience and create more art, slow down every once in a while, walk more, consume thoughtfully, congregate and dissect social and political issues with my friends, maybe over a glass of wine.  I read a collection of essays by Umberto Eco for my fascism class in France- in light of the aforementioned rising prevalence of far-right political regimes in Europe and the U.S. alike right now, Eco argues that one of the best prophylaxis is facilitating the international student experience. While we, and other students abroad might think that parties, outings, dinners and what have you are not much deeper than plain fun, they are also cultivating a Europe and a world that will continue to embrace multiculturalism. Eco suspects that we will befriend, marry and remember people from abroad and the ways they’ve impressed upon us. Indeed, it will be impossible to see others and the world in the dimensions you might’ve seen them in previously. The people I spent every day with who started as strangers now fit comfortably in the role of old friends, whose gifts I’ll always carry with me. 

Min tur til Danmark

Hello! My name is Amelia Hawes, and I studied abroad in Aarhus, Denmark for fall 2022. My global theme was culture and politics. My global challenge was, how can criminal justice policy be used to benefit society?

I am interested in the American criminal justice system, and one of the reasons I chose to study in Denmark was that it is ranked as having one of the best, if not the best, criminal justice system in the world. The U.S. criminal justice system is discriminatory, corrupt, and ineffective, and I wanted to learn about the policy differences in a country with a globally acclaimed justice system.

During my time in Denmark, I learned about their criminal justice system, but I also learned about Danish history, culture, language, government, and more. I took a class on restorative justice, and my professor was a victim-offender mediator for the Danish police and a researcher on the South African truth and reconciliation process. Throughout the class, we learned about the relationship between restorative justice and punishment, how restorative justice is practiced in Denmark and other countries, and how to mediate conflicts using the restorative justice approach. It was an incredible privilege to learn from my professor, Christian (students in Denmark call professors by their first names), and gain hands-on experience practicing restorative justice. After taking this class I am more aware of the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating restorative justice into the formal criminal justice system, and I think it is a practice that the U.S. criminal justice system should incorporate.

Me and my Danish friends
A sunrise in downtown Aarhus

I had so many amazing experiences throughout this semester, but a few stand out in particular. I was present in Denmark during a general election, and I got to accompany my Danish friends to the town hall when they submitted their ballots. It was a bit surreal to witness this election because it was so different from presidential elections in the U.S. The candidates in the Danish election are all advertised in the same way, so every candidate had a poster in the same format as the others, but with a different color scheme for the party they belonged to. It was refreshing to see this type of egalitarian advertising, as opposed to the smear campaigns and expensive television and social media advertisements in U.S. elections. Denmark is a multi-party system, so there were many different candidates in the running. While there are heated political debates and tensions between different parties, Danish people tend to be private about their political beliefs and voting choices, and the social atmosphere around the election was very civil–a completely different experience than I am used to as an American.

I also got to celebrate Christmas with my Danish friends, and I cooked a traditional American Thanksgiving feast for them in November. On Christmas, Danes eat a big feast with boiled potatoes, duck, sugar browned potatoes, cabbage, brown gravy, pickles, and sometimes rye bread and fish. There were vegetarians at our Christmas dinner, so we cooked a vegetarian rendition of this traditional feast. Around the holidays Danes love to drink glogg, which is a sweet mulled wine with spices. After Christmas dinner, Danes eat rice pudding with cranberry sauce called risalamande. There is a whole almond hidden somewhere in the risalamande, and everyone competes to find the almond. I was the one to find the almond, which was a fun surprise. Then, after dinner everyone sings songs and dances around the Christmas tree. We didn’t have a Christmas tree, but we all held hands and ran around our apartment complex while we sang a traditional Christmas song. It was a cozy evening that perfectly embodied the Danish idea of hygge, which basically means the practice of coziness and togetherness during the dark winter months.

Me after finding the almond in the risalamande

This experience changed the way I view my own culture as an American. It made me realize how absurd it is that the U.S. has barely any public transportation, because in Denmark I could use a bus, a tram, a train, or a bike to get anywhere inside Denmark or even around Europe. Most Danes don’t own cars, and many don’t even have driver’s licenses. It was such a luxury to have a well-developed network of public transportation at my disposal. In Denmark healthcare is also free, as is university tuition; in fact, college students are paid by the government to go to school. They have to pay this money back over the course of their lifetime through high tax rates, but it means that no one has medical or student loan debt, which drastically improves their quality of life compared to Americans. Danish people find it absurd that getting sick can bankrupt someone, but in the U.S. that is a very real fear we have to live with, and I think that is deeply wrong.

I am so grateful for the memories I made in Denmark, the friends I met, and the perspective I gained on my own culture and identity. I hope to visit Denmark again someday, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying in Europe. The people are kind, there are so many fun things to do, and Danish culture and society are rich and interesting.

The iconic canals in Copenhagen