Rare Book & Manuscript Library
 

Center for Economic and Social Rights Records, 1989-2003, bulk 1991-2003

Summary Information

Abstract

The Center for Economic and Social Rights was established in 1993 by Roger Normand, Sarah Zaidi, and Chris Jochnick. In 1991, Normand, Zaidi and Jochnick were members of a Harvard interdisciplinary research team that traveled to Iraq to document and respond to the country's humanitarian crisis caused by the Gulf War and sanctions placed upon the country. The team focused on issues related to malnutrition, sanitation, childhood mortality and morbidity, and health. Since its 1993 founding, CESR has continued to focus on economic and social human rights violations, representing a shift in the way human rights work is conceived as a field. The records of CESR reflect an important evolution in the human rights movement; a shift in focus that began to recognize economic, social and health rights in addition to the political and civil rights that were championed by earlier human rights organizations. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s CESR continued to work in Iraq, actively dissenting to the 2003 American invasion and occupation. During this time they also began work in Ecuador, Palestine, Haiti, Afghanistan, and along the Texas-Mexico border. In 2004 the original founders stepped down, and the organization's headquarters were moved to Spain. They have since returned to New York. This collection focuses on early material from CESR's thirty year history. Notably, this collection features much of the Harvard Research Team and CESR's original survey material on childhood health and nutrition in Iraq. The files include blank and completed surveys, CESR and affiliate reports, external analysis on human rights and information about countries of interest. Most of these surveys are paper, but there is one floppy disk located in subseries II.4 in the folder "CESR Mission Proposal Afghanistan."

At a Glance

Call No.: HR#0019
Bib ID 11503368 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Center for Economic and Social Rights ; Jochnick, Chris ; Normand, Roger, 1964- ; Zaidi, Sarah
Title Center for Economic and Social Rights Records, 1989-2003, bulk 1991-2003
Physical Description 8.25 linear feet (8 record cartons)
Language(s) English , Arabic , Spanish; Castilian .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three (3) business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in 3 series.

Description

Summary

The material includes publications written and published by The Center for Economic and Social Rights, individual employees, or partner organizations; press articles published in newspapers, magazines, and websites; surveys and research materials from three trips to Iraq; and statistics.

The collection contains files related to the 1991 Harvard research mission, as well as the early years of CESR (from its inception in 1991-2003). The bulk of this collection corresponds to four research missions to Iraq from 1991-1997, and CESR's subsequent work related to the country. 5 boxes, 5.5 linear feet of material, belong to this first series on Iraq. There is a smaller second series of multi-country work and one additional series on general CESR material. This final series includes information on sponsored programs, correspondence, and workshops. These files range in date from 1991-2003, covering the tenure of the original founders. The files include the work of the Harvard research team, published CESR material and drafts, research articles and clippings, correspondence, notebooks, and UN documents.

  • Series I: Iraq

    Files relate to CESR work in Iraq. This series begins with the 1991-1992 work of the Harvard research team and their study of childhood malnutrition in Iraq. This study was replicated in 1995 and 1996 by CESR, which was founded by three members of the Harvard research team. In 1997 the research shifted to include adults and food security. The series includes original survey materials (primarily in Arabic), drafts and published versions of the team's reports, correspondence, and pertinent research articles.

  • Series II: CESR multi-country work

    Features work related to multiple countries and missions. Files are connected to CESR projects and publications on Ecuador, Palestine, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Honduras, Nigeria, and the Texas-Mexico border.

  • Series III: General CESR Materials

    The series begins with a variety of documents related to CESR's general work. These include published descriptions of CESR from the organization and the publication Portavoz [Spokesman], meeting agendas and minutes, drafts of articles, and internal materials such as media lists and press releases. There is also a folder containing information and correspondence surrounding the Iraq Sanctions Project. Subseries in this series include materials from workshops, UN documents, correspondence, sponsored programs such as the Right to Water and the Women's Economic Equality Project, and documents related to their US based work.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three (3) business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Center for Economic and Social Rights, 1989-2003; Box and Folder; Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Ownership and Custodial History

The Center for Economic and Social Rights Files were the gift of Ignacio Saiz, Executive Director of CESR, to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University in 2015.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in fall 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.

This collection was processed by Evelyn MacPherson, GSAS 2025. Finding aid written by Evelyn MacPherson in June, 2022.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
CDES (Center) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Economic rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Economic sanctions -- Iraq Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Human rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Iraq Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Malnutrition Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Persian Gulf War, 1991 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Right to Water Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United Nations. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

In 1991 an interdisciplinary research team from Harvard University traveled to Iraq to record how the Gulf War and economic sanctions had adversely affected the Iraqi population. In their exploration of the humanitarian crisis, the group focused on childhood health and malnutrition. The team interviewed mothers and other female caretakers to assess childhood mortality and morbidity. Their initial report, which found a substantial link between Gulf War era sanctions and early childhood malnutrition and death, made international headlines.

Two years later, Roger Normand, Sarah Zaidi, and Chris Jochnick (three members of the Harvard research team), founded the Center for Economic and Social Rights. The organization's founding coincided with another important development in Human Rights. In June of 1993, at the World Conference on Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted. The declaration affirmed that all human rights – be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural – were indivisible and interrelated, and as such they should be protected equally. In turn, CESR sought to identify the relationship between socioeconomic policies and people's rights. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, CESR continued to research Iraq, partaking in a series of five research missions. In 1997, they expanded their scope of study to include adult health, as well as food security. In 2001, CESR founded the "Iraq Sanctions Project" and over the next several years they would continue to publish material against US sanctions against, and later the invasion and occupation of, Iraq.

While CESR's early work focused on Iraq, over the course of their thirty year history the organization has turned its attention to a number of regions and human rights violations. These injustices range from the mining of gold in Honduras to the mistreatment of taxi drivers in New York City. One of their early large scale projects took place in Ecuador and focused on the environment and health. Their sponsored programs include Right to Water, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, and the Women's Economic Equality Project (which was also founded by Sarah Zaidi). Their sister organization, Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES) [Center for Economic and Social Rights], was originally based in Brooklyn alongside CESR offices, but is now an independent organization based in Ecuador and operating across Latin America.

In 2004, the original founders stepped down, although they remain on the advisory council. From 2004-2008 Eitan Felner took over as Executive Director, and Ignacio Saiz took on this role from 2009-2021. During this time, the CESR offices moved to Madrid, although they have since returned to New York. Kate Donald is presently the acting Executive Director. CESR continues to conduct projects and research globally. In light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, CESR has heightened its focus on the connection between the environment and human rights.