Dear Colleagues,
With Spring comes a welcome sense of hope and renewal. As we look back on how far we have come since COVID-19 brought many aspects of life to a standstill this time last year, it is clear that we are heading in the right direction towards achieving a full recovery. We now have several vaccines that have been developed and deployed around the world, which undoubtedly mark an extraordinary achievement for humanity. However, while strides continue to be made in labs developing vaccines, we must now dutifully turn our attention to unequal vaccine access and confidence among Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other people of color, who continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

In a recent interview for Vogue magazine, I spoke with Harlem-based fashion icon Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day about the deep-rooted distrust of the health care system that aptly endures within the Black community today. Experiments such as the Tuskegee study, in which black male sharecroppers with syphilis were told they were getting medical treatment, but were instead given placebos so researchers could study the progression of the disease, were an unconscionable violation of human rights that will never be forgotten and set the stage for multi-generational trauma manifested in the form of vaccine hesitancy.

While we at the FXB Center continue to advocate for COVID-19 vaccine confidence and transparent dissemination of accurate information, it is essential that we also champion equal vaccine access for communities of color with the same vigor. Barriers, including a lack of internet, time off from work, and transportation to/from appointments hamper progress towards ending the pandemic. We remain committed to ensuring social justice and human rights are central to both the pandemic response and addressing the lethal impact of racism.

This newsletter highlights our reports and writing, which expand upon these topics and more. Our upcoming events feature insightful guests whose voices are critical to an equitable response and moving the needle forward on social harms caused by failed policies. We welcome you to visit our webpage, join our upcoming events, and learn more about our ongoing work.

Thank you for your support,

Dr. Mary T. Bassett 

Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 
In a landmark decision on Feb. 5 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed the Court’s territorial jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute “grave crimes committed” in the territory occupied by Israel since 1967 (the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem).
FXB Center Senior Research Fellow Dr. Jennifer Leaning moderated a recent panel discussion with legal experts Ioannis Kalpouzos, Richard Falk, and Rania Muhareb and discussed the specifics of the ICC decision, implications for justice in Israel/Palestine, and the potential impact on the health and human rights of Palestinians. Click the button below to view the full recording:
The Social, Cultural, and Political Legacy of the 1971 World Roma Congress
April 5-7, 2021 | 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. EDT
Each year, for more than two decades, on April 8, Romani people across the world celebrate Roma National Day. This year, we mark the 50th anniversary of the First World Roma Congress, offering an important moment to reflect back on the recent history of Romani people, as well as contemporary obstacles and threats as well as opportunities for Roma justice and dignity. This event-series is organized by the Roma Program at the FXB Center in partnership with the Romani Studies Program at Central European University, and the Department of Romani Studies at Södertörn University. Visit the event page for more details.

The State of Roma Human Rights in The Balkans
April 8, 2021 | 9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. EDT
Please join the Harriman Institute at Columbia University and the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College, CUNY for a conference on the state of Roma human rights in the Balkans. This conference will bring together top Roma scholars in the academy, advocates, and practitioners who are working to advance the human rights and dignity of Roma people throughout the Balkans, including Dr. Margaeta Matache, Director of the Roma Program at the FXB Center. Visit the event page for more details.

AI for Healthcare Equity Conference
April 12, 2021 | 9 a.m. EDT
The potential of AI to bring equity in healthcare has spurred significant research efforts across academia, industry and government. Racial, gender and socio-economic disparities have traditionally afflicted healthcare systems in ways that are difficult to detect and quantify. New AI technologies, however, provide a platform for change. By bringing together thought leaders in these fields, event participants will assess the current state-of-the-art work in this space, identify key areas of impact and present machine learning techniques that support fairness, personalization and inclusiveness. Visit the event page for more details.

Cultivating Joy & Collective Restoration: (Re)Imagining and (Re)Claiming Pleasure & Liberation
April 24-25, 2021 | Schedule TBA
This conference aims to bring together graduate students, early career scholars, community activists, educators and creatives of all kinds to explore how Black, Brown and Indigenous communities are reimagining and reclaiming pleasure and healing, and how this is liberatory and restorative work, particularly during times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. This event is free and open to the public. Sessions will be video/audio recorded in English, and live captioning will be provided. Visit the event page for more details.
A Focus on COVID-19 Vaccines & Human Rights 
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, human rights scholars are turning their attention to the myriad issues of equity and discrimination. In her Viewpoint, The Value of Human Rights for Vaccine Prioritization at the National Level, Sharifah Sekalala argues that human rights have been largely left out of conversations about how to prioritize allocation within national vaccine programs. “The higher rates of severe COVID-19 illness and mortality among some systemically disadvantaged populations (for example, Black and ethnic minority groups, migrants and refugees, Indigenous peoples) provide a compelling case for determining how vulnerabilities are embedded in structural inequities that affect health. A human rights approach would therefore attempt to redress these systematic injustices including in the design and rollout of vaccine prioritization schemes.”

In their blog, Ira Memaj and Robert Fullilove put forth the case that early COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Must Include Incarcerated People. They note that jails and prisons in the United States have become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an infection rate five times higher than the general population and mortality rates that are three times higher. By the end of March 2021 about 2500 prisoners had died from coronavirus-related causes. 

In another Viewpoint, authors Katrina Perehudoff and Tessa Jolan Jager examine drug company practices around intellectual property and development of COVID-19 vaccines. Using a scorecard, they believe some companies are making changes that suggest ‘a new dawn for human rights’.   

Other scholars are turning their attention to the human rights issues in a post-vaccine world. Kayum Ahmed warns that as the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines gains momentum, a dystopian society of the “unvaccinated”—a class of people denied access to vaccines—could likely emerge. He writes, “And because future supplies of COVID-19 vaccines have already been purchased by wealthy countries, the unvaccinated class will include a large part of the Global South whose majority populations will only be vaccinated years after Americans and Europeans.” 

This important conversation is being continued in a Virtual Roundtable on COVID-19 Vaccines, Passports, and Human Rights, facilitated by Els Torreele, and to be published in the June issue. Human rights colleagues from around the world will examine all these vaccine-related issues as well as the idea of vaccine passports and any discriminatory impacts that could arise.

Visit the Health and Human Rights Journal online for the latest news and information.
Global Strategies for Implementation
Examine best practices in child and family policies, advocacy, financing, and pathways to scale, learning how to generate innovative and scalable intervention strategies that support early childhood development. Together, Harvard University and UNICEF bring global experience from communities to policy makers. Learn more about this course.
Are you a high school student who’s passionate about taking action on climate change? Join us this summer at the Harvard C-CHANGE Youth Summit on Climate to learn, engage and become a climate leader in your community. Learn More.
Mary T. Bassett
Produced by Design: How the Inequities Experienced by Immigrants During the COVID-19 Pandemic Were Created
Margaret M. Sullivan & Mary T. Bassett

Barriers to equitable health for immigrants in the United States are purposefully created by policies, resulting in expected and foreseeable health inequities during a global pandemic. Read the full article.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is seeking to hire its next Climate and Human Health Fellow. The two year fellowship offered to U.S. board eligible or board certified EM physicians, is jointly hosted with Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard, and seeks to train national physician leaders in Climate and Human Health research and advocacy.

The intensive program includes a master’s degree in public health or public policy at Harvard; internships at National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); opportunities to learn and engage in advocacy on the Hill; and training to lead independent research at the intersection of climate change, human health and policy. Fellows will participate in the academic life of the affiliated Centers at Harvard, and will have opportunity to develop expertise in one of several domains including climate-related migration, adaptation and health system resilience. Please click here to learn more.
March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

Is Coronavirus Putting Europe's Roma Further Behind?
Al Jazeera speaks with Magda Matache about how Roma across Europe are faring amid the pandemic and what is most urgently needed to better protect them. Watch Now
Migration: Religion and Security, Information Networks
The George E. Danis Eastern Mediterranean Security and Seminar speaks with Vasileia Digidiki about the security challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean and neighboring regions for the new American administration. Watch Now
Getting Political in Public Health
For the Dartmouth Health Equity Speaker Series, Mary T. Bassett discusses how we can reconcile our past to achieve health equity for future generations and the most impactful approaches to do so. Watch Now
The Peoples' Poor Public Health
Massachusetts Peace Action takes a deep dive into the public health infrastructure in the U.S. and in Massachusetts, featuring a moderated discussion with Natalia Linos and State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa. Watch Now
Stay in Touch 
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest FXB news and virtual events.