2007 Archive

International Human Rights Law Clinic Supports Effort to Fight Poverty in California’s San Joaquin Valley

A new report by Boalt's International Human Rights Law Clinic received an enthusiastic reception at a meeting last month of 100 community activists, researchers and attorneys in Fresno. The report analyzes how advocates can use international human rights institutions, standards, and advocacy techniques to address polluted drinking water, substandard housing, and barriers to political participation in unincorporated communities in California's San Joaquin Valley.

The Nov. 27 meeting was the first in a new initiative to support residents in developing a strategy to combat the stark inequities they face daily.

Clinic students Cortelyou Kenney ‘09, Melinda Pilling ‘09, Mallika Sarkaria ‘09, supervised by Associate Director Roxanna Altholz ’99, researched and wrote "Human Rights at Home: The rights to housing, water and political participation in San Joaquin Valley unincorporated communities." This research is part of a multi-year clinic project, Altholz said.

“We are developing new ways to use international human rights law to support residents and those working with them as they struggle to vindicate their rights to clean water, adequate housing and political participation,” she said.

Although the San Joaquin Valley is one of the country’s richest agricultural areas, more than 400,000 residents of unincorporated communities experience extreme poverty and few employment opportunities. These communities often lack basic infrastructure, clean water and access to social services. Residents are frequently excluded from political decisions that profoundly impact their day-to-day lives.

The meeting was convened by California Rural Legal Assistance, and included representatives from the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Community Water Center, and other organizations, as well as community residents.