As an international relations scholar I am studying the relationship between human rights and international political economy. I am particularly interested in the tension between the normative framework the international community has agreed on (again and again) and the political reality that is shaped by material interests. In addition to the subject field of international economic policy and global justice, I have really enjoyed teaching courses on methodology in the social sciences over the years. I find that in order to make our arguments stick, our methods need to be solid. The most well-intentioned research is a wasted effort if it can be dismissed for a lack of rigor and validity.
My interest in human rights, in particular economic and social rights, was sparked while I was living in Honduras in the mid-1990s. I had finished my Master’s degree in Berlin and had moved there to understand development better by being on the ground. While I was there, the issue of exploitative working conditions in the export processing zones became an issue in the United States, for which most of the merchandise from those factories was destined. The National Ombudsman for human rights in Honduras invited me to work on some projects related to labor conditions, foreign direct investments and economic policy in order to get a better understanding of the new reality of a globalized economy and its effects on local rights. This experience led me to researching the role that transnational corporations play in the realization and violation of human rights. Even though corporations are not charged with realizing human rights (the government of each respective nation state is), their influence on human rights, for better or worse, had become undeniable.
This led me to my dissertation project on “The Privatization of Human Rights” at the Freie Universität Berlin. While I was working on my dissertation, I was offered to teach graduate courses on human rights at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). I have been teaching there ever since. A couple of years later I was also invited to offer courses at Long Island University, where in addition to courses on human rights and economic development I have been teaching research methods and statistics.
Meanwhile, my interest in corporate social responsibility, economic development, and human rights has given me the opportunity to work on several projects on corporate governance, international organizations, and political development.