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December 1, 2021


Dec 3

Health Law & HealthTech Connect in Phoenix

Dec 16

Winter Break begins

Jan 3

January in Tucson

w/ IPLP begins


Today we highlight the exciting and impactful work of Gabby Centorami (MLS '21), Wangari Kiboi (LLM '21, current SJD), Dillon Dobson (3L), and professor Seánna Howard on Indigenous human rights issues through the International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop.

Until the footnotes,



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UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Offers Law Students Rare Access to Highest Levels of International Human Rights System 

Almost two years into his first term as the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, José Francisco "Pancho" Calí Tzay (above, center) has accomplished a great deal. He’s delivered reports to the U.N. General Assembly on the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous peoples and Indigenous peoples living in urban areas, testified in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, completed countless academic visits, and responded to around-the-clock communications from Indigenous communities.


Behind the scenes, students at University of Arizona Law have had the rare and remarkable opportunity to support the Rapporteur on these projects, assisting in ways big and small. With the guidance of Seánna Howard (below, right), Director of the International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop, clinic students provide assistance on a wide range of research and advocacy projects in an effort to help him fulfill the primary responsibility of the mandate: the promotion and protection of the human rights of Indigenous peoples. 

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Crafting an Expert Testimony 

Gabby Centorami (above, left) was only a semester away from completing her Master of Legal Studies degree at University of Arizona Law when she heard about the opportunity to work with the Rapporteur. 

“I remember when I applied for the workshop, I had told Professor Howard, ‘I'm not enrolled in the Indigenous People Law and Policy program, but I am very passionate about advocacy and if you just give me the tools, I can bring the skills,’” Gabby recalled. 

Supporting the U.N. mandate means that Calí Tzay office is based out of University of Arizona Law, where he holds positions on the faculty as lecturer and associate director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) program’s human rights clinical programs. This is not the first time the IPLP has hosted a special rapporteur focused on the human rights of Indigenous peoples. S. James Anaya was appointed to the position in 2008 during his time as a College of Law professor until 2014.

As part of her work with the Rapporteur, Gabby assisted with preparing the expert testimony that Calí Tzay would deliver in the case Maya Kaqchikel Indigenous Peoples of Sumpango and Others vs. Guatemala which was presented to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in June 2021. The case centered around the exclusion of the Maya Kaqchikel from utilizing radio frequencies by the Guatemalan government. 

Collaborating with a small team of University of Arizona students and the Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic out of Suffolk University, Gabby helped to prepare a written testimony highlighting why this issue was vital for the social inclusion and survival—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic—of the Maya people. The work consisted of exhaustive research, identifying relevant legal standards, breaking down the articles of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and honing in on the appropriate voice for the report. Through Professor Howard’s workshop, Gabby and the team would spend time interviewing Calí Tzay to understand his stance on the issue as both the U.N. Rapporteur and a member of the Maya Kaqchikel community of Guatemala.  

Even as graduation passed by, Gabby didn’t stop assisting with the project until the Rapporteur had completed his testimony in June. “I told Professor Howard I am very passionate about this; I want to continue helping. I want this to be finalized,” she explained. 

As she awaits the official verdict to come down, Gabby continues to advocate in her professional role as part of global trade, ethics and compliance with Raytheon’s Office of General Counsel, noting that one of the things that attracted her to the position was the opportunity to ensure inclusion, diversity and representation were a priority in every decision. 

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A ‘Heavy’ Responsibility 

For the past three semesters, Wangari Kiboi has been working with and learning from the Rapporteur. Pursing an SJD in Indigenous People’s Law and Policy with a research focus on Indigenous justice systems, she has a distinctive appreciation for the significance of her work with the Rapporteur.

“It's heavy, but it's a really great honor,” said Wangari, who assisted last year with the report on COVID recovery efforts in Indigenous communities. “It really hits you when you see the work that you've contributed to being presented to the United Nations. It's an experience that I'm not likely to forget and I'm going to be forever grateful for.”

As part of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur is requested by the Human Rights Council to present two annual reports, which normally include discussion of specific themes or issues of particular relevance for the rights of Indigenous peoples. 

In September 2021 he presented his report to the HRC on Covid recovery, analyzed the adverse and disproportionate impact of confinement and emergency measures observed on Indigenous peoples during COVID-19 and made recommendations for inclusive recovery strategies. As part of the team working on the report, Wangari spent eight months researching, soliciting input on, and writing about the increased health risks for Indigenous peoples, their sources of resilience in front of the pandemic, as well as State and Indigenous responses to the pandemic. 

Beyond establishing a thorough understanding of the subject matter, preparing a report for the U.N. Human Rights Council required Wangari to develop a new style of writing different from any legal analysis she had done before. 

“I had to quickly learn to adjust my tone and language,” Wangari explained. “When working on U.N. documents, unlike legal writing, which is somewhat direct and harsh, the language has to be toned down and very diplomatic.”

To assist the Rapporteur, students from the college of law participate in Professor Howard’s workshop where she trains them on foundational international law concepts in connection with the IPLP curriculum. This preparation is just one of the reasons Calí Tzay felt comfortable with his choice to ask the college to support the mandate for a second time. 

“Since beginning my work with the IPLP clinic students, it is clear to me that no other university in the world does a better job than the University of Arizona in terms of preparing and training its students with the level of knowledge and expertise needed to do this type of human rights advocacy work," he noted.

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'Liberating' Work

Dillon Dobson, a third-year law student and a member of the Cowlitz tribe, knew he wanted to work in Indian Law. Having worked in affordable housing development, Dillon felt he had a clear idea of the path he wanted to pursue after law school. But after his first semester supporting the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, Dillon was quick to acknowledge how the experience had changed his outlook.  

“I came in thinking I knew a lot. And then I come to find out that I was operating within this very constrained understanding of what it means to be a native person and an Indigenous person,” Dillon said. “There's so much more and there are all these different communities all around the world that are so incredible and inspirational.” 

Working with native communities before law school has given Dillon a unique appreciation for international Indigenous advocacy which he described as free from the social and political constraints of domestic federal Indian law.

Complex and often contradictory, federal Indian law encompasses several hundred years of federal policies some of which are supportive of tribal sovereignty and some of which are not. Working within international law and outside of those limitations was liberating and prompted Dobson to reevaluate the aspirations he holds for his own advocacy work. 

“This workshop, and the IPLP program more broadly, has radically changed my perspective on what I think we need to be pushing forward for and toward as Indigenous people,” Dillon explained. “When Indigenous peoples have the power to define themselves, to define their realities, and to really connect and relate to nation states on a partner basis—I think beautiful things can happen.”

Unlike the traditional research projects he’s completed during law school, in supporting the Rapporteur, Dillon and his classmates are engaging in work that has real-world stakes. Indigenous peoples across the world experience the consequences of historical colonization and invasion of their territories. They face discrimination because of their distinct cultures, identities and ways of life, and are disproportionately affected by poverty and marginalization. The mandate was created to advise the UN and States about best practices to promote global human rights standards for Indigenous people, develop studies and reports related to protecting Indigenous peoples' human rights, and to respond to specific allegations involving the violation of Indigenous peoples' human rights.

For Dillon, the experience has been cathartic and affirming. 

“There's a lot of weight that comes with that responsibility. But you know, this is why I came here and what I’m being trained to do is to learn how to carry that weight and to advocate for the people.”

Original Story on Our Website


Arizona Law, Health Law & Policy Program Joins HealthTech Connect Phoenix Event

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Join us this Friday, December 3, 2021, for a hybrid program and networking event at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus or on Zoom.

Arizona Law has partnered with HealthTech Connect, a consortium founded by the University of Arizona Health Sciences (UAHS) designed to build opportunities for the start-up, corporate, higher education, health care, funding and economic development communities to advance Arizona’s cutting-edge innovations in health technology, and a new university-wide collaborative called, Innovations in Healthy Aging.  

As part of this program, Health Law & Policy Director, Professor Tara Sklar (above) will present on "Long-Term Care as the Frontier for Home Use Diagnostics and Digital Health" and Health Law & Policy Professor and founder of the International Society for Cardiovascular Translational Research Nabil Dib will present on "Innovations in Medical Device Development: From Concept to Patient."

This free event will start at noon with lunch and run until to 5:30 p.m. MST, with a networking reception that begins at 3:30.

Details & Registration


Colorado River states balk at adjusting water shares to deal with crisis

Arizona Daily Star, Featuring Robert Glennon

Investors are buying up rural Arizona farmland to sell the water to urban homebuilders

The Arizona Republic, featuring Robert Glennon

Same-Sex Marriage Isn’t Always Quite the Same

Giddy, featuring Albertina Antogini

Women's Foundation for the State of Arizona announces five grantee partners

BizTucson, featuring the Innovation for Justice Program

Thank you to everyone who supported the Huerta Scholarship program on #GivingTuesday. There is still time to support our students and help the campaign meet its goal.

You can see a brilliant example of the opportunity in our IPLP program—for JD, MLS, SJD, and students pursuing other degrees—in the profound work of Special Rapporteur Calí Tzay.

Let me end on a more personal note. These weekly emails do not write themselves. While I am personally involved in every issue—when I offer thanks or celebrate the work of students and faculty and alumni, that is very much me speaking—the drafts have, for several years, been the brilliant work of Emily McGovern. For much of this time, Emily did this drafting from Germany! 

Now Emily is moving to another challenge, as the manager of a major cross-disciplinary environmental and data science project, of which I am a part (see NEPAccess).

Thank you, Emily! 


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