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University of Iowa News Release


April 17, 2009

UI Center For Human Rights announces Weston essay competition winners

Two University of Iowa students have been named winners, and one student has received an honorable mention for the fifth annual Burns H. Weston International Human Rights Essay Prize, sponsored by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR).

The competition, which is open to students at the UI, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, rewards original student scholarship on an international human rights issue. A faculty committee reviewed each qualifying essay for writing skill, critical analysis, substantive human rights concern and contribution to human rights scholarship.

Kara Moberg, a third-year student in the UI College of Law from Red Oak, Iowa, won $1,000 in the graduate category for her essay "Extending the Refugee Definition to Cover Environmentally Displaced Persons Displaces Necessary Protections." Her research will be published in Volume 94, issue 3 of the Iowa Law Review.

Moberg addresses the lack of protection offered to persons who are forced to leave their homes due to environmental disasters related to climate change. She argues that current international refugee law is insufficient, and recommends that domestic and international laws should grant environmentally displaced persons refuge under a more protective, cost-sharing approach.

While climate change is a popular topic, most discussions are about aiming to reduce future damage. Moberg believes these discussions are important, but would like to see these discussions including protection for people affected by damage already done.

"I hope that my note will motivate those discussions to also include remedies for those who have been or will be harmed by climate change, and that my note can give the people who are affected the most by climate change a voice," Moberg said.

Annah Vollstedt, a senior communication studies major in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from Sioux City, Iowa, won $750 in the undergraduate category for her essay "U.S. Funded HIV/AIDS Prevention Programs in Kampala, Uganda: the Gap Between the Theoretical and the Practical."

Her essay critiques the U.S. approach to HIV/AIDS prevention programs and policy in East Africa, demonstrating that particular economic and moral worldviews are embedded into U.S. funding guidelines.

Vollstedt first became interested in the topic when she traveled to Tanzania in the summer of 2007 and saw the disparities in the health system and was perplexed by the limited scope of U.S. aid programs she observed. She found a connection to Uganda through a professor in the UI College of Public Health and arranged to go to Kampala, Uganda, for six weeks to interview directors of programs and collect local media pertaining to HIV public health campaigns.

"In order to make effective HIV prevention programs, donors need to take into account the perspective of the implementers," Vollstedt said.

One of her main observations was that the U.S. policies do not take into consideration the unique cultural aspects of the communities where the policies are to be implemented.

Judith Faucette, a third year student in the UI College of Law from Raleigh, N.C., was awarded an honorable mention for her essay "Affirming Equality: An Argument for Express Recognition of the Prohibition on Orientation Based Discrimination in International Human Rights Law."

Faucette's essay is a proposal for a UN General Assembly Resolution prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the application of human rights treaties. Bothered by the lack of sexual orientation rights in international human rights treaties' lists of grounds for nondiscrimination, Faucette feels that the explicit recognition of gay and lesbian rights is necessary to prevent violations since discrimination in this area occurs so broadly worldwide.

"As a lesbian from the Southeastern U.S., I certainly have direct experience with discrimination based on my sexual orientation. I think it's important to understand that this is a global problem that affects people not only in far-flung locales and developing nations but right here in the United States," Faucette said.

The essay competition is named in honor of the lifetime work of Burns H. Weston. Weston resigned at the end of 2004 after six years as UICHR founding director, and in recognition of his worldwide reputation as a respected teacher and scholar of international human rights, he was named lifetime senior scholar of the UI Center for Human Rights.

For more information on the UICHR visit

For more information on UI International Programs visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Amy Weismann, UI International Programs, 319-335-0483,; Kelli Andresen, UI International Programs, 319-335-2026,; Writer: Jodie Klein