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WVU Law experts meet with U.N. Special Rapporteur

Four law clinic directors provided the U.N. poverty and human rights investigator with insight on conditions in the Mountain State.

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA — When a United Nations investigator recently visited West Virginia, he heard directly from WVU Law representatives. 

UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston traveled to Alabama, California, Georgia, Puerto Rico and West Virginia in December. His mission was “to examine government efforts to eradicate poverty in the country, and how they relate to U.S. obligations under international human rights law.”

At a meeting in Charleston, West Virginia, Alston heard testimony from Valena Beety, director of the West Virginia Innocence Project Law Clinic; Priya Baskaran, director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic; Katherine Garvey, director of the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic; and Jennifer Oliva, director of the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic.

  • Baskaran talked about the realities of economic development;
  • Beety discussed the harsh penalties in the criminal justice system;
  • Garvey spoke about water and wastewater infrastructure needs; and
  • Oliva addressed disabled veterans and opioid abuse as a public health crisis.

Their statements will join the testimony of other specialists when Alston compiles his final report, which will be available in Spring 2018 and presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2018.

Throughout his U.S. tour, Alston met with government officials, people living in poverty, civil society organizations and academic experts to address a wide range of key areas including the criminal justice system, welfare and healthcare, barriers to political participation, homelessness, and basic social rights such as the right to social protection, housing, water and sanitation.

At the conclusion of his U.S. visit, Alston said that he is concerned about the high-level of inequality in one of the world’s richest nations.

“The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion, as the United States now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries,” he said in a news release.

WVU Law experts with Advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

Anna Marie Burman, advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, with WVU Law clinic directors Katherine Garvey, Valena Beety, Priya Baskaran, and Jennifer Oliva.


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