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Heinz in The Hague

By Ambassador Sarah Mendelson, Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy and Head of Heinz College in Washington, D.C.

Have the millions of dollars that governments have spent on COVID relief and recovery packages helped reduce inequities and inequalities? Have they helped create more just and inclusive communities? Will this era emerge as a critical juncture for social justice? 

These questions preoccupied a capstone project for over a year that Professor Daniel Armanios and I advised. In late May 2022, six students from Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy — all recent graduates from the Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management (MSPPM) program — traveled to The Hague to participate in a special workshop and in a public session at the World Justice Forum (WJF) to share results. This travel and the research presented were conducted with generous support from the Packard Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation

The capstone project revealed fairly profound disaggregated data gaps that need to be closed in order to determine who exactly is benefiting or who is being left behind. With the UN Foundation as the client, the students tackled this work in a handful of North American cities: Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Toronto. 

Alas, there is not much evidence of a just recovery at the local level particularly for communities of color, despite some rosy headlines on a national level of, for example, deep cuts in child poverty because of the U.S. government response.  The findings in each city were confirmed by a number of local stakeholders, heads of or front line workers from NGOs also participating in the WJF in The Hague. 

In addition, the workshop benefited from the participation of colleagues from the University of Southern California, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Most of these contributors had participated in discussions in 2020 and 2021 that I led as part of the Brookings Institution and The Rockefeller Foundation’s annual flagship “17 Rooms” exercise on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  My room—Room 16—was preoccupied with this issue of whether COVID funds were positively impacting prior social justice needs, such as food insecurity or homelessness, and also in creating a community of practice with colleagues from universities centered on how to partner and train the next generation, Cohort 2030, differently on human rights using the SDGs.  The meetings in The Hague were important contributions to both lines of work which will continue through 2022.

  • Students gather at The Hague
  • Students gather at The Hague
  • Students gather at The Hague
  • Students gather at The Hague

Heinz Students Gather at The Hague

Students participated in a special workshop and in a public session at the World Justice Forum