Where Does Civil Engineering and Human Rights Intersect?

July 11, 2011

President Kathy Caldwell at World Justice Forum, Spain.


I like to refer to civil engineering as the most ethical and caring engineering profession.  In my experience and years working with engineers, civil engineers seem to be the most concerned with the impact of their work on the well-being of society, and they go above and beyond to ensure that the people-serving aspect of their work is conducted in the most respectful and ethical manner.

During June and July, there have been several membership focused events that have brought this issue to light.  On June 9, as part of our organizational membership on the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) SHRC (Science and Human Rights Coalition),the Society conducted a member-only webinar entitled “Civil Engineering and Human Rights-What’s the Connection?”  Over 200 people registered for the webinar whose purpose was twofold:

  • to raise awareness around Article 15  of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights  which states (in part b) that “the government shall recognize the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and it’s applications;”
  • to engage ASCE members in a sustained dialogue around the applications of Article 15 as it relates to the work of civil engineers.

During the webinar, several polls were conducted to obtain the pulse of members on the topic;  the following are a few of the results:

  • 90% saw a connection between civil engineering and human rights
  • 58% viewed access to the benefits of infrastructure  as an inalienable human right
  • 55% saw ASCE’s Vision2025 as a roadmap for civil engineering and human rights
  • 77%  believe that all  aspects of the Triple Bottom Line strongly represent the link between civil engineering and human rights
  • 76% indicated that they are interested in learning more about how they can work in support of human rights.

Not surprising, yet when it comes down to it, doesn’t it make you feel good to know that you are a part of a profession where not only can a discussion around human rights occur, but you are also encouraged to leverage your expertise for the betterment of society?  To learn more about how you can participate in the Human Rights Coalition, please send a message to diversity@asce.org.

Not fully convinced that ASCE is serious about this topic?  Check out ASCE President Kathy Caldwell’s recent blog “What Does the Rule of Law Mean to You?”  to hear more about her most recent participation in the World Justice Forum III and to respond to her call for member feedback on ASCE’s role in the World Justice Project.

ASCE  would like to hear from you about your thoughts on the connection between human rights and civil engineering.

Is there a natural intersection?  What experiences have you had that influenced your perspective on the subject?

Constance Thompson, Senior Manager, Diversity Programs

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