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  • Cynthia Price Cohen:In Memoriam 12 April 2008
  • Christina M. Cerna, Especialista Principal

On October 11, 2007, the human rights movement lost a great defender of children's rights and I lost a dear friend. It is only fitting that I pay tribute to Cynthia Price Cohen at the ASIL business meeting of the Human Rights Interest Group, because, regrettably, that is the only time that I ever worked with Cynthia. One of the attractions of assuming the co-chairmanship of the Interest Group (with Bernie Hamilton) was writing a column for the HRIG newsletter which Cynthia edited and produced. The newsletter and the directory known as "Connections" were the glue that kept us all in touch between meetings and informed about our respective activities. I miss the newsletter but I miss Cynthia much more.

Cynthia was born in Oklahoma of part Indian heritage. She was very proud of her indigenous background and every summer was involved in organizing the Sovereignty Symposium, an annual conference on Indian Law sponsored by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and held in Oklahoma.

Those who had the privilege of knowing Cynthia knew that she lit up the room when she entered it. Her improbable hair—those long golden locks—her infectious laugh and her indomitable energy and enthusiasm were, for me, her indelible characteristics. She was almost too happy and enthusiastic to be a serious scholar—many erroneously thought. She left Oklahoma for the NYC stage where for many years she danced and sang, mostly in Off Broadway productions. In NYC, she met and married Joseph Cohen, a local businessman. Not surprisingly, his family was not that pleased given that she was not Jewish and obviously not a serious enough girl. But their love flourished and remained strong for over fifty years and produced two sons.

In her forties Cynthia began to explore her serious side. In 1970, she started anew and entered college (CCNY) and in pursuing her studies, discovered that she was dyslexic. But she was undaunted and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, having majored in political science and philosophy. After graduation she started work toward a Ph.D. in political science and also became a part time law student at New York Law School. [End Page 842]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s she became involved in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 1988 she completed all the requirements for a Ph.D. but could not find a sponsor for her child rights dissertation and dropped out of the program and began writing and lecturing on the rights of the child. In the interim she received a Master's Degree in political science from the City University of New York. In 1993 she founded ChildRights International Research Institute. She received two doctorates. The first, in Ph.D. in Law was in 1995 from the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, for her dissertation on the Process of Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and then the second, a doctorate in social policy, from the University of Gent in Belgium, for her doctorate on the role of nongovernmental organizations in the development of the human rights of children.

Cynthia lectured and wrote widely on the rights of the child, authoring over 150 articles, books and lectures and was one of the world's leading experts on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Her work on children's rights will be long appreciated. [End Page 843]

Christina M. Cerna, Especialista Principal
Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
Organización de los Estados Americanos


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