Arts, Culture & Justice

The Carr Center explores and promotes the use of arts and culture to explore some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. We work in collaboration with the American Repertory Theater to host public conversations on these issues with artists, academics and activists, a program called The A.R.T. of Human Rights.

Building on the Carr Center’s commitment to advancing human rights principles, and the A.R.T.’s mission to “expand the boundaries of theater,” The A.R.T. of Human Rights is designed to foster a new model for community education, civic engagement, and creative expression. The A.R.T. of Human Rights is directed and hosted by Timothy McCarthy.

Arts, Culture & Justice - Experts

Swanee Hunt

Swanee Hunt

Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy
Adjunct Faculty, Harvard Kennedy School

Global Governance - Experts

David King

David King

Faculty
Senior Lecturer in Public Policy
Jennifer Leaning

Jennifer Leaning

François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights
Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
PippaNorris

Pippa Norris

Paul. F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics

Global Governance - News

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Harvard Votes Challenge

September 17, 2018

The Harvard Votes Challenge is a nonpartisan, university-wide effort that is challenging Harvard schools to do their part to increase voter registration and participation among eligible students. 

JOIN THE CHALLENGE

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In a strong democracy, citizens participate in political processes, and as a school for public leaders, we should not just encourage that participation, we should model it. This is why the Harvard Kennedy School is...

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Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s eighth secretary-general, to join Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as senior fellow in 2018-2019

July 6, 2018

Cambridge, MA—Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) announced today that Salil Shetty, the outgoing secretary-general of Amnesty International, will join the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as a senior fellow for the 2018-2019 academic year.

 

Shetty will be stepping down from Amnesty...

Read more about Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s eighth secretary-general, to join Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as senior fellow in 2018-2019
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Global Governance - Events

Global Governance - Publications

Mathias Risse. 4/15/2018. Human Rights and Artificial Intelligence: An Urgently Needed Agenda. Carr Center for Human Rights. Harvard Kennedy School.Abstract
Artificial intelligence generates challenges for human rights. Inviolability of human life is the central idea behind human rights, an underlying implicit assumption being the hierarchical superiority of humankind to other forms of life meriting less protection. These basic assumptions are questioned through the anticipated arrival of entities that are not alive in familiar ways but nonetheless are sentient and intellectually and perhaps eventually morally superior to humans. To be sure, this scenario may never come to pass and in any event lies in a part of the future beyond current grasp. But it is urgent to get this matter on the agenda. Threats posed by technology to other areas of human rights are already with us. My goal here is to survey these challenges in a way that distinguishes short-, medium-term and long-term perspectives
Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?
John Shattuck, Amanda Watson, and Matthew McDole. 2/15/2018. Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?. Carr Center for Human Rights Policy . Cambridge, MA: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper by Ambassador John Shattuck, Amanda Watson and Matthew McDole examines the resilience of liberal democracy and democratic institutions in the US after one year of the Trump administration. 


SUMMARY
 

In its 2016 “Democracy Index” report, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States from a “full” to a “flawed democracy”. The report cited “an erosion of trust in political institutions” as the primary reason for the downgrade.[1] In January 2018 Freedom House offered an equally dire assessment: “democratic institutions in the US have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process . . . and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity and political influence.”[2]

Declining levels of political participation and public confidence in government in the US are not new, but the populist forces that propelled the election of Donald Trump in 2016 signaled a new level of public disillusionment with democratic politics as usual. There has been a sharp increase in public discontent with the system of governance in the US over the last fifteen years. An October 2017 Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 71% of Americans believe that political polarization and democratic dysfunction have reached “a dangerous low point”.[3] Three years earlier, in 2014, a Gallup Poll showed that 65% of Americans were “dissatisfied with their system of government and how it works,” a dramatic reversal from 68% satisfaction twelve years earlier in 2002.[4]

The US is a flawed liberal democracy.[5] In theory, liberal democracy is the antithesis of authoritarianism. Its ingredients include free and fair elections, freedom of speech and media freedom, an independent judiciary, minority rights and civil liberties, a diverse civil society, the rule of law and a system of checks and balances against concentrations of power. The institutions and elements of liberal democracy are designed to be a bulwark against tyranny by both the executive and the majority.

Alberto Mo. 2/5/2018. “How Trump Just Might Close Guantanamo Prison.” Defense One.Abstract

The president asked SecDef and Congress to ensure that detention policies support warfighting aims. That should mean shutting Gitmo down.

Will President Trump close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay?  

This question may sound preposterous. After all, President Obama, who called the prison a threat to national security and American ideals, actually tried to close it. President Trump, by contrast, is on record as vehemently favoring not only its continuation but its expansion. On Jan. 30 he reaffirmed that commitment both in his State of the Union address and in an executive order revoking President Obama’s order commanding its closure. 

Why, then, even raise the prospect of closing Guantanamo during this administration? The answer lies in two related actions recently taken by the president: his command to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “reexamine our military detention policy” and report back to him within 90 days and his request to Congress to ensure that “we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists.” The two actions in conjunction represent an unexpected open-mindedness on the part of the president with respect to detention policy. By seeking a broad-focus, “blank-sheet-of-paper” review, asking Mattis to take charge, and inviting Congress to join with them, President Trump acted prudently and, dare I say it, wisely. 

Full Op-Ed in Defense One.

Mathias Risse and John W. Meyer. 2018. “Thinking About the World: Philosophy and Sociology”.Abstract
In recent decades the world has grown together in ways in which it had never before. This integration is linked to a greatly expanded public and collective awareness of global integration and interdependence. Academics across the social sciences and humanities have reacted to the expanded realities and perceptions, trying to make sense of the world within the confines of their disciplines. In sociology, since the 1970s, notions of the world as a society have become more and more prominent. John Meyer, among others, has put forward, theoretically and empirically, a general world-society approach. In philosophy, much more recently, Mathias Risse has proposed the grounds-of-justice approach. Although one is social-scientific and the other philosophical, Meyer’s world society approach and Risse’s grounds-of-justice approach have much in common. This essay brings these two approaches into one conversation.
Mathias Risse. 10/7/2018. “Human Rights as Membership Rights in the World Society”.Abstract

The idea of human rights has come a long way. Even hard-nosed international-relations realists should recognize that the idea has become so widely accepted that nowadays it arguably has an impact. Many countries have made human rights goals part of their foreign policy. International civil society is populated by well-funded and outspoken human rights organizations. We have recently witnessed the creation of an entirely new institution, the International Criminal Court, as well as the acceptance, at the UN level, of guiding principles to formulate human rights obligations of businesses. Around the world, more and more local concerns are formulated in the language of human rights, a phenomenon known as the vernacularization, or localization, of human rights. Ordinary people increasingly express concerns in terms of human rights rather than a language that earlier might have come more natural to them. They are not just helping themselves to a legal and political machinery. They also make clear that they are articulating concerns others have in similar ways where they live.

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Global Governance - Videos