The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy serves as the hub of the Harvard Kennedy School’s research, teaching, and training in the human rights domain. The center embraces a dual mission: to educate students and the next generation of leaders from around the world in human rights policy and practice; and to convene and provide policy-relevant knowledge to international organizations, governments, policymakers, and businesses.
We interviewed Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, Erica Chenoweth, Senior Carr Fellow Salil Shetty, and Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights, Matthew Smith, to discuss how social movements and civil resistance efforts are changing shape in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has described the pandemic as one of the most important challenges the United Nations has faced since its creation. Several coordinated multilateral efforts have been put in place between the WHO and the UN, and the UNSC, the body that centralizes all the efforts of the United Nations on international peace and security and addresses global crises like the one we are experiencing. However, today, when the world faces the greatest threat of our time, the Security Council is missing. It is time for the Security Council to rise to this crisis. The Dominican Republic, which currently holds the presidency of the UNSC, has a historic opportunity to lead global efforts against the Coronavirus and mitigate its repercussions on world peace and security. The Dominican Republic should its position to unify the Council around a presidential statement calling for a coordinated global response as the first step in Council action. If the presidential statement is framed in a forward-looking manner, they can perhaps get permanent members on board, making it possible to take stronger action in the future.
There is a need for a decisive declaration that calls for working together could make all the difference: legitimatize recent General Assembly decisions, reinforce the authority of the secretary-general, and strengthen the efforts of specialized UN agencies to save lives. This presidential statement should first endorse Secretary-General Guterres' call for a worldwide ceasefire in all conflicts around the globe. The Coronavirus hit the developed world first, but it can ravage war-torn regions even more. A functioning global ceasefire can help ensure that medical personnel has safe and unhindered access to the sick in these areas. Without it, the disease will exponentially spread. Civil society groups and even some warring parties are responding positively to the Secretary General's proposal, but so far, the Security Council has had nothing to say. Without Security Council backing, other warring parties may not lay down their arms. Now more than ever, we need unity and leadership from the Security Council. The security of the world and the legitimacy of the Security Council depends on the capacity of its members, including the small, to assume the responsibility for our shared future.
This article has been translated from its original text in Spanish.
History shows us that seismic events have the potential to unite even politically divided Americans behind common cause. In the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has already taken more than seven times the number of lives as terrorists did in the 9/11 attacks, but the outpouring of solidarity Americans have shown for one another has so far not translated into more unity over government’s proper role at home or America’s proper role abroad. Indeed, the virus struck in an era of the most virulent polarization ever recorded—an unprecedented 82-percentage point divide between Republicans’ and Democrats’ average job-approval ratings of President Trump. And so far that gap appears only to be widening, while internationally, political leaders are trading recriminations rather than coordinating the procurement of medical supplies.
But the shared enemy of a future pandemic must bring about a redefinition of national security and generate long overdue increases of federal investments in domestic and global health security preparedness.
“The Carr Center is building a bridge between ideas on human rights and the practice on the ground. Right now we are at a critical juncture. The pace of technological change and the rise of authoritarian governments are both examples of serious challenges to the flourishing of individual rights. It’s crucial that Harvard and the Kennedy School continue to be a major influence in keeping human rights ideals alive. The Carr Center is a focal point for this important task.”
- Mathias Risse