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.
Human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) have recently emerged as a way for technology companies to identify, mitigate, and remedy the potential risks and harms of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic systems. The purpose of this paper is to assess whether HRIAs are a tool fit for purpose for AI. Will HRIAs become an effective tool of AI governance that reduces risks and harms? Or, will they become a form of AI “ethics washing” that permits companies to hide behind a veneer of human rights due diligence and accountability? This paper finds that HRIAs of AI are only in their infancy. Simply conducting such assessments with the usual methods will miss the mark for AI and algorithmic systems, as demonstrated by the failures of the HRIA of Facebook in Myanmar. Facebook commissioned an HRIA after UN investigators found that genocide was committed in the country. However, the HRIA did not adequately assess the most salient human rights impacts of Facebook’s presence and product in Myanmar. HRIAs should be updated if they are to be used on AI and algorithmic systems. HRIAs for AI should be seen as an analysis of a sociotechnical system wherein social and technical factors are inherently intertwined and interrelated. Interdisciplinary expertise is needed to determine the appropriate methods and criteria for specific contexts where AI systems are deployed. In addition, HRIAs should be conducted at appropriate times relative to critical stages in an AI development lifecycle and function on an ongoing basis as part of a comprehensive human rights due diligence process. Challenges remain, such as developing methods to identify algorithmic discrimination as one of the most salient human rights concerns when it comes to assessing AI harms. In addition, a mix of voluntary actions and mandatory measures may be needed to incentivize organizations to incorporate HRIAs for AI and algorithmic systems in a more effective, transparent, and accountable way. The paper concludes with considerations for the technology sector, government, and civil society.
The efforts by Yemeni civil society to document the harms of the war as they occur are a powerful act of resistance and are critical to advancing justice for the Yemenis against whom these harms have been perpetrated, in whatever form that justice may ultimately take.
The Yemeni Civil War broke out in 2014 following a failed political transition in the aftermath of the 2011 Yemeni Revolution. The Revolution had resulted in the ouster of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled North Yemen and—after North and South Yemen joined—the Republic of Yemen, for more than three decades. However, several groups—including the Houthi movement in northern Yemen—opposed the new government that had formed under Saleh’s former vice president, now current President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The Houthis attacked and took over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in the fall of 2014, and several months later, Saudi Arabia responded with a military intervention to re-install the Hadi government, resulting in the civil war that continues to devastate Yemen today.
Since then, it has been deemed the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Though the Hadi-led Yemeni government and the Houthi-led insurgency are the central parties to the conflict, more than a dozen countries have provided support to one of the sides. Most importantly, a Saudi-led coalition of countries (the “Saudi Led Coalition”), including the U.S., is backing the government, while Iran is providing support to the Houthis. The respective resources of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other countries have contributed to the high rate of civilian casualties, the millions of people at risk of starvation, and the widespread violations of International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the Yemeni conflict. In spite of this, no party to the conflict has transparently addressed the number of civilian casualties, nor the broader violations of IHL and IHRL, resulting from their operations, and have instead denied their role in the harms being perpetrated against Yemeni civilians.
This paper highlights the importance of the Amazon for the global ecosystem, the retreat and the advance of deforestation in the area located within Brazilian territory, as well as the rising trend of environmental crimes, with special attention afforded to illegal logging, land grabbing and unauthorized mining activities, including in indigenous reserves. The article enumerates the governmental public policies that were successful in containing the destruction of the forest, and the setbacks they have suffered in recent times. The final part describes the forest exploitation models adopted thus far, which have had limited economic and social impact, and presents an alternative, currently under discussion, which combines the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the forest’s bioeconomy. The text also identifies contributions that international stakeholders can offer to forest conservation efforts, such as financing mechanisms (REDD+) and sustainability certification requirements by markets that consume Brazilian exports and by financial institutions when evaluating companies who develop activities in Brazil’s Legal Amazon (BLA).
“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