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.
On November 3 - 4, 2016, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School hosted a symposium that aimed to:
1. Strengthen collaboration among stakeholders working on issues at the intersection of human rights and technology and
2. Deepen our understanding of the nature of collaboration among different technical and scientific communities working in human rights.
The symposium brought together practitioners and academics from different industries, academic disciplines and professional practices. Discussion centered on three clusters of scientific and technical capacities and the communities of practice associated with each of them. These clusters are:
- Geospatial Technology: The use of commercial remote sensing satellites, geographical information systems (GIS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and geographical positioning satellites (GPS) and receivers to track events on earth.
- Digital Networks: The use of digital platforms to link individuals in different locations working towards a common goal, such as monitoring digital evidence of human rights violations around the world. It often involves crowdsourcing the collection of data over digital networks or social computation – the analysis of data by volunteers using digital networks.
- Forensic Science: The collection, preservation, examination and analysis of evidence of abuses and crimes for documentation, reconstruction, and understanding for public and court use. Among the more prominent evidential material in this area includes digital and multimedia evidence as well as corporal and other biologic evidence. When considering the use of digital technologies, we might say that forensic science involves the recoding of material objects into binary code. This domain includes massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies as well as document scanning and data management technologies.
In their landmark 1998 book, Activists Beyond Borders, Kathryn Sikkink and Margaret Keck wrote that “by overcoming the deliberate suppression of information that sustains many abuses of power, human rights groups bring pressure to bear on those who perpetuate abuses” (Keck and Sikkink, 1998, Kindle Locations 77-78). The Carr Center’s symposium on technology and human rights explored the ways modern human rights organization use science and technology to overcome the deliberate suppression of information.
Speakers discussed the latest advances in each of the key technologies represented at the symposium and used today by human rights organizations.
Steven Livingston and Sushma Raman co-organized the event. Livingston is Senior Fellow at the Carr Center and Professor of Media and Public Affairs and Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University; Raman is the Executive Director of the Carr Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
"Amid the flurry of executive orders issued by President Trump during his first week in office, one remains a work in progress. A draft version of the executive order on the “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants” has been leaked. It is a complex document with many provisions — all appeared designed to make it possible for the Trump administration to return to Bush policy of secret kidnapping, detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists.
Although the Trump administration has publicly backed away from some aspects of the order, Trump’s decision to appoint Gina Haspel — who has been accused of running one of the Bush era secret prisons that tortured inmates — as deputy head of the CIA suggests that Trump continues to be interested in returning to past practices. The mixed signals coming from the administration mean that it is still important to explain what a return of the secret prison system might mean."
"When I was growing in St. Cloud in the 1960s and 1970s, I was already dimly aware that we were an immigrant community.
In particular, I knew the parents and grandparents of many of my schoolmates had come from Germany because I was always in the homeroom full of the kids with German last names — the Schmidts, Schneiders, and Schwartzs. A number of these students came from poor farms outside town. They had to be up very early in the morning before school to help on the farm, before the long bus trip to school, and they came to homeroom, the first class of the day, smelling like the barn.
If I could, I would apologize to those students today for my cruel remarks behind their backs; I, who had the luxury of spending too long every morning in the bathroom getting ready for school (according to my older brother).
Many of the immigrant families in St. Cloud were Catholic, not only from Germany, but from Poland and Ireland. To this day, Census figures show that well over half of the individuals in the St. Cloud metropolitan area trace their ancestry to those three countries."
“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