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.


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Latest Publications

LGBTQ Rights


John Shattuck, Mathias Risse, and Timothy Patrick McCarthy. 1/6/2021. “LGBTQ Rights.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 007.
LGBTQ Rights


"Queer" people have always been here—since antiquity, they’ve lived across communities and intersections of every class, color, creed, condition, and country. Though not always marked as “deviant” or designated “illegal,” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have also more often than not been victims of personal prejudice, social and cultural stigma, and legal and political discrimination. This has certainly been the case in the modern era, the same time that “human rights” has gained currency and frequency as a rallying cry for various struggles and peoples seeking freedom, equality, and justice. That’s is not a coincidence: as the formal infrastructure of human rights and state-sanctioned homophobia expanded simultaneously in the middle of the 20th century, so, too, did the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States first emerge. This “paradox of progress”—the persistent battle between progress and prejudice—is a key characteristic of the history of social justice movements, including those for queer liberation and rights.


See the full Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities series here

: John Shattuck et al. | Jan 6 2021
: After centuries of discrimination and abuse dating back to Colonial America, the birth of LGBTQ activism in the 20th century secured fundamental rights and freedoms for LGBTQ people.
Last updated on 07/19/2021

Women's Rights


John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 1/4/2020. “Women's Rights.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 006. See full text.
Women's Rights



“I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.”

- Shirley Chisholm

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm made history as the first African American woman to seek a nomination from a major political party as a candidate for President of the United States. Prior to her campaign, Chisholm served in the House of Representatives for seven terms, co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, served on the House Rules Committee, and introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation. Despite those accomplishments, her presidential campaign was marked by discrimination, as she was barred from participating in primary debates, and was allowed to make a single televised speech only after she took legal action. While Chisholm’s presidential campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, she nevertheless opened up many doors for women in politics, and in equal rights more broadly. Since then, women have been appointed to the Supreme Court, led major House and Senate committees, and served as Secretary of State.

This issue of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities series analyzes the current state of women’s rights in the U.S., and proposes policy recommendations designed to advance them.

The paper examines how identity influences women’s experiences and provides historical context on women’s rights; assesses the current state of women’s rights in the areas of employment, education, poverty, domestic violence, health, and civil society; and offers policy recommendations that are designed to advance women’s rights moving forward.


 Read the full paper. 

Discover other issues in the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities series here

: John Shattuck and Mathias Risse | Jan 4 2021
: Assessing the current state of women’s rights in the United States, and offering policy recommendations designed to advance them.
Last updated on 01/19/2021

Racial Discrimination


John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 12/8/2020. “Racial Discrimination.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 2020-005. See full text.
Racial Discrimination


When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, his action honored a decades-long struggle by grassroots activists and dedicated political leaders to ensure national protection for racial equality. With the landmark agreement, Johnson fulfilled his promise, expressed in his first State of the Union speech earlier in the year, that “this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined”.  The historic legislation sought to eliminate racial discrimination on the federal level in broad categories including employment, education, voting, and public accommodations. The Civil Rights Act paved the way for other major federal laws outlawing discrimination in more targeted areas, such as the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. 

Over half a century later, the promises of the Civil Rights Act are threatened by sustained efforts to undermine its protections for equal rights and opportunities across racial identities.

This issue of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities series surveys the historical evolution and current status of racial discrimination within the U.S. in several key areas: criminal justice, housing, education, labor, and society at large. Next, it looks at the current status of discrimination within these five categories, including recent legislative and political efforts to weaken equal protection along racial lines. The authors provide recommendations to reinforce the government’s responsibility to uphold anti-discriminatory protections and restore individuals’ rights to equal access and protection. 

Read the paper here.

Check out other issues in our Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities Series. 

: John Shattuck and Mathias Risse | Dec 8 2020
: Surveying the historical evolution of racial discrimination in the U.S., and reinforcing the government’s responsibility to uphold anti-discriminatory protections.
Last updated on 12/08/2020
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“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