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.
A new tide of people power is rising in Africa. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime.
The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.
There are various responses. On the one hand, there is the idea of “philosophical fieldwork” developed by Katrin Flikschuh. African thought that fell by the wayside due to European expansionism must be recuperated and inserted into that discourse. On the other hand, there is the world society approach pioneered by John Meyer and others. The point is that ideas from elsewhere in the world can be genuinely and legitimately appropriated, which is how ideas have always spread. Once ideas about justice are appropriated by African thinkers, they are associated with Africa as much as with any other region. My goal here is to explore both approaches and support the second, while also making room for the first. In doing so, I articulate a view about how my own ongoing work on global justice can be seen as a contribution to an actual global discourse. There are rather large (and sensitive) issues at stake here: how to think about respectful appropriation of ideas and thus respectful philosophical discourse. A great deal of nuance is needed.
Mathias Risse outlines his presentation at the First Colloquium on Discrimination, Cognitive Biases and Human Rights at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), on November 15th, 2018.
“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