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.
"Please accept my thanks for the invitation to speak with you and for your service on this important effort. Grappling with the meaning and implications of human rights is a task that no one generation can complete; comprehension, validation, and commitment require investment of renewing thought and action even though human rights are described as self-evident and eternal. In fact, the reasons why individual nations and even individual people subscribe to notions of human rights vary enormously—and range from idealism to realpolitik—as do their justifications and rationales, which sound in such competing registers as religion, social contract, nature, utility, and game theory. As I will explain, respect for the dignity of each person offers a core basis for human rights in both substance and in attitudes of respect and civility even when we disagree. Your admirable effort to trace ideas about human rights to deep histories and understandings of eternal truths should underscore the importance of engagement with other nations and multinational convenings as we all face unprecedented challenges to human dignity."
Building on the work of Iris Marion Young in her posthumous book, Responsibility for Justice, in The Hidden Face of Rights, I argue that all actors socially connected to structural injustice and able to act, need to take action to address the injustice. One problem with the word responsibility is that people often use it in the common legal meaning focused on who is to blame or liable. This is what Iris Young has called backward-looking responsibility or the “liability model.” She focused on political responsibility that is forward-looking. This kind of responsibility asks not “who is to blame,” but “what should we do?” Forward-looking responsibility is necessary to address the Coronavirus pandemic and to think about what we should do in the world after the pandemic. I also draw on Max Weber’s idea of an ethic of responsibility in Politics as a Vocation to stress that it is not enough to act with good intentions. We also need to have done our research about the most effective way to act so that our actions have the impact we seek.
This framework is useful in the context of the Coronavirus crisis because it involves both a range of rights and responsibilities of many actors. Our right to health, but also rights to liberty, freedom of movement, to education, to information, to food and shelter are all at stake. As countries ramp up exclusionary travel and border policies, some of these rights may be imperiled, and governments need to strike a balance between protecting the health and respecting human rights, as the WHO Secretary General recognized in his briefing on March 12. A quarantine is a legitimate state policy in times of health emergencies, but the state must attend to the rights of individuals caught in the quarantine to adequate health care, food, and shelter.
Neal Cohen analyzes why AI technologies fall short on privacy. While artificial intelligence (AI) powered technologies are now commonly appearing in many digital services we interact with on a daily basis, an often neglected truth is that few companies are actually building the underlying AI technology.
“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