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

Human Rights Impact Assessments for AI: Learning from Facebook’s Failure in Myanmar

Citation:

Mark Latonero and Aaina Agarwal. 3/19/2021. “Human Rights Impact Assessments for AI: Learning from Facebook’s Failure in Myanmar.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.
Human Rights Impact Assessments for AI: Learning from Facebook’s Failure in Myanmar

Abstract:

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.

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: Mark Latonero et al | March 19 2021
: Human rights impact assessments have recently emerged as a way for technology companies to identify, mitigate, and remedy the potential risks and harms of artificial intelligence and algorithmic systems, but are they effective?

Documentation as Resistance Against Widespread Civilian Harm in Yemen

Documentation as Resistance Against Widespread Civilian Harm in Yemen

Abstract:

 

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.

Read the full paper. 

: Niku Jafarnia | March 12 2021
: 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.
Last updated on 03/12/2021

How To Save The Amazon: The Reasons Why a Living Forest is Worth More than a Cut-Down One

Citation:

Luís Roberto Barroso and Patrícia Perrone Campos Mello. 3/10/2021. “How To Save The Amazon: The Reasons Why a Living Forest is Worth More than a Cut-Down One.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series, 2021-011. See full text.
How To Save The Amazon: The Reasons Why a  Living Forest is Worth More than a Cut-Down One

Abstract:

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).

Read the paper. 

: Luís Roberto Barroso et al | March 10 2021
: Since the 1970s, there has been a fundamental duality in the debate concerning the treatment of the rainforest: the advocates of economic development, on one side, and the environmentalists, on the other.
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Upcoming Events

2021 Nov 02

Why We Need AI Ethics with Dr. John Tasioulas

12:00pm to 1:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Dr. Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs, and Philosophy. Drawing inspiration from the title of Max Tegmark’s book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the series draws upon a range of scholars, technology leaders, and public interest technologists to address the ethical aspects of the long-term impact of artificial intelligence on society and...

Read more about Why We Need AI Ethics with Dr. John Tasioulas

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2021 Nov 04

Protests and Promises with Dr. Megan Ming Francis

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

Please join the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy for one of its signature series this fall, The Fierce Urgency of Now, drawing upon the famous quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” The fall series will focus on the intersection of racial, economic, and social justice in the United States. Information on how to access the event can...

Read more about Protests and Promises with Dr. Megan Ming Francis

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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