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.
History shows us that seismic events have the potential to unite even politically divided Americans behind common cause. In the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has already taken more than seven times the number of lives as terrorists did in the 9/11 attacks, but the outpouring of solidarity Americans have shown for one another has so far not translated into more unity over government’s proper role at home or America’s proper role abroad. Indeed, the virus struck in an era of the most virulent polarization ever recorded—an unprecedented 82-percentage point divide between Republicans’ and Democrats’ average job-approval ratings of President Trump. And so far that gap appears only to be widening, while internationally, political leaders are trading recriminations rather than coordinating the procurement of medical supplies.
But the shared enemy of a future pandemic must bring about a redefinition of national security and generate long overdue increases of federal investments in domestic and global health security preparedness.
It is insufficient to ask simply whether the virus is or is not present. Social data about who is infected are crucial for responding to needs now and will allow for better estimation of the likely spread and impact of COVID-19, the toll of which will be measured not only in deaths but also in the second-order, socially disparate spill-over effects on people’s economic well-being and safety. Real-time fast journalistic reporting and advocacy groups in the US and other countries are pointing to the critical importance of racial/ethnic, economic, and gender inequities to shaping COVID-19 risks. In the past week, calls for data on COVID-19 by race/ethnicity have been issued by leading politicians, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Ayana Pressley, the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, and by journalists. Why aren’t the public health data documenting these risks available?
In our third Covid-19 Discussion Paper, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Jacqueline Bhabha; Technology and Human Rights Fellows Laurin Leonard and Teresa Hodge; and Carr Center Fellow, Laura Cordisco-Tsai, outline how Covid-19 disproportionately impacts the world's most vulnerable communities. From prison populations to survivors of human trafficking, "Vulnerable communities often are not positioned to ensure their human rights are preserved in times of a crisis—they are often a historical afterthought."
“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