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

Civic Education

Citation:

John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 11/30/2020. “Civic Education.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 2020-004. See full text.
Civic Education

Abstract:

A well-informed citizenry is essential in a democracy to preserve American values and make sound decisions in every area, from the school board meeting to the voting booth. Yet, arguably, in no other way have Americans fallen so short from what the Framers intended than in their understanding of and participation in democratic governance. A 2019 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that only 39 percent of respondents could name all three branches of government, and 22 percent could not name any. Voting rates average only 56 percent in presidential elections, and are as low as 40 percent in mid-terms, ranking the U.S. far below most other democracies in voting participation. In short, the American people are not well-informed about their own government, do not turn out to vote in high numbers, and do not engage significantly in politics and civics.

In addition to providing a set of policy recommendations, this issue of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities paper series outlines historical origins of civic education, the status of state and federal requirement, the dearth of federal funding, and the current political tensions within civic education. 

Read the full paper here.  

See all the issues of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities paper series here

: John Shattuck, Mathias Risse | Nov 30 2020
: A well-informed citizenry is essential in a democracy to preserve American values and make sound decisions in every area, from the school board meeting to the voting booth.
Last updated on 11/30/2020

How are Human Rights Universal

Citation:

Eric Blumenson. 11/24/2020. “How are Human Rights Universal.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series, 2020-12. See full text.
How are Human Rights Universal

Abstract:

On the traditional view, human rights are universal because they belong to all human beings as such, solely in virtue of their humanity. In his paper, Blumenson explores the meaning of that claim and considers two reasons some people find it hard to accept. The first is the appeal of relativism. That appeal is all the greater now, when cultural diversity is more present than ever in one’s neighborhood, on television, and across the internet. It’s a short step from identifying differences in cultural values to identifying justice itself as culturally constructed. The second reason for doubt is also a response to the radically diverse ways of life in the world, but a simpler one: a belief that human rights universality is implausible. Even if there are moral universals, one might think them too few or too vague, and the settings of their operation too diverse, to generate anything as specific as human rights.

Read the full paper. 

: Eric Blumenson | Nov 24 2020
: Eric Blumenson describes the conditions, challenges, and skeptics of the notion of "universality" within the human rights domain.
Last updated on 11/24/2020

Money in Politics

Citation:

John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 11/18/2020. “Money in Politics.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 2020-003. See full text.
Money in Politics

Abstract:

As Yogi Berra once said, “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” Nothing could be truer when it comes to money in American politics. In the 2000 election, candidates and outside groups spent a combined $3 billion on the presidential and congressional races. Not two decades later, in 2016, the amount spent more than doubled to a combined $6.5 billion. For 2020, forecasters project that the total amount spent on political advertising alone will reach $10 billion.

There’s a simple reason for this exponential rise in political expenditures: the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment to preclude the regulation of many aspects of campaign finance. That decision in 1976 first opened the floodgates of contributions to political campaigns.

 

"Nowhere is money felt more than in the explosion of spending by outside groups to elect and influence candidates in the past decade, which have simultaneously increased amounts while decreasing accountability."

 

In this issue of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the U.S. paper series, the authors outline how the bipartisan use of money in politics undermines the democratic process. 

Read the full report.  

See all the issues of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities paper series here

: John Shattuck, Mathias Risse | Nov 18 2020
: The bipartisan use of money in politics  undermines the democratic process. 
Last updated on 11/30/2020
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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