Carr Center's Kathryn Sikkink gave the Plenary address at the 2016 American Political Science Association's Annual Meeting. Her talk, "Are We Making Progress in Human Rights? Transformations in Knowledge and Activism,” drew on material from her forthcoming book Making Human Rights Work: Evidence for Hope.
Said Sikkink, "recently there has been a surge of pessimism about the legitimacy and effectiveness of human rights law, institutions, and movements. I argue that transformations in the world generated by human rights ideas and activism have paradoxically clouded our ability to evaluate and measure progress because we now know more and care more about human rights issues than even before. To engage in a more productive debate, the nature of the critique, definitions of terms, and methods being used to measure progress all need to be clarified. I examine these issues, and argue that careful issue-by-issue examination of the evidence on human rights progress and decline offers a more complex and hopeful picture than that suggested by the pessimists."