This symposium was conceived as a way for us to convene leaders and academics from the human rights and anti-corruption movements, which have traditionally operated as separate communities of practice, to explore the linkages between the issues we work on and consider approaches to advance our work together. We hope that this symposium will not only help to inform and shape a deeper involvement of the Carr Center into the issue of corruption, but will also be the start of an ongoing collaboration between the human rights and anti-corruption communities.
We offer a theoretical framework for understanding the role of technological capabilities (affordances) in documenting war crimes and human rights abuses in limited access areas. We focus on three digital affordances: geospatial, digital network, and digital forensic science. The paper argues that by leveraging digital affordances, human rights groups gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas, or to information that has been degraded in an effort to obfuscate culpability. We also argue that the use of digital technology invites a reassessment of what we mean when we speak of a human rights organization. Organizational morphology in digital space is hybrid in nature, with traditional organizations also taking on or joining more virtual or solely digital forms.
Siddharth Kara is a tireless chronicler of the human cost of slavery around the world. He has documented the dark realities of modern slavery in order to reveal the degrading and dehumanizing systems that strip people of their dignity for the sake of profit—and to link the suffering of the enslaved to the day-to-day lives of consumers in the West. In Modern Slavery, Kara draws on his many years of expertise to demonstrate the astonishing scope of slavery and offer a concrete path toward its abolition.
From labor trafficking in the U.S. agricultural sector to sex trafficking in Nigeria to debt bondage in the Southeast Asian construction sector to forced labor in the Thai seafood industry, Kara depicts the myriad faces and forms of slavery, providing a comprehensive grounding in the realities of modern-day servitude. Drawing on sixteen years of field research in more than fifty countries around the globe—including revelatory interviews with both the enslaved and their oppressors—Kara sets out the key manifestations of modern slavery and how it is embedded in global supply chains. Slavery offers immense profits at minimal risk through the exploitation of vulnerable subclasses whose brutalization is tacitly accepted by the current global economic order. Kara has developed a business and economic analysis of slavery based on metrics and data that attest to the enormous scale and functioning of these systems of exploitation. Beyond this data-driven approach, Modern Slavery unflinchingly portrays the torments endured by the powerless. This searing exposé documents one of humanity’s greatest wrongs and lays out the framework for a comprehensive plan to eradicate it.
“There cannot be ‘innate’ rights in any other sense than that in which there are innate duties, of which, however, much less has been heard.”
Their article seeks to recover the tradition of individual duties that is integral to the historical origins of international human rights, arguing that increased attention to duties and responsibilities in international politics can be necessary complements to promoting human rights, particularly economic, social, and cultural rights.
Atrocity crimes rage today in Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Burundi, and Yemen. Given their potential to establish facts and promote accountability, recently opened United Nations investigations of international law violations in each of these states are thus a welcome, even if belated, development. However, these initiatives prompt questions about their designs, both in isolation and relative to each other.
This article describes the investigations into alleged violations in these five states, examines their respective sponsors and scopes, and presents a wide range of questions about the investigations and their implications, including their coordination with each other and their use of evidence in domestic, foreign, hybrid, and international courts (such as the International Criminal Court). The article concludes that, while seeking accountability for international law violations is certainly laudatory, these particular investigations raise significant questions about achieving that goal amidst rampant human rights abuses in these five states and beyond. International lawyers, atrocity crime survivors, and other observers thus await answers before assessing whether these investigations will truly promote justice.
The president asked SecDef and Congress to ensure that detention policies support warfighting aims. That should mean shutting Gitmo down.
Will President Trump close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay?
This question may sound preposterous. After all, President Obama, who called the prison a threat to national security and American ideals, actually tried to close it. President Trump, by contrast, is on record as vehemently favoring not only its continuation but its expansion. On Jan. 30 he reaffirmed that commitment both in his State of the Union address and in an executive order revoking President Obama’s order commanding its closure.
Why, then, even raise the prospect of closing Guantanamo during this administration? The answer lies in two related actions recently taken by the president: his command to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “reexamine our military detention policy” and report back to him within 90 days and his request to Congress to ensure that “we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists.” The two actions in conjunction represent an unexpected open-mindedness on the part of the president with respect to detention policy. By seeking a broad-focus, “blank-sheet-of-paper” review, asking Mattis to take charge, and inviting Congress to join with them, President Trump acted prudently and, dare I say it, wisely.
In its 2016 “Democracy Index” report, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States from a “full” to a “flawed democracy”. The report cited “an erosion of trust in political institutions” as the primary reason for the downgrade.1 In January 2018 Freedom House made a more dire assessment: “democratic institutions in the US have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process, bias and dysfunction in the criminal justice system, and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity and political influence.”2
Declining levels of political participation and public confidence in government in the US are not new, but the populist forces that propelled the election of Donald Trump in 2016 signaled a new level of public disillusionment with democratic politics as usual. There has been a sharp increase in democratic discontent over the last fifteen years. An October 2017 Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 71% of Americans believe that political polarization and democratic dysfunction have reached “a dangerous low point”. Three years earlier, in 2014, a Gallup Poll showed that 65% of Americans were “dissatisfied with their system of government and how it works,” a dramatic reversal from 68% satisfaction twelve years earlier in 2002.
How resilient is liberal democracy, and how broad is its base of support? On a global level there is evidence of both erosion and resilience. A November 2017 report of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an intergovernmental organization that assesses the state of democracy worldwide, put it this way: “The current situation is more positive than suggested by an increasingly gloomy view that democracy has been in decline for the last ten years or more. This period appears to be one of trendless fluctuations in which gains and downturns in individual countries
tend to balance each other out at the global level.”3 From this vantage point, democracy in the US may be resilient when compared to some other democracies where neo-authoritarian leaders -- such as Orban in Hungary, Kaczyński in Poland, and Erdoğan in Turkey -- have recently undermined the independence and functioning of pluralist institutions.
But the health of American democracy has been called into question. Experts are divided on whether the illness reflects an ongoing struggle in the US by the proponents of liberal democracy to fend off anti-democratic tendencies ,4 or a long-term trend toward democratic deconsolidation.5 This paper considers a sampling of evidence about attacks on key institutions and elements of democracy in the US during the first year of the Trump administration, and potential sources of democratic resilience in the media, the judiciary, law enforcement, democratic norms and principles, the electoral process, civil society, state and local government, the federal civil service, and the Congress. The stakes are high. A central question, posed by a provocative new book, How Democracies Die, by Harvard scholars Stephen Levitsky and Daniel Zieblatt, is whether these institutions will withstand anti-democratic pressure, or “become political weapons, wielded forcefully by those who control them against those who do not?”6
Following is a summary of the Trump administration’s challenges to democratic institutions during its first year and an assessment of institutional resilience compiled in this report.