Institutions of Global Governance & Civil Society

Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century
Kathryn Sikkink. 9/8/2017. Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, Pp. 336. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. See full text.Abstract

Kathryn Sikkink's new book documents the history of successes of the human rights movement, and makes a case for why human rights work.

Evidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guantánamo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But respected human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to pessimistic doubts about human rights laws and institutions. She demonstrates that change comes slowly and as the result of struggle, but in the long term, human rights movements have been vastly effective.

Attacks on the human rights movement’s credibility are based on the faulty premise that human rights ideas emerged in North America and Europe and were imposed on developing southern nations. Starting in the 1940s, Latin American leaders and activists were actually early advocates for the international protection of human rights. Sikkink shows that activists and scholars disagree about the efficacy of human rights because they use different yardsticks to measure progress. Comparing the present to the past, she shows that genocide and violence against civilians have declined over time, while access to healthcare and education has increased dramatically. Cognitive and news biases contribute to pervasive cynicism, but Sikkink’s investigation into past and current trends indicates that human rights is not in its twilight. Instead, this is a period of vibrant activism that has made impressive improvements in human well-being.

Exploring the strategies that have led to real humanitarian gains since the middle of the twentieth century, Evidence for Hope looks at how these essential advances can be supported and sustained for decades to come.

Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her books include The Justice Cascade (Norton) and Activists beyond Borders. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

2018 Feb 08
books

Faculty Book Publications: 2017 in Review

January 5, 2018

Faculty members at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy published a series of groundbreaking books in 2017, addressing diverse policy issues from the role of women in Rwanda's post-conflict reconciliation; the prevalence of human trafficking and modern slavery; to making human rights work in the 21st century. 

 

Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy Kathryn Sikkink, ...

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2017 Oct 12

UN Treaty Bodies: The Work of the Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights

9:00am to 10:00am

Location: 

Nye A, 5th floor, Taubman Building, (Harvard Kennedy School)

The Carr Center is delighted to host Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Ms. Bras Gomes will discuss the Committee's work on diverse economic, social, and cultural rights issues, and provide an insight into the work of critical UN treaty bodies addressing human rights policy.

Selected participants for the Carr Center's delegation to the UN General Assembly are required to attend this event, but all others are also welcome to attend.

*Breakfast will be served.

2017 Sep 26

The UN and Human Rights

11:45am to 1:00pm

Location: 

Rubenstein-229, Carr Center Conference Room, Harvard Kennedy School

Carr Center Fellow Leonardo Castilho will host a lunchtime seminar providing an introduction to the United Nations' engagement with human rights policy issues.

Leonardo joined the United Nations in 2005 and has since then served the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Population Fund. He has worked on non-discrimination, development and economic, social and cultural rights.

Leonardo will lead the Carr Center's human rights delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in October 2017. Apply and learn more here:...

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Mark Wolf

Judge Mark Wolf

Senior Fellow

Mark Wolf was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 1985, served as its Chief Judge from 2006 through 2012, and...

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