The human rights framework has had many successes in the 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, but is still relevant to today’s challenges? In the last few years, human rights practitioners have raised the alarm on what seems like sustained attacks on human rights from some governments. But there is a bigger threat to the future of human rights: that people could see them as less relevant to their lives. My aim is to provide a constructive critique of human rights practice and messaging, together with three main proposals: 1. putting climate change at the top of the human rights agenda; 2. significantly increasing the amount of work on Economic, Social and Cultural (ESC) rights undertaken by human rights advocacy and campaigning organizations, and 3. adopting a system-analysis and solutions-based approach to human rights.
A standoff between the United Nations World Food Program and Houthi rebels in control of the capital region is threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Yemen.
Alarmed by reports that food is being diverted to support the rebels, the aid program is demanding that Houthi officials allow them to deploy biometric technologies like iris scans and digital fingerprints to monitor suspected fraud during food distribution.
The Houthis have reportedly blocked food delivery, painting the biometric effort as an intelligence operation, and have demanded access to the personal data on beneficiaries of the aid. The impasse led the aid organization to the decision last month to suspend food aid to parts of the starving population — once thought of as a last resort — unless the Houthis allow biometrics.
Then Stephan and Chenoweth teamed up to write a paper and a book based on the data. They found that major nonviolent campaigns are successful 53% of the time, while violent campaigns are successful only 26% of the time.
But does nonviolence cause the higher success rate? Or are you more likely to choose sit-ins over shootouts when you know you're already likely to succeed? When Stephan and Chenoweth factored in additional data on why the campaigns turned violent, peaceful resistance still prevailed. The likelihood of success was not a factor in whether a campaign became violent.
"I was surprised," Chenoweth says. "I expected for there to be, basically, at best no significant difference between armed and unarmed action."
"Fifty years ago, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, a motley multitude of queer folks fought back. The stage was the Stonewall Inn, a popular Mafia-owned gay bar on Christopher Street in New York City’s West Village. The spectacle was a police raid, which had become an increasingly routine fact of queer life during the 1960s. It was summer, people were hot, and the nation was pulsing with protest."
"Most of us think of technology as a neutral force. Objects or processes are designed and implemented to solve problems and there are no biases, implied or overt, at work. But Sabelo Mhlambi says, not so fast. The computer scientist and researcher says technology cannot be neutral. What gets made, who makes it and uses it, and why is dependent upon our societies — and all societies are biased.
"Technology will only replicate who we are," he explains. "Our social interactions will still occur online anyway. So, there’s nothing magical about technology where it somehow brings neutrality or brings equality or equity."
What are the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) on human rights in the next three decades? Precise answers to this question are made difficult by the rapid rate of innovation in AI research and by the effects of human practices on the adaption of new technologies. Precise answers are also challenged by imprecise usages of the term “AI.” There are several types of research that all fall under this general term. We begin by clarifying what we mean by AI. Most of our attention is then focused on the implications of artificial general intelligence (AGI), which entail that an algorithm or group of algorithms will achieve something like superintelligence. While acknowledging that the feasibility of superintelligence is contested, we consider the moral and ethical implications of such a potential development. What do machines owe humans and what do humans owe superintelligent machines?
New article features Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellow Mark Latonero.
"Simply layering technology on top of existing humanitarian problems tends to exacerbate the issues it intended to resolve. In a new report on the role of digital identity in refugee and migrant contexts, a team of researchers at the Data & Society Research Institute, led by Mark Latonero, detail the various ways these initiatives can reproduce and worsen existing bureaucratic biases."
In a world where the pace of organizational learning is often slower than the pace of technological change, activists and nonprofit leaders must develop their “technical intuition.” Not everyone needs to become a tech expert, explains Alix Dunn, of the consulting firm Computer Says Maybe, but this ongoing process of imagining, inquiring about, deciding on, and demanding technological change is critical.
In this recording from our 2019 Data on Purpose conference, Dunn walks through her guidelines to help anyone to develop these skills.
A new tide of people power is rising in Africa. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime.
The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.
New article on Ozy.com featuring Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellow Desmond Patton.
“This is a pioneering phase for social work and AI,” says Desmond Patton, a professor at Columbia University who uses natural language processing algorithms to analyze gang violence. “I don’t think it’s a space yet.”
What would it mean for there to be a genuinely and legitimately global discourse on justice that involves Africa in authentic ways? There are various responses. On the one hand, there is the idea of “philosophical fieldwork” developed by Katrin Flikschuh. African thought that fell by the wayside due to European expansionism must be recuperated and inserted into that discourse. On the other hand, there is the world society approach pioneered by John Meyer and others. The point is that ideas from elsewhere in the world can be genuinely and legitimately appropriated, which is how ideas have always spread. Once ideas about justice are appropriated by African thinkers, they are associated with Africa as much as with any other region. My goal here is to explore both approaches and support the second, while also making room for the first. In doing so, I articulate a view about how my own ongoing work on global justice can be seen as a contribution to an actual global discourse. There are rather large (and sensitive) issues at stake here: how to think about respectful appropriation of ideas and thus respectful philosophical discourse. A great deal of nuance is needed.
The primary purpose of this Article is to examine the roles of constitutional courts in contemporary democracies. It aims to demonstrate that such courts perform, in addition to the countermajoritarian role traditionally recognized in constitutional theory, two other roles: representative and, occasionally, enlightened. In the construction of the argument, the Article analyzes the phenomena of the judicialization of politics and judicial activism, as well as the issue of the difficult demarcation of the border between law and politics in the complex and plural societies of today. Although it presents several examples of the constitutional experience of the United States, the Article’s conclusions are generalizable, looking at the roles of constitutional courts from the perspective of a global constitutionalism whose categories have become common practice in the democracies of the world.
Matthias Risse, Faculty Director of the Carr Center, and Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, opened the conference with welcoming remarks. Risse noted that 2018 was a year of anniversaries, not only the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute but also the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of the American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man, an occasion both for celebration and for critical reflection. Sikkink also noted the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute was a moment to reflect and remember, looking backward to take stock with an eye toward moving justice forward in the future.
"Increasingly, governments, corporations, international organizations, and nongov-ernmental organizations (NGOs) are seeking to use digital technologies to track the identities of migrants and refugees. This surging interest in digital identity technologies would seem to meet a pressing need: the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) states that in today’s modern world, lacking proof of identity can limit a person’s access to services and socio-economic participation, including employment opportunities, housing, a mobile phone, and a bank account. But this report argues that the tech-nologies and processes involved in digital identity will not provide easy solutions in the migration and refugee context. Technologies that rely on identity data introduce a new sociotechnical layer that may exacerbate existing biases, discrimination, or power imbalances.How can we weigh the added value of digital identification systems against the potential risks and harms to migrant safety and fundamental human rights? This report provides international organizations, policymakers, civil society, technologists, and funders with a deeper background on what we currently know about digital identity and how migrant identity data is situated in the Italian context. "
New article features Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellow Mark Latonero. " Mark Latonero, human rights lead at Data & Society, a nonprofit institute dedicated to the applications of data, agreed that technology companies should be doing more to tackle such issues. While Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and others have employees focused on human rights, he said, there was so much more they should be doing before they deploy technologies—not after."
Following the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, the labour rights violations in global supply chains, and indeed the governance of global supply chains, has become a pressing global issue. This paper evaluates key existing global and national supply chain governance mechanisms from the perspective of the most vulnerable workers in supply chains—informal homeworkers.
The 2020 presidential election will be a showdown over the right to vote. The outcome will be determined by an electoral system under attack from both foreign and domestic sources. Russian efforts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election are being extensively investigated, but the domestic war on voting rights is less well understood. After more than a century of expanding the voting rights of previously disenfranchised groups, the American electoral system today is confronted by political and legal maneuvers to curtail the hard-won rights of these same groups, ostensibly in the name of combating fraud and regulating voting, but in fact in order to change the outcome of elections.