Many view civil wars as violent contests between armed combatants. But history shows that community groups, businesses, NGOs, local governments, and even armed groups can respond to war by engaging in civil action. Characterized by a reluctance to resort to violence and a willingness to show enough respect to engage with others, civil action can slow, delay, or prevent violent escalations. This volume explores how people in conflict environments engage in civil action, and the ways such action has affected violence dynamics in Syria, Peru, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Spain, and Colombia. These cases highlight the critical and often neglected role that civil action plays in conflicts around the world.
In her memoir, Power offers an urgent response to the question "What can one person do?"—and a call for a clearer eye, a kinder heart, and a more open and civil hand in our politics and daily lives. The Education of an Idealist traces Power’s distinctly American journey from immigrant to war correspondent to presidential Cabinet official.
New article on Vox highlights the work of Desmond Patton, Technology and Human Rights Fellow.
Desmond Patton, a Technology and AI fellow at the Carr Center, emphasized that current AI tools tend to identify the language of African American and Latinx people as gang-involved or otherwise threatening, but consistently miss the posts of white mass murderers.
"I think technology is a tool, not the tool," said Patton. "Often we use it as an escape so as to not address critical solutions that need to come through policy. We have to pair tech with gun reform. Any effort that suggests we need to do them separately, I don’t think that would be a successful effort at all.”
How do ‘people power’ movements succeed when modest proportions of the population participate? Here we propose that the effects of social movements increase as they gain momentum. We approximate a simple law drawn from physics: momentum equals mass times velocity (p = mv). We propose that the momentum of dissent is a product of participation (mass) and the number of protest events in a week (velocity). We test this simple physical proposition against panel data on the potential effects of movement momentum on irregular leader exit in African countries between 1990 and 2014, using a variety of estimation techniques. Our findings show that social movements potentially compensate for relatively modest popular support by concentrating their activities in time, thus increasing their disruptive capacity. Notably, these findings also provide a straightforward way for dissidents to easily quantify their coercive potential by assessing their participation rates and increased concentration of their activities over time.
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.