Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?
John Shattuck, Amanda Watson, and Matthew McDole. 2/15/2018. Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?. Carr Center for Human Rights Policy . Cambridge, MA: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper by Ambassador John Shattuck, Amanda Watson and Matthew McDole examines the resilience of liberal democracy and democratic institutions in the US after one year of the Trump administration. 


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 offered an equally dire assessment: “democratic institutions in the US have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process . . . 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 public discontent with the system of governance in the US 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”.[3] 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.[4]

The US is a flawed liberal democracy.[5] In theory, liberal democracy is the antithesis of authoritarianism. Its ingredients include free and fair elections, freedom of speech and media freedom, an independent judiciary, minority rights and civil liberties, a diverse civil society, the rule of law and a system of checks and balances against concentrations of power. The institutions and elements of liberal democracy are designed to be a bulwark against tyranny by both the executive and the majority.

Alberto Mo. 2/5/2018. “How Trump Just Might Close Guantanamo Prison.” Defense One.Abstract

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. 

Full Op-Ed in Defense One.

Steven Livingston and Sushma Raman. 2/21/2017. “Conference Report: Technology & Human Rights in the 21st Century.” Technology & Human Rights in the 21st Century. Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Full online version here.

On November 3 - 4, 2016, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School hosted a symposium that aimed to:

1. Strengthen collaboration among stakeholders working on issues at the intersection of human rights and technology and

2. Deepen our understanding of the nature of collaboration among different technical and scientific communities working in human rights.

The symposium brought together practitioners and academics from different industries, academic disciplines and professional practices. Discussion centered on three clusters of scientific and technical capacities and the communities of practice associated with each of them. These clusters are:

  • Geospatial Technology: The use of commercial remote sensing satellites, geographical information systems (GIS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and geographical positioning satellites (GPS) and receivers to track events on earth.
  • Digital Networks: The use of digital platforms to link individuals in different locations working towards a common goal, such as monitoring digital evidence of human rights violations around the world. It often involves crowdsourcing the collection of data over digital networks or social computation – the analysis of data by volunteers using digital networks.
  • Forensic Science: The collection, preservation, examination and analysis of evidence of abuses and crimes for documentation, reconstruction, and understanding for public and court use. Among the more prominent evidential material in this area includes digital and multimedia evidence as well as corporal and other biologic evidence.  When considering the use of digital technologies, we might say that forensic science involves the recoding of material objects into binary code. This domain includes massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies as well as document scanning and data management technologies.

In their landmark 1998 book, Activists Beyond Borders, Kathryn Sikkink and Margaret Keck wrote that “by overcoming the deliberate suppression of information that sustains many abuses of power, human rights groups bring pressure to bear on those who perpetuate abuses” (Keck and Sikkink, 1998, Kindle Locations 77-78).  The Carr Center’s symposium on technology and human rights explored the ways modern human rights organization use science and technology to overcome the deliberate suppression of information.

Speakers discussed the latest advances in each of the key technologies represented at the symposium and used today by human rights organizations.

Steven Livingston and Sushma Raman co-organized the event. Livingston is Senior Fellow at the Carr Center and Professor of Media and Public Affairs and Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University; Raman is the Executive Director of the Carr Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Full online version here.


Technology and Human Rights Conference Report
Kathryn Sikkink. 2017. Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, Pp. 336. Princeton University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work

evidenceforhopecoverEvidence 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.

First published in 2017.

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.

Sarah Peck. 12/21/2016. “Carr Center's 2016 Annual Report”. Publisher's VersionAbstract carrannualreport2016.pdf
Alberto Mora and Douglas A. Johnson. 9/1/2016. “The Strategic Costs of Torture.” Foreign Affairs. Publisher's VersionAbstract

How "Enhanced Interrogation" Hurt America

Steven Livingston. 8/23/2016. “Classroom technologies narrow education gap in developing countries.” Brookings. Publisher's Version
Alberto Mora. 8/5/2016. “Fighting Terrorism - and the urge to ignore our basic American principles.” The Washington Post. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Op-Ed by Carr Center Senior Fellow Alberto Mora.

John Shattuck. 6/1/2016. “Democracy and Its Discontents.” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, 40, 2, Pp. 173-184. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In contrast to the European tradition of democratic pluralism, John Shattuck points to a new phenomenon in Eastern European states: illiberal democracy. Popularized by authoritarian political discourse in Hungary and Poland, the trend toward illiberalism evidences deep discontent with democracy’s economic, identity, and security implications for Europe. Democracy, however, is capable of reforming itself from the inside, allowing for new structures of participation for its citizens—whereas the strict control of power in illiberal democracy blocks avenues for meaningful change.

Mathias Risse. 6/2016. “On Where We Differ: Sites Versus Grounds of Justice, and Some Other Reflections on Michael Blake’s Justice and Foreign Policy.” Law and Philosophy, 35, 3, Pp. 251-270. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Blake’s book conveys a straightforward directive: the foreign policy of liberal states should be guided and constrained by the goal of helping other states to become liberal democracies as well. This much is what we owe to people in other countries—this much but nothing more. The primary addressees are wealthier democracies, whose foreign policy ought to be guided by the idea of equality of all human beings. My approach in On Global Justice bears important similarities to Blake’s, but with those similarities also come equally important differences. The purpose of this piece is to bring out these similarities and differences and in the process articulate some objections to Blake.

John Shattuck. 4/26/2016. “US needs to help the EU end the refugee crisis.” The Boston Globe. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The refugee crisis is at the center of Europe’s political war. Some European countries are building walls to exclude people seeking refuge from the deadly conflicts in the Middle East, while others — notably Greece, Germany, and the Nordics — are working to reinforce EU values of openness and tolerance. The United States should do more to promote these values by increasing its support for relief efforts and opening its doors to refugees from the Middle East. European governments this year are contributing four times more money than the United States to the financially strapped United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Meanwhile, the United States will resettle a minuscule 10,000 Syrian refugees, compared with more than 500,000 in Germany.

Zachary D. Kaufman. 4/7/2016. United States Law and Policy on Transitional Justice: Principles, Politics and Pragmatics, Pp. 382 pages. Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In United States Law and Policy on Transitional Justice: Principles, Politics, and Pragmatics, Zachary D. Kaufman, J.D., Ph.D., explores the U.S. government’s support for, or opposition to, certain transitional justice institutions. By first presenting an overview of possible responses to atrocities (such as war crimes tribunals) and then analyzing six historical case studies, Dr. Kaufman evaluates why and how the United States has pursued particular transitional justice options since World War II. This book challenges the “legalist” paradigm, which postulates that liberal states pursue war crimes tribunals because their decision-makers hold a principled commitment to the rule of law. Dr. Kaufman develops an alternative theory—“prudentialism”—which contends that any state (liberal or illiberal) may support bona fide war crimes tribunals. More generally, prudentialism proposes that states pursue transitional justice options, not out of strict adherence to certain principles, but as a result of a case-specific balancing of politics, pragmatics, and normative beliefs. Dr. Kaufman tests these two competing theories through the U.S. experience in six contexts: Germany and Japan after World War II, the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, the 1990-1991 Iraqi offenses against Kuwaitis, the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and the 1994  genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Dr. Kaufman demonstrates that political and pragmatic factors featured as or more prominently in U.S. transitional justice policy than did U.S. government officials’ normative beliefs. Dr. Kaufman thus concludes that, at least for the United States, prudentialism is superior to legalism as an explanatory theory in transitional justice policymaking.

John Shattuck. 3/26/2016. “Karadzic verdict is a victory for civilization.” The Boston Globe. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Op-Ed from Carr Center's John Shattuck.

"In a world rampant with terrorism, Thursday’s verdict in the Radovan Karadzic trial in The Hague is a victory for international justice. The former Bosnian Serb leader was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for leading a reign of genocidal terror during the Bosnian war."

Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity)
Jacqueline Bhaba. 2016. Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity). Reprint Edition. Princeton University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Why, despite massive public concern, is child trafficking on the rise? Why are unaccompanied migrant children living on the streets and routinely threatened with deportation to their countries of origin? Why do so many young refugees of war-ravaged and failed states end up warehoused in camps, victimized by the sex trade, or enlisted as child soldiers? This book provides the first comprehensive account of the widespread but neglected global phenomenon of child migration, exploring the complex challenges facing children and adolescents who move to join their families, those who are moved to be exploited, and those who move simply to survive. Spanning several continents and drawing on the stories of young migrants, Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age provides a comprehensive account of the widespread and growing but neglected global phenomenon of child migration and child trafficking. It looks at the often-insurmountable obstacles we place in the paths of adolescents fleeing war, exploitation, or destitution; the contradictory elements in our approach to international adoption; and the limited support we give to young people brutalized as child soldiers. Part history, part in-depth legal and political analysis, this powerful book challenges the prevailing wisdom that widespread protection failures are caused by our lack of awareness of the problems these children face, arguing instead that our societies have a deep-seated ambivalence to migrant children–one we need to address head-on. Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age offers a road map for doing just that, and makes a compelling and courageous case for an international ethics of children’s human rights.

Jia Xue. 2016. “Rape Myths and the Cross-Cultural Adaptation of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale in China.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The study examines the similarities and differences between China and the United States with regard to rape myths. We assessed the individual level of rape myth acceptance among Chinese university students by adapting and translating a widely used measure of rape myth endorsement in the United States, the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance (IRMA) scale. We assessed whether the IRMA scale would be an appropriate assessment of attitudes toward rape among young adults in China. The sample consisted of 975 Chinese university students enrolled in seven Chinese universities. We used explorative factor analysis to examine the factor structure of the Chinese translation of the IRMA scale. Results suggest that the IRMA scale requires some modification to be employed with young adults in China. Our analyses indicate that 20 items should be deleted, and a five-factor model is generated. We discuss relevant similarities and differences in the factor structure and item loadings between the Chinese Rape Myth Acceptance (CRMA) and the IRMA scales. A revised version of the IRMA, the CRMA, can be used as a resource in rape prevention services and rape victim support services. Future research in China that employs CRMA will allow researchers to examine whether individual’s response to rape myth acceptance can predict rape potential and judgments of victim blaming and community members’ acceptance of marital rape.

John Ruggie. 10/15/2015. “Adding Human Rights Punch to the New Lex Mercatoria: The Impact of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights on Commercial Legal Practice.” Journal of International Dispute Settlement. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In July 2015, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, announced that as a prominent part of its new reforms, it will ‘recognise the provisions of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘GPs’)1 and will make it compulsory for both contractual partners and those within the supply chain to comply with these provisions’.

Dara Kay Cohen. 8/2015. “Do States Delegate Shameful Violence to Militias?.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 59, 5, Pp. 877-898. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Existing research maintains that governments delegate extreme, gratuitous, or excessively brutal violence to militias. However, analyzing all militias in armed conflicts from 1989 to 2009, we find that this argument does not account for the observed patterns of sexual violence, a form of violence that should be especially likely to be delegated by governments. Instead, we find that states commit sexual violence as a complement to—rather than a substitute for—violence perpetrated by militias. Rather than the logic of delegation, we argue that two characteristics of militia groups increase the probability of perpetrating sexual violence. First, we find that militias that have recruited children are associated with higher levels of sexual violence. This lends support to a socialization hypothesis, in which sexual violence may be used as a tool for building group cohesion. Second, we find that militias that were trained by states are associated with higher levels of sexual violence, which provides evidence for sexual violence as a “practice” of armed groups. These two complementary results suggest that militia-perpetrated sexual violence follows a different logic and is neither the result of delegation nor, perhaps, indiscipline.

HKS Office of Career Advancement. 2015. “Guide to careers in Human Rights”.Abstract

The Office of Career Advancement’s Professional Areas of Interest introduce some of the broad areas in which many HKS graduates choose to work. These guides present an introduction to these areas, the culture and current requirements of prospective employers, and how to build a compelling profile. The latest edition is specific to careers in Human Rights.

Federica D’Alessandra. 2015. “Jus ad bellum in Syria: The Meaning of the US Airpower Campaign.” International Bar Association: Human Rights Law Newsletter, Pp. 37-41.Abstract

Operation Inherent Resolve is the name of the air campaign carried out by a Combined Joint Task Force of US-led coalition forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.1 Repeatedly, the campaign has been engaged to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ Daesh. The group is a terrorist-designated organisation3responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity – arguably even genocide (against the Yazidis minority of Iraq) – underthe Rome Statute. The group is at war with more than 60 nations or groups: coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq includeAustralia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States; coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

2015. “Perspectives on Human Trafficking and Modern Forms of Slavery” 3 (1).Abstract

Guest edited by Siddharth Kara, this issue of Social Inclusion focuses on human trafficking and modern slavery. Read the opinion piece by Kara Read the full journal States Kara: "When I first began researching human trafficking and modern forms of slavery fifteen years ago, there was very limited awareness of these offences, and even less scholarship. While non-profit organizations, activists, and charitable foundations have worked assiduously to raise awareness of human trafficking and to tackle root causes, investment by the academic community to analyze the nature, scale, and functioning of the phenomena has been slower to evolve. Indeed, much of the confusion relating to basic terms and concepts on the topic of modern forms of slavery has been due, in large part, to the lack of scholarly analysis of the issues. Following on this gap has been a dearth of robust, first-hand field research that can guide scholarship, investment, and activism, and help frame the complex questions relating to law, economics, human rights, gender, poverty, corruption, migration, the rights of children and minorities, and many other issues that are fundamental to our understanding of human trafficking."

karahumantrafficking.pdf socialinclusionjournal.pdf