Closing Civic Space

Smart City Visions and Human Rights: Do They Go Together?
Tina Kempin Reuter. 4/24/2020. “Smart City Visions and Human Rights: Do They Go Together?” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series, 2020-006. See full text.Abstract
Over half of the world’s population lives in cities today. According to the latest predictions, more than two thirds of all people will inhabit an urban environment by 2050. The number and size of cities has increased over the last decades, with the highest projections for future growth in the Global South. As cities continue to expand, so does their impact on policy generation, as political players, as drivers of states’ economies, and as hubs for social innovation and cultural exchange. Cities are important actors on the national and international stage, with mayors’ conferences, city grassroots organizations, and urban citizens driving the search for today’s most pressing problems, including climate change, inequity, migration, and human rights concerns. Many have expressed hope that “cities [will] deliver where nation states have failed.” Organizing this ever-growing, dynamic human space, enabling people from diverse backgrounds to live together, addressing the spatial and social challenges of urban life, and delivering services to inhabitants are challenges that cities have struggled with and that continue to dominate the urban policy agenda.

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Questions, Answers, and Some Cautionary Updates Regarding the 3.5% Rule
Erica Chenoweth. 4/20/2020. “Questions, Answers, and Some Cautionary Updates Regarding the 3.5% Rule.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series, 2020-005. See full text.Abstract
The “3.5% rule” refers to the claim that no government has withstood a challenge of 3.5% of their population mobilized against it during a peak event. In this brief paper, author Erica Chenoweth addresses some of the common questions about the 3.5% rule, as well as several updates from more recent work on this topic.

Four key takeaways are as follows:

  • The 3.5% figure is a descriptive statistic based on a sample of historical movements. It is not necessarily a prescriptive one, and no one can see the future. Trying to achieve the threshold without building a broader public constituency does not guarantee success in the future.
  • The 3.5% participation metric may be useful as a rule of thumb in most cases; however, other factors—momentum, organization, strategic leadership, and sustainability—are likely as important as large-scale participation in achieving movement success and are often precursors to achieving 3.5% participation.
  • New research suggests that one nonviolent movement, Bahrain in 2011-2014, appears to have decisively failed despite achieving over 6% popular participation at its peak. This suggests that there has been at least one exception to the 3.5% rule, and that the rule is a tendency, rather than a law.
  • Large peak participation size is associated with movement success. However, most mass nonviolent movements that have succeeded have done so even without achieving 3.5% popular participation. 

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The Fierce Urgency Of Now: Closing Glaring Gaps In US Surveillance Data On COVID-19
Nancy Krieger, Gregg Gonsalves, Mary T. Bassett, William Hanage, and Harlan M. Krumholz. 4/14/2020. “The Fierce Urgency Of Now: Closing Glaring Gaps In US Surveillance Data On COVID-19.” Health Affairs . See full text.Abstract
In order to have a robust understanding of the impacts of COVID-19, data on racial, economic, and gender inequities must be collected. 

It is insufficient to ask simply whether the virus is or is not present. Social data about who is infected are crucial for responding to needs now and will allow for better estimation of the likely spread and impact of COVID-19, the toll of which will be measured not only in deaths but also in the second-order, socially disparate spill-over effects on people’s economic well-being and safety. Real-time fast journalistic reporting and advocacy groups in the US and other countries are pointing to the critical importance of racial/ethnic, economic, and gender inequities to shaping COVID-19 risks. In the past week, calls for data on COVID-19 by race/ethnicity have been issued by leading politicians, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Ayana Pressley, the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, and by journalists. Why aren’t the public health data documenting these risks available?

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“May You Rise to It”: A Love Letter to Students in an Unprecedented Time
Timothy McCarthy. 3/30/2020. ““May You Rise to It”: A Love Letter to Students in an Unprecedented Time.” Medium. See full text. Abstract
In a letter to his students, Timothy McCarthy calls for a serious commitment to compassion.

My dear students,
Let me say this first: I love you — and I hope all of you are somewhere safe right now.
I know this doesn’t find any of us well. This global pandemic has profoundly upended our lives and livelihoods and routines and responsibilities, to say nothing of our capacity to work and dream together to build a better world. The corona crisis has catapulted us into complete chaos, accompanied by a disorienting mix of emotions: fear and despair, anxiety and anger, uncertainty and longing, concern and compassion. If you are like me, you’re experiencing all these things at once on any given day. As one friend put it: “I didn’t realize I could have so many mood swings before my first cup of coffee.” As a historian, I rarely use the word unprecedented — after all, almost everything has some kind of precedent — but I dusted it off last week and have been using it more and more with each passing day. History will have time to take full account of this moment, but first we must survive it.

Human Rights and Social Order: Philosophical, Practical, and Public Policy Dimensions
Mathias Risse. 2/28/2020. “Human Rights and Social Order: Philosophical, Practical, and Public Policy Dimensions.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series, 2020-001. See full text.Abstract
In his recent discussion paper, Mathias Risse reflects on the 2019 protests in Chile from a a standpoint of political theory and the human rights movement.

This paper was written in preparation for a talk at the Catholic University of Chile (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) in December 2019. Risse was invited to reflect on the widespread and often violent protests that had occurred in Chile during the last three months of 2019 from a standpoint of political theory and the human rights movement. Key themes in this paper include the necessary conditions for the legitimacy of a government and the role of human rights (and the equal or unequal value that such rights may have for different people) in that context; a distinction between policy-based and legitimacy/justice-based protests and one between persuasive and non-persuasive means of protest, and how they apply to highly economically unequal societies in general and to the situation in Chile in particular; some considerations directed at protesters as they think about expanding non-persuasive means of protest to include destruction and violence; some considerations exploring the responsibilities of the government of Chile under these circumstances; and finally some thoughts drawing on the adaptive-leadership approach on current challenges for Chilean politics. 

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From Unalienable Rights to Membership Rights in the World Society
Mathias Risse. 12/11/2019. “From Unalienable Rights to Membership Rights in the World Society.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series (2019-009). See full text.Abstract

The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy launched an ambitious initiative in the fall of 2019 to advance the renewal of rights and responsibilities in the United States. The initiative aims to develop research and policy recommendations around six broad themes of concern: democratic process; due process of law; equal protection; freedom of speech, religion, and association; human sustainability; and privacy.

In the most recent Carr Center Discussion Paper, Mathias Risse looks at the Pompeo Commission as a jumping off point to reexamine the distinction between natural law, natural rights, and human rights in the modern day.

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