Economic Justice

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.

Download the full paper

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at 20: Looking Back and Looking Forward.
Carr Center Human Rights for Policy. 4/4/2019. “The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at 20: Looking Back and Looking Forward. ”. See full text.Abstract
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at 20: Looking Back and Looking Forward. Symposium Report.


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.


Is Your Phone Tainted by the Misery of the 35,000 Children in Congo's Mines?
Siddharth Kara. 10/12/2018. “Is Your Phone Tainted by the Misery of the 35,000 Children in Congo's Mines?” The Guardian. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In his recent article in The Gaurdian, Senior Fellow Siddharth Kara discusses the human rights violations connected to the cobalt industry. 

My field research shows that children as young as six are among those risking their lives amid toxic dust to mine cobalt for the world’s big electronics firms  -Siddharth Kara, Senior Fellow, Carr Center

"Until recently, I knew cobalt only as a colour. Falling somewhere between the ocean and the sky, cobalt blue has been prized by artists from the Ming dynasty in China to the masters of French Impressionism. But there is another kind of cobalt, an industrial form that is not cherished for its complexion on a palette, but for its ubiquity across modern life.

This cobalt is found in every lithium-ion rechargeable battery on the planet – from smartphones to tablets to laptops to electric vehicles. It is also used to fashion superalloys to manufacture jet engines, gas turbines and magnetic steel. You cannot send an email, check social media, drive an electric car or fly home for the holidays without using this cobalt. As I learned on a recent research trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this cobalt is not awash in cerulean hues. Instead, it is smeared in misery and blood."

Elodie is 15. Her two-month-old son is wrapped tightly in a frayed cloth around her back. He inhales potentially lethal mineral dust every time he takes a breath. Toxicity assaults at every turn; earth and water are contaminated with industrial runoff, and the air is brown with noxious haze. Elodie is on her own here, orphaned by cobalt mines that took both her parents. She spends the entire day bent over, digging with a small shovel to gather enough cobalt-containing heterogenite stone to rinse at nearby Lake Malo to fill one sack. It will take her an entire day to do so, after which Chinese traders will pay her about $0.65 (50p). Hopeless though it may be, it is her and her child’s only means of survival.

Read the full article in The Guardian.

The Globalized Myth of Ownership and Its Implications for Tax Competition
Mathias Risse and Marco Meyer. 6/12/2018. The Globalized Myth of Ownership and Its Implications for Tax Competition. 004th ed. Cambridge: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. See full article.Abstract
The Globalized Myth of Ownership and Its Implications for Tax Competition by Mathias Risse 

Tax competition (by states) and tax evasion (by individuals or companies) unfold at a dramatic scale. An obvious adverse effect is that some states lose their tax base. Perhaps less obviously, states lose out by setting tax policy differently – often reducing taxes – due to tax competition. Is tax competition among states morally problematic? We approach this question by identifying the globalized myth of ownership. We choose this name parallel to Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel’s myth of ownership. The globalized myth is the (false) view that one can assess a country’s justifiably disposable national income simply by looking at its gross national income (or gross national income as it would be absent certain forms of tax competition). Much like its domestic counterpart, exposing that myth will have important implications across a range of domains. Here we explore specifically how tax competition in an interconnected world appears in this light, and so by drawing on the grounds-of-justice approach developed in Mathias Risse’s On Global Justice.         

Modern Slavery: A Global Perspective
Siddharth Kara. 10/2017. Modern Slavery: A Global Perspective, Pp. 360. Colombia University Press. See full text.Abstract
Modern Slavery: A Global Perspective book by Siddharth Kara

Siddharth Kara is a tireless chronicler of the human cost of slavery around the world. He has documented the dark realities of modern slavery in order to reveal the degrading and dehumanizing systems that strip people of their dignity for the sake of profit—and to link the suffering of the enslaved to the day-to-day lives of consumers in the West. In Modern Slavery, Kara draws on his many years of expertise to demonstrate the astonishing scope of slavery and offer a concrete path toward its abolition.

From labor trafficking in the U.S. agricultural sector to sex trafficking in Nigeria to debt bondage in the Southeast Asian construction sector to forced labor in the Thai seafood industry, Kara depicts the myriad faces and forms of slavery, providing a comprehensive grounding in the realities of modern-day servitude. Drawing on sixteen years of field research in more than fifty countries around the globe—including revelatory interviews with both the enslaved and their oppressors—Kara sets out the key manifestations of modern slavery and how it is embedded in global supply chains. Slavery offers immense profits at minimal risk through the exploitation of vulnerable subclasses whose brutalization is tacitly accepted by the current global economic order. Kara has developed a business and economic analysis of slavery based on metrics and data that attest to the enormous scale and functioning of these systems of exploitation. Beyond this data-driven approach, Modern Slavery unflinchingly portrays the torments endured by the powerless. This searing exposé documents one of humanity’s greatest wrongs and lays out the framework for a comprehensive plan to eradicate it.

Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy?
John Shattuck. 2/15/2018. Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy?. Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. 2018001st ed. Cambridge, MA: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. See full text. Abstract
In his recent discussion paper, Shattuck examines the Trump administration’s attacks on liberal democratic institutions during its first year, and assesses their institutional resilience.

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 made a more dire assessment: “democratic institutions in the US have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process, bias and dysfunction in the criminal justice system, 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 democratic discontent 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”. 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.

How resilient is liberal democracy, and how broad is its base of support? On a global level there is evidence of both erosion and resilience. A November 2017 report of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an intergovernmental organization that assesses the state of democracy worldwide, put it this way: “The current situation is more positive than suggested by an increasingly gloomy view that democracy has been in decline for the last ten years or more. This period appears to be one of trendless fluctuations in which gains and downturns in individual countries

tend to balance each other out at the global level.”3 From this vantage point, democracy in the US may be resilient when compared to some other democracies where neo-authoritarian leaders -- such as Orban in Hungary, Kaczyński in Poland, and Erdoğan in Turkey -- have recently undermined the independence and functioning of pluralist institutions.

But the health of American democracy has been called into question. Experts are divided on whether the illness reflects an ongoing struggle in the US by the proponents of liberal democracy to fend off anti-democratic tendencies ,4 or a long-term trend toward democratic deconsolidation.5 This paper considers a sampling of evidence about attacks on key institutions and elements of democracy in the US during the first year of the Trump administration, and potential sources of democratic resilience in the media, the judiciary, law enforcement, democratic norms and principles, the electoral process, civil society, state and local government, the federal civil service, and the Congress. The stakes are high. A central question, posed by a provocative new book, How Democracies Die, by Harvard scholars Stephen Levitsky and Daniel Zieblatt, is whether these institutions will withstand anti-democratic pressure, or “become political weapons, wielded forcefully by those who control them against those who do not?”6

Following is a summary of the Trump administration’s challenges to democratic institutions during its first year and an assessment of institutional resilience compiled in this report.

Carr Center's 2016 Annual Report
Sarah Peck. 12/21/2016. Carr Center's 2016 Annual Report. Cambridge : Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. See full text.Abstract
See the Carr Center's 2016 Annual Report.

Today we stand at a precipice. A critical fight for fundamental human rights is brewing, and our work to find policy solutions to the most pressing human rights issues has never been more urgent. These issues include economic justice; human security; equality and discrimination; and institutions of global governance and civil society. We leverage research, practice, leadership and communications and technology to enhance global justice and to address all four of these priority issues.

2016 saw a number of important victories for the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, engaging our outstanding faculty members, fellows and students. We hosted a two-day symposium on the future of human rights and technology, convening a diverse group of practitioners working on these issues. And we organized a conference exploring the strategic costs and consequences of the use of torture.

2017 presents new challenges, but also new opportunities to engage and collaborate to ensure respect for our most fundamental rights and freedoms. We will continue to work tirelessly, as we have for the past 15 years, to enhance global justice – and we hope that you will join us in this critically important work.

Download our 2016 annual report to learn more. 

Donald Trump Raises Specter of Treason
John Shattuck. 12/16/2016. “Donald Trump Raises Specter of Treason.” The Boston Globe .Abstract
Read John Shattuck's Op-Ed in The Boston Globe: 

A specter of treason hovers over Donald Trump. He has brought it on himself by dismissing a bipartisan call for an investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee as a “ridiculous” political attack on the legitimacy of his election as president.

Seventeen US national intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded that Russia engaged in cyberwarfare against the US presidential campaign. The lead agency, the CIA, has reached the further conclusion that Russia’s hacking was intended to influence the election in favor of Trump.

Read the full Op-Ed in The Boston Globe.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Donations Were Too Little Too Late
Tom O'Bryan. 11/29/2016. “In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Donations Were Too Little Too Late.” Foreign Policy .Abstract
Read the article by Carr Center Research Assistant Tom O'Bryan:

Countless studies have shown that democracies are less likely to go to war, torture their own citizens, and censor the media. That's one reason why Western governments and philanthropic foundations funnel more than $10 billion every year into promoting democracy overseas. For example, donors fund efforts to help train election observers, educate voters about their rights, and train local media outlets to cover political issues.

In the last year, more than $70 million have been spent on such projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a poor and fragile country emerging from over two decades of armed conflict. That may sound like a lot of money, but in relative terms it's not. The American, British and Canadian governments alone spent more than eight times that amount on democracy promotion in Afghanstan during the country's most recent elections.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy 

Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia
Siddharth Kara. 5/6/2014. Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia, Pp. 336. New York: Columbia University Press. See full text.Abstract
This volume is Kara's second, explosive study of slavery, this time focusing on the deeply entrenched and wholly unjust system of bonded labor.


Siddharth Kara's first book, Sex Trafficking , has become a critical resource for its revelations into an unconscionable business, and its detailed analysis of the trade's immense economic benefits and human cost.

In his second volume, drawing on eleven years of research in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, Kara delves into an ancient and ever-evolving mode of slavery that ensnares roughly six out of every ten slaves in the world and generates profits that exceeded $17.6 billion in 2011. In addition to providing a thorough economic, historical, and legal overview of bonded labor, Kara travels to the far reaches of South Asia, from cyclone-wracked southwestern Bangladesh to the Thar desert on the India-Pakistan border, to uncover the brutish realities of such industries as hand-woven-carpet making, tea and rice farming, construction, brick manufacture, and frozen-shrimp production. He describes the violent enslavement of millions of impoverished men, women, and children who toil in the production of numerous products at minimal cost to the global market. He also follows supply chains directly to Western consumers, vividly connecting regional bonded labor practices to the appetites of the world. Kara's pioneering analysis encompasses human trafficking, child labor, and global security, and he concludes with specific initiatives to eliminate the system of bonded labor from South Asia once and for all.

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
John Ruggie. 10/13/2015. “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, 6, 3, Pp. 455–461. See full text.Abstract
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:


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’.

Classroom technologies narrow education gap in developing countries
Steven Livingston. 8/23/2016. “Classroom technologies narrow education gap in developing countries.” Brookings. See full text.Abstract
Classroom technologies narrow education gap in developing countries by Steven Livingston

Well before the invention of laptops and the World Wide Web, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician, computer scientist, and education visionary Seymour Papertrealized that connected electronic devices could improve the educational experience of students, even for those who face poverty and geographical isolation. His recent death has a particular poignancy in Kenya where the extreme disparities in educational opportunities among different schools and students exacerbate already serious social and economic tensions. Several weeks ago, I traveled to Nairobi to gain some perspective on Papert’s vision.