Transitional Justice

The Program on Transitional Justice examines the challenges of countries attempting to regain balance and redress legacies of massive human rights violations. It encompasses issues of legitimacy, criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations, and various kinds of institutional reform necessary to protect vulnerable segments of a society and insure stability.

Transitional Justice - Experts

kathrynsikkink

Kathryn Sikkink

Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy, HKS
Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor, Radcliffe

Human Security - Experts

jackiebh

Jacqueline Bhabha

Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, HSPH
Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law, HLS
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Human Security - News

risselarge

Artificial intelligence, algorithms, and big data: Mathias Risse on the brave new future of human rights

November 30, 2018
As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70, the Carr Center on Human Rights Policy looks ahead at the coming decades and the importance of tackling the transformative effects of technology on human rights today.

Original Post on the Harvard Kennedy School website....
Read more about Artificial intelligence, algorithms, and big data: Mathias Risse on the brave new future of human rights
loeffler

Kennedy School Hosts Discussion Honoring 70th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration

October 11, 2018

The Kennedy School held a discussion featuring University of Virginia Professor James B. Loeffler ’96 Wednesday in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, articulates legal and moral principles for “fundamental human rights to be universally protected.” While legally non-binding, the document has been frequently cited as a basis for international agreements and domestic laws.

Wednesday’s discussion —...

Read more about Kennedy School Hosts Discussion Honoring 70th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration
risselarge

Mathias Risse, Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration, named Faculty Director of Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

October 9, 2018

 

Cambridge, MA—Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) announced that Mathias Risse, the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration, will serve as the Faculty Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

Risse’s work and research is focused on the intersection of philosophy and public policy. His research...

Read more about Mathias Risse, Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration, named Faculty Director of Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
votes

Harvard Votes Challenge

September 17, 2018

The Harvard Votes Challenge is a nonpartisan, university-wide effort that is challenging Harvard schools to do their part to increase voter registration and participation among eligible students. 

JOIN THE CHALLENGE

About
In a strong democracy, citizens participate in political processes, and as a school for public leaders, we should not just encourage that participation, we should model it. This is why the Harvard Kennedy School is...

Read more about Harvard Votes Challenge
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Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s eighth secretary-general, to join Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as senior fellow in 2018-2019

July 6, 2018

Cambridge, MA—Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) announced today that Salil Shetty, the outgoing secretary-general of Amnesty International, will join the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as a senior fellow for the 2018-2019 academic year.

 

Shetty will be stepping down from Amnesty...

Read more about Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s eighth secretary-general, to join Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as senior fellow in 2018-2019
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Human Security - Publications

Averell Schmidt and Kathryn Sikkink. 11/23/2018. “Partners in Crime: An Empirical Evaluation of the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program.” Perspectives on Politics, 16, 4, Pp. 1014-1033. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the years following the attacks of 9/11, the CIA adopted a program involving the capture, extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists in the war on terror. As the details of this program have become public, a heated debate has ensued, focusing narrowly on whether or not this program “worked” by disrupting terror plots and saving American lives. By embracing such a narrow view of the program’s efficacy, this debate has failed to take into account the broader consequences of the CIA program. We move beyond current debates by evaluating the impact of the CIA program on the human rights practices of other states. We show that collaboration in the CIA program is associated with a worsening in the human rights practices of authoritarian countries. This finding illustrates how states learn from and influence one another through covert security cooperation and the importance of democratic institutions in mitigating the adverse consequences of the CIA program. This finding also underscores why a broad perspective is critical when assessing the consequences of counterterrorism policies.

#Us Too: Children on the Move and Belated Public Attention
Jacqueline Bhahba. 4/12/2018. “#Us Too: Children on the Move and Belated Public Attention.” International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 21, 2, Pp. 250-258. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Children on the move are having their #Us Too moment. Over the past months, momentous developments point to a more intense engagement with the needs and rights of refugee and other migration-affected children than has previously been evident. As with #Me too, many of the most central claims – the pervasive presence of abuse, the scale of the problem, the striking power imbalances that have perpetuated the problem’s relative invisibility – are not new or surprising per se. It is the avalanche of evidence, the mobilization of affected constituencies, and the sobering realization of the extent and consequences of previous denial that are disquieting.
Mathias Risse. 10/7/2018. “Human Rights as Membership Rights in the World Society”.Abstract

The idea of human rights has come a long way. Even hard-nosed international-relations realists should recognize that the idea has become so widely accepted that nowadays it arguably has an impact. Many countries have made human rights goals part of their foreign policy. International civil society is populated by well-funded and outspoken human rights organizations. We have recently witnessed the creation of an entirely new institution, the International Criminal Court, as well as the acceptance, at the UN level, of guiding principles to formulate human rights obligations of businesses. Around the world, more and more local concerns are formulated in the language of human rights, a phenomenon known as the vernacularization, or localization, of human rights. Ordinary people increasingly express concerns in terms of human rights rather than a language that earlier might have come more natural to them. They are not just helping themselves to a legal and political machinery. They also make clear that they are articulating concerns others have in similar ways where they live.

Jacqueline Bhabha. 5/20/2018. Can We Solve The Migration Crisis?, Pp. 140. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Every minute 24 people are forced to leave their homes and over 65 million are currently displaced world-wide. Small wonder that tackling the refugee and migration crisis has become a global political priority.

But can this crisis be resolved and if so, how? In this compelling essay, renowned human rights lawyer and scholar Jacqueline Bhabha explains why forced migration demands compassion, generosity and a more vigorous acknowledgement of our shared dependence on human mobility as a key element of global collaboration. Unless we develop humane 'win-win' strategies for tackling the inequalities and conflicts driving migration and for addressing the fears fuelling xenophobia, she argues, both innocent lives and cardinal human rights principles will be squandered in the service of futile nationalism and oppressive border control.
Mathias Risse. 4/15/2018. Human Rights and Artificial Intelligence: An Urgently Needed Agenda. Carr Center for Human Rights. Harvard Kennedy School.Abstract
Artificial intelligence generates challenges for human rights. Inviolability of human life is the central idea behind human rights, an underlying implicit assumption being the hierarchical superiority of humankind to other forms of life meriting less protection. These basic assumptions are questioned through the anticipated arrival of entities that are not alive in familiar ways but nonetheless are sentient and intellectually and perhaps eventually morally superior to humans. To be sure, this scenario may never come to pass and in any event lies in a part of the future beyond current grasp. But it is urgent to get this matter on the agenda. Threats posed by technology to other areas of human rights are already with us. My goal here is to survey these challenges in a way that distinguishes short-, medium-term and long-term perspectives
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. 


SUMMARY
 

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.

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.

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.

 

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Human Security - Videos