Rethinking the “necessary” trade-offs of distributing value to suppliers: An analysis of the profit-sharing model
Elizabeth A. Bennett and Janina Grabs. 4/7/2021. “Rethinking the “necessary” trade-offs of distributing value to suppliers: An analysis of the profit-sharing model.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

Far too often, global supply chains distribute value in ways that contribute to income inequality and the uneven accumulation of wealth. Despite a surge of innovations to address this problem—such as fair trade, corporate social responsibility, and creating shared value—the issue of value distribution persists as a pressing priority for the international development and business communities. This article puts forth a first attempt at theorizing profit sharing as a potential mechanism for more equitable value distribution in global value chains. Drawing on two in-depth, multi-method case studies of companies that share profits in the coffee sector, we develop eight theoretical propositions about the applicability and efficacy of profit sharing as a tool for redistribution. Our research suggests that profit sharing can distribute value without requiring suppliers to compromise price stability, profit maximization, value creation, or alternative economic opportunities. This conclusion challenges extant theory which asserts (based on studies of fair trade certification, direct trade, and solidarity trade) that these tradeoffs are typically necessary or inevitable. We also extend the literature on profit sharing. Extant literature examines firm-level attempts to maximize productivity and minimize dissent. We contribute by theorizing profit sharing’s fitness for redistributive objectives in the context of value chains. The implication of our findings is that, in some contexts, companies may be able to increase prices and improve income stability without requiring suppliers to compromise other economic priorities.

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Human Rights Impact Assessments for AI: Learning from Facebook’s Failure in Myanmar
Mark Latonero and Aaina Agarwal. 3/19/2021. “Human Rights Impact Assessments for AI: Learning from Facebook’s Failure in Myanmar.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

Human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) have recently emerged as a way for technology companies to identify, mitigate, and remedy the potential risks and harms of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic systems. The purpose of this paper is to assess whether HRIAs are a tool fit for purpose for AI. Will HRIAs become an effective tool of AI governance that reduces risks and harms? Or, will they become a form of AI “ethics washing” that permits companies to hide behind a veneer of human rights due diligence and accountability? This paper finds that HRIAs of AI are only in their infancy. Simply conducting such assessments with the usual methods will miss the mark for AI and algorithmic systems, as demonstrated by the failures of the HRIA of Facebook in Myanmar. Facebook commissioned an HRIA after UN investigators found that genocide was committed in the country. However, the HRIA did not adequately assess the most salient human rights impacts of Facebook’s presence and product in Myanmar. HRIAs should be updated if they are to be used on AI and algorithmic systems. HRIAs for AI should be seen as an analysis of a sociotechnical system wherein social and technical factors are inherently intertwined and interrelated. Interdisciplinary expertise is needed to determine the appropriate methods and criteria for specific contexts where AI systems are deployed. In addition, HRIAs should be conducted at appropriate times relative to critical stages in an AI development lifecycle and function on an ongoing basis as part of a comprehensive human rights due diligence process. Challenges remain, such as developing methods to identify algorithmic discrimination as one of the most salient human rights concerns when it comes to assessing AI harms. In addition, a mix of voluntary actions and mandatory measures may be needed to incentivize organizations to incorporate HRIAs for AI and algorithmic systems in a more effective, transparent, and accountable way. The paper concludes with considerations for the technology sector, government, and civil society.

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Documentation as Resistance Against Widespread Civilian Harm in Yemen
Niku Jafarnia. 3/12/2021. “Documentation as Resistance Against Widespread Civilian Harm in Yemen.” Topol Fellow Discussion Paper. See full text.Abstract


The efforts by Yemeni civil society to document the harms of the war as they occur are a powerful act of resistance and are critical to advancing justice for the Yemenis against whom these harms have been perpetrated, in whatever form that justice may ultimately take.


The Yemeni Civil War broke out in 2014 following a failed political transition in the aftermath of the 2011 Yemeni Revolution. The Revolution had resulted in the ouster of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled North Yemen and—after North and South Yemen joined—the Republic of Yemen, for more than three decades. However, several groups—including the Houthi movement in northern Yemen—opposed the new government that had formed under Saleh’s former vice president, now current President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The Houthis attacked and took over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in the fall of 2014, and several months later, Saudi Arabia responded with a military intervention to re-install the Hadi government, resulting in the civil war that continues to devastate Yemen today.

Since then, it has been deemed the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Though the Hadi-led Yemeni government and the Houthi-led insurgency are the central parties to the conflict, more than a dozen countries have provided support to one of the sides. Most importantly, a Saudi-led coalition of countries (the “Saudi Led Coalition”), including the U.S., is backing the government, while Iran is providing support to the Houthis. The respective resources of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other countries have contributed to the high rate of civilian casualties, the millions of people at risk of starvation, and the widespread violations of International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the Yemeni conflict. In spite of this, no party to the conflict has transparently addressed the number of civilian casualties, nor the broader violations of IHL and IHRL, resulting from their operations, and have instead denied their role in the harms being perpetrated against Yemeni civilians.

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How To Save The Amazon: The Reasons Why a  Living Forest is Worth More than a Cut-Down One
Luís Roberto Barroso and Patrícia Perrone Campos Mello. 3/10/2021. “How To Save The Amazon: The Reasons Why a Living Forest is Worth More than a Cut-Down One.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series, 2021-011. See full text.Abstract

This paper highlights the importance of the Amazon for the global ecosystem, the retreat and the advance of deforestation in the area located within Brazilian territory, as well as the rising trend of environmental crimes, with special attention afforded to illegal logging, land grabbing and unauthorized mining activities, including in indigenous reserves. The article enumerates the governmental public policies that were successful in containing the destruction of the forest, and the setbacks they have suffered in recent times. The final part describes the forest exploitation models adopted thus far, which have had limited economic and social impact, and presents an alternative, currently under discussion, which combines the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the forest’s bioeconomy. The text also identifies contributions that international stakeholders can offer to forest conservation efforts, such as financing mechanisms (REDD+) and sustainability certification requirements by markets that consume Brazilian exports and by financial institutions when evaluating companies who develop activities in Brazil’s Legal Amazon (BLA).

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Privacy, Personal Data, and Surveillance
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/26/2021. “Privacy, Personal Data, and Surveillance.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 016. See full text.Abstract

Privacy has always been one of the most precarious rights of American life because it lacks clear protections in the U.S. Constitution. The right to privacy is under attack in this moment in our history like no other previous moment. Privacy defenders are attempting to fight a two-front war, as increasing incursions are made by private industry and government law enforcement.

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Hate Crimes
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/22/2021. “Hate Crimes.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 015. See full text.Abstract

The Department of Justice began prosecuting federal hate crimes cases after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Thus, the literature on hate crime is new, though rapidly growing. The first American use of the term “hate crime” emerged during the Civil Rights Movement in the second half of the 20th century.  The term typically refers to bias-motivated violence. But the variation in hate crimes laws and data collection policies per state has created disparities in protection against hate crimes, which leaves people vulnerable depending on where they live. Without proper hate crime statutes and data collection, it is difficult to know the true nature and magnitude of the problem of hate crimes in the United States. In order to allocate resources and deter future hate crimes, law enforcement agencies need to understand the problem at hand. 

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Religious Freedom
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/19/2021. “Religious Freedom.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 014. Read full text.Abstract

The complicated relationship of religion and government predates the founding of the United States. The Founders grappled with this dilemma for years before compromising on the final language of the First Amendment. Even then, the issue was far from settled: the US has struggled since its founding to reconcile the right of religious freedom with the reality of governing a pluralist democracy with an increasingly diverse population. 

Today, a struggle over the scope of religious freedom is taking place in politics, the courts, and across American society. Claims of religious freedom are increasingly receiving preferential treatment in both political discourse and in the courts when religious beliefs come into conflict with other rights. That is particularly true for women’s reproductive rights and the rights of individuals to non-discrimination on the basis of their sexual identity. 

At the same time, a controversy has emerged over the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, in which recent Supreme Court cases have pitted the prohibition on establishment of religion against the right of religious free exercise. The central question over religious rights today is how to strike an appropriate balance between rights when they come into conflict. This question has troubled the American Republic since its formation.

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Freedom of Speech and Media
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/15/2021. “Freedom of Speech and Media.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 013. See full text.Abstract

The First Amendment guarantees some of the most fundamental rights provided to Americans under the Constitution. The right to free expression is a foundational tenet of American values. In fact, it was the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and the press that provided much of the basis for the revolution that led to America’s founding. The First Amendment provides broad protection from government censure of speech, although limitations on some forms of published or broadcast speech, such as obscenity and hate speech, have been allowed. 

As the traditional public square governed and protected by federal regulation moves online to spaces governed by private corporations, the rules for how speech is both expressed and censored are also changing. How should legal protections for speech adapt to these new tech-powered, private forums? This chapter will explore the current landscape of free speech and the associated information landscape as well as the threats that they face. 

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Gun Rights and Public Safety
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/12/2021. “Gun Rights and Public Safety.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 12. See full text. Abstract

In March 2018, hundreds of thousands of young people walked out of school and marched on their local statehouses and on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to advocate for stricter controls on gun sales and ownership. The March for Our Lives was initially organized by students at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a school shooting had killed 17 students. Collectively, the marches were the largest-ever protest against gun violence, and one of the largest protests of any kind in American history.


The growing consensus over the need for some “common-sense” gun laws to regulate the sale and ownership of firearms stands in sharp contrast to the incendiary rhetoric of the National Rifle Association, which has sounded the alarm in recent years that Democrats are coming to “take away” guns or institute a national registry of firearm ownership. Indeed, the reasonableness on both sides of the debate implies that there is a middle-ground that can be achieved to limit gun violence in the United States, while still allowing for responsible ownership of firearms for hunting, sport shooting, and personal protection. 

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Criminal Justice and Public Safety
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/10/2021. “Criminal Justice and Public Safety.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 011. See full text.Abstract

Starting with the Nixon administration in the early 1970s, and gaining steam throughout the next decade, the prevailing view on criminal justice was that “tough on crime laws make crime rates go down.” That sentiment was predicated on the notion that criminals were not being sufficiently punished for their offenses, and that sentences must be increased—including mandatory minimums and “three strikes laws”—both to remove criminals from communities, and to deter others from committing crimes. The incarceration rate more than tripled between 1980 and its peak in 2008, from 310 to 1,000 prisoners per 100,000 adults—some 2.3 million people in all. Today, the United States leads the world in incarceration, with a rate more than 4 times that of comparable democracies in Western Europe.

Reform of the criminal justice system must take into account each stage of the process, respecting the due process rights of individuals throughout their interaction with the system while at the same time bringing criminals to justice and improving overall public safety.

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John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/4/2021. “Immigration.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 10. See full text.
Equal Access to Public Goods and Services
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 2/2/2021. “Equal Access to Public Goods and Services.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 009. See full text.Abstract

A right of equal access to public goods and services is rooted in the rights to ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ With these rights, the Declaration of Independence asserts the concept of equality as a founding principle, while nearly a century later in the nation’s “second founding” after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution goes further in guaranteeing equal protection of the law. These documents create the principle from which a right of equal access is derived, including access to education, health care, housing, and environmental protection.

Throughout American history, the concepts of liberty and equality have been intertwined but also conflicted. 

Current trends within public education, health care, housing, and environmental protection reflect burgeoning disparities in opportunity. Public policy in recent years has centered around the promotion of macroeconomic growth but has done little to guarantee individual and societal well-being, reinforcing the focus of the private sector on maximizing shareholder value, often at the expense of employees and consumers. These policies have exacerbated the inequality of access to public goods and services, such as health and education, among significant portions of the population, who lack the agency and the opportunity to sustain themselves. It is critical that the United States responds to the public health and economic crises by protecting liberty, equality, and securing equal access to public goods and services.

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Disability Rights
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 1/21/2021. “Disability Rights.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 008. See full text.Abstract

Nearly 61 million Americans have a disability, making the group the country’s largest minority. Individuals with disabilities cut across race, gender, and sexual orientation. Since people with disabilities are disproportionately older, they have also made up an expanding share of the general population as the U.S. population has aged. Unlike other more fixed identities, any person can become disabled at any time, due to severe injury, illness, trauma, pregnancy, or simply aging. In fact, while only 11% of people under ages 18 to 64 reported having a disability in 2017, 35% of people ages 65 and over reported having one, illustrating the fluid nature of disability status.

Disabilities include a range of conditions, both visible and invisible, and including physical, mental, and cognitive impairments—all of which require different types of protection against different types of discrimination. These complexities make understanding and advancing disability rights more challenging. Moreover, people with disabilities continue to face challenges as a result of policies that affect them both directly and indirectly. Renewing rights for people with disabilities requires both reinstating and extending equal protections, and affirmatively expanding accommodations to better allow them to participate meaningfully in all aspects of society. 

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LGBTQ Rights
John Shattuck, Mathias Risse, and Timothy Patrick McCarthy. 1/6/2021. “LGBTQ Rights.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 007. See full text.Abstract

"Queer" people have always been here—since antiquity, they’ve lived across communities and intersections of every class, color, creed, condition, and country. Though not always marked as “deviant” or designated “illegal,” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have also more often than not been victims of personal prejudice, social and cultural stigma, and legal and political discrimination. This has certainly been the case in the modern era, the same time that “human rights” has gained currency and frequency as a rallying cry for various struggles and peoples seeking freedom, equality, and justice. That’s is not a coincidence: as the formal infrastructure of human rights and state-sanctioned homophobia expanded simultaneously in the middle of the 20th century, so, too, did the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States first emerge. This “paradox of progress”—the persistent battle between progress and prejudice—is a key characteristic of the history of social justice movements, including those for queer liberation and rights.

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Women's Rights
John Shattuck and Mathias Risse. 1/4/2020. “Women's Rights.” Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States, 006. See full text.Abstract


“I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.”

- Shirley Chisholm

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm made history as the first African American woman to seek a nomination from a major political party as a candidate for President of the United States. Prior to her campaign, Chisholm served in the House of Representatives for seven terms, co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, served on the House Rules Committee, and introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation. Despite those accomplishments, her presidential campaign was marked by discrimination, as she was barred from participating in primary debates, and was allowed to make a single televised speech only after she took legal action. While Chisholm’s presidential campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, she nevertheless opened up many doors for women in politics, and in equal rights more broadly. Since then, women have been appointed to the Supreme Court, led major House and Senate committees, and served as Secretary of State.

This issue of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities series analyzes the current state of women’s rights in the U.S., and proposes policy recommendations designed to advance them.

The paper examines how identity influences women’s experiences and provides historical context on women’s rights; assesses the current state of women’s rights in the areas of employment, education, poverty, domestic violence, health, and civil society; and offers policy recommendations that are designed to advance women’s rights moving forward.


 Read the full paper. 

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