Articles

People Power is Rising in Africa
Zoe Marks, Erica Chenoweth, and Jide Okeke. 4/25/2019. “People Power is Rising in Africa.” Foreign Affairs. See full text.Abstract
New article in Foreign Affairs from Carr Center's Zoe Marks and Erica Chenoweth, with Jide Okeke, delineates how protest movements are succeeding where even global arrest warrants can’t.

A new tide of people power is rising in Africa. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime.

The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.

Read the full article on Foreign Affairs.

Countermajoritarian, Representative, and Enlightened: The Roles of Constitutional Courts in Democracies
Luís Roberto Barroso. 4/4/2019. “Countermajoritarian, Representative, and Enlightened: The Roles of Constitutional Courts in Democracies.” The American Journal of Comparitive Law. See full text.Abstract
Justice Luis Roberto Barroso's latest article on Countermajoritarian, Representative, and Enlightened: The Roles of Constitutional Courts in Democracies.

The primary purpose of this article is to examine the roles of constitutional courts in contemporary democracies. It aims to demonstrate that such courts perform, in addition to the countermajoritarian role traditionally recognized in constitutional theory, two other roles: representative and, occasionally, enlightened. In the construction of the argument, the Article analyzes the phenomena of the judicialization of politics and judicial activism, as well as the issue of the difficult demarcation of the border between law and politics in the complex and plural societies of today. Although it presents several examples of the constitutional experience of the United States, the Article’s conclusions are generalizable, looking at the roles of constitutional courts from the perspective of a global constitutionalism whose categories have become common practice in the democracies of the world.

See full text. 

Breaking the Ban? The Heterogeneous Impact of US Contestation of the Torture Norm
Averell Schmidt and Kathryn Sikkink. 2/20/2019. “Breaking the Ban? The Heterogeneous Impact of US Contestation of the Torture Norm.” Journal of Global Security Studies, 4, 1, Pp. 105-122. See full text.Abstract
Breaking the Ban? The Heterogeneous Impact of US Contestation of the Torture Norm recent journal article by Kathryn Sikkink and Averell Schmidt

Following the attacks of 9/11, the United States adopted a policy of torturing suspected terrorists and reinterpreted its legal obligations so that it could argue that this policy was lawful. This article investigates the impact of these actions by the United States on the global norm against torture. After conceptualizing how the United States contested the norm against torture, the article explores how US actions impacted the norm across four dimensions of robustness: concordance with the norm, third-party reactions to norm violations, compliance, and implementation. This analysis reveals a heterogeneous impact of US contestation: while US policies did not impact global human rights trends, it did shape the behavior of states that aided and abetted US torture policies, especially those lacking strong domestic legal structures. The article sheds light on the circumstances under which powerful states can shape the robustness of global norms.

Read more here: https://academic.oup.com/jogss/article-abstract/4/1/105/5347914?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Any Us Military Intervention in Venezuela Will Be Counterproductive
Douglas A. Johnson and Kathryn Sikkink. 2/28/2019. “Any Us Military Intervention in Venezuela Will Be Counterproductive.” The Hill . Publisher's VersionAbstract
Op-Ed in The Hill by Douglas Johnson and Kathryn Sikkink.

Original post here.

It is so tempting to believe that U.S. military intervention offers a quick solution to the Venezuela crisis. And by military intervention, we don’t just mean a full-fledged invasion, but any action that involves U.S. military forcefully crossing an international border. We understand why some in the Venezuelan opposition urge the use of military force. It seems simple to have the U.S. intervene and stop the killing, the incompetence, the corruption that is today’s Venezuela.

As unarmed civilians attempt to bring needed food and medicine into the country, the Maduro government responded with blockades of international bridges and violence, beginning the killing that now headlines American news. U.S. officials warn that Maduro’s days are numbered and flash threats that the U.S. might intervene militarily, a move that would seem welcome to many Venezuelans, both at home and exile. Is that a good idea?

This should give us pause — at the very time that the U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban to withdraw from Afghanistan, perhaps ending 18 years of armed intervention and the forlorn hope of building a stable democracy. The equally destructive example of Iraq and its spillover into Syria is another warning that American intervention can stimulate the creation of new enemies.

But isn’t Venezuela different? There is a long tradition of democracy, eroded by a corrupt regime held in power by a small but powerful military. We now have an active leader of the opposition and massive numbers of citizens in the streets every day. Surely this is a time when American troops will be welcomed as liberators. And what about the examples of Grenada and Panama? Didn’t military intervention “work” there? But these small states have virtually no similarities to the political and geographic situation in Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro, fearing the history of invasion and U.S. supported coups, consciously armed and trained tens of thousands of their supporters into militias precisely to prepare for armed attacks against their governments. We should understand that the traditions of “going into the mountains” hold a fascination and moral example in Latin America. Better armed and trained than ever the FARC was in Colombia, would we wish a 50-year civil war on our southern neighbor?

Only one course of action will forestall this scenario: The Venezuelan military must render itself to its own people, not to a foreign power.

The political campaigns and pressures already underway offer very promising avenues for change. A campaign of non-recognition of the Maduro government has led to 50 countries recognizing Juan Guaido as president. This campaign is completely in line with Latin American and Venezuelan traditions. In 1907, an Ecuadoran Foreign Minister issued the Tobar Doctrine, calling for non-recognition of any government that came to power by non-constitutional means. In the 1950s, the democratically elected Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt, followed with his “Betancourt Doctrine,” saying that Venezuela would deny diplomatic recognition to any government that came to power by unconstitutional means. At the time, not many Latin American countries followed suit, but since that time, the OAS has elaborated a legal and political framework to address governments that come to power illegally, as Maduro’s second term would be.

American intervention has a long history in Latin America; likewise, this has been a source of distrust and opposition throughout the Americas, one that Chavez & Maduro, Castro and others have nurtured and used to create political power. Perversely, the threat of American intervention strengthens Maduro’s core support, rather that weakens it.

Although this conflict may extend itself even longer and more unarmed civilians may be killed and more children may die from malnutrition and disease, there is hope that change will happen. And there is good evidence that this hope is the strategically best option for all.

Compelling evidence from Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan in their book “Why Civil Resistance Works” demonstrates that disciplined nonviolent movements are more effective overall, and generally quicker to good effect, than violent conflicts. Using an original data set of all known major nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006, they show that nonviolent campaigns are more likely to win legitimacy and attract widespread support than violent movements. There are lessons to be learned from this evidence, and the Venezuelan opposition now seems to be heeding those lessons. Chenoweth and Stephan also find that nonviolent conflict is much more likely than violent efforts to lead to a democratic outcome. That is what we and what the Venezuelan people want. A U.S. military intervention would derail that success.

The Venezuelan movements against Maduro have been prolonged and often numerous with civilian participation, but the opposition parties were disunited, unable to create an inclusive vision to unite the population. It was easy for Maduro to dismiss the opposition as right-wing conservatives opposed to the inclusive vision promised by Chavez.

With the compelling leadership of Juan Guaido, that has changed. The opposition is united, not just under a charismatic leader, but with a broadening vision that has consciously reached out to the poor and other constituents of the Maduro regime, shifting their loyalties as only a nonviolent campaign can.

Chenoweth and Stephan identify what they call the “participation advantage” of nonviolent movements. Everyone can participate at levels of risk they are willing to undertake, publicly and privately creating resistance to the regime and raising its costs of repression. A wider demographic of participants brings in new tactics to keep the regime off balance; it brings in new networks of family, friendship, and influence that increase the likelihood of recruitment of military and security forces; and it brings legitimacy to an alternative vision for society.

These will be dangerous times for many activists, but it is their risks and sacrifices that can bring about a truly democratic change. Let us do nothing to rob them of their moments of courage and victory.

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to update the number of countries recognizing Juan Guaido as president to 50.

Dr. Kathryn Sikkink (@kathryn_sikkink) is the Ryan Family Chair of Human Rights at the Harvard Kennedy School. Douglas A. Johnson is a Lecturer in Public Policy and the former Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (@CarrCenter) at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The Future is a Moving Target: Predicting Political Instability
Drew Bowlsby, Erica Chenoweth, Cullen Hendrix, and Jonathan D. Moyer. 2/20/2019. “The Future is a Moving Target: Predicting Political Instability.” British Journal of Political Science. See full text.Abstract
Journal article on: The Future is a Moving Target: Predicting Political Instability

Previous research by Goldstone et al. (2010) generated a highly accurate predictive model of state-level political instability. Notably, this model identifies political institutions – and partial democracy with factionalism, specifically – as the most compelling factors explaining when and where instability events are likely to occur. This article reassesses the model’s explanatory power and makes three related points: (1) the model’s predictive power varies substantially over time; (2) its predictive power peaked in the period used for out-of-sample validation (1995–2004) in the original study and (3) the model performs relatively poorly in the more recent period. The authors find that this decline is not simply due to the Arab Uprisings, instability events that occurred in autocracies. Similar issues are found with attempts to predict nonviolent uprisings (Chenoweth and Ulfelder 2017) and armed conflict onset and continuation (Hegre et al. 2013). These results inform two conclusions: (1) the drivers of instability are not constant over time and (2) care must be exercised in interpreting prediction exercises as evidence in favor or dispositive of theoretical mechanisms.

Introducing the Nonviolent Action in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) dataset
Erica Chenoweth. 1/21/2019. “Introducing the Nonviolent Action in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) dataset.” Journal of Peace Research. See full text.Abstract
Introducing the Nonviolent Action in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) dataset article by Erica Chenoweth 

Scholarship on civil war is overwhelmingly preoccupied with armed activity. Data collection efforts on actors in civil wars tend to reflect this emphasis, with most studies focusing on the identities, attributes, and violent behavior of armed actors. Yet various actors also use nonviolent methods to shape the intensity and variation of violence as well as the duration of peace in the aftermath. Existing datasets on mobilization by non-state actors – such as the Armed Conflict Events and Location (ACLED), Integrated Conflict Early Warning System (ICEWS), and Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) – tend to include data on manifest contentious acts, such as protests, strikes, and demonstrations, and exclude activities like organizing, planning, training, negotiations, communications, and capacity-building that may be critical to the actors’ ultimate success. To provide a more comprehensive and reliable view of the landscape of possible nonviolent behaviors involved in civil wars, we present the Nonviolent Action in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) dataset, which identifies 3,662 nonviolent actions during civil wars in Africa between 1990 and 2012, across 124 conflict-years in 17 countries. In this article, we describe the data collection process, discuss the information contained therein, and offer descriptive statistics and discuss spatial patterns. The framework we develop provides a powerful tool for future researchers to use to categorize various types of nonviolent action, and the data we collect provide important evidence that such efforts are worthwhile.

Here’s What Erick Erickson Gets Wrong About Dictators and Migration
Kathryn Sikkink. 12/4/2018. “Here’s What Erick Erickson Gets Wrong About Dictators and Migration.” The Washington Post. See full text.Abstract
In a recent op-ed, conservative writer Erik Erickson argued that the U.S. government should support the “next Pinochets” to create more stability in Latin America and stop the flow of refugees seeking access to the United States.

The remark was instantly controversial because Augusto Pinochet was a Chilean dictator who committed massive human rights abuses.

Read the full article here.

Partners in Crime: An Empirical Evaluation of the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program
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. See full text.Abstract
Article on : Partners in Crime: An Empirical Evaluation of the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program

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.

In July, the Trump-era wave of protests started taking a back seat to campaign rallies
Erica Chenoweth. 10/19/2018. “In July, the Trump-era wave of protests started taking a back seat to campaign rallies.” The Washington Post. See full text.Abstract

Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman contribute to The Washington Post's monthly series on political crowds in the United States. 

For 18 months now, as we’ve counted attendance at political gatherings around the United States, we’ve seen crowds in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For the first time since President Trump’s inauguration, we found one state with no political gatherings. In all, in July, we tallied 743 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins, rallies and walkouts in all states and the District — except South Dakota.

Our conservative guess is that between 71,502 and 73,483 people showed up at these political events, although more probably showed up, as well. This number is the lowest in one month that we’ve seen since December 2017. This year, January, March and June included some of the highest protest numbers in U.S. history, and June featured unusually high attendance because of LGBTQ Pride, Families Belong Together (which protested the policy that separated migrant families at the border), and the Poor People’s Campaign, among others.

Read the full article. 

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 War on Voting Rights
John Shattuck. 10/7/2018. “The War on Voting Rights.” The Boston Globe.Abstract
New op-ed by Carr Center Senior Fellow John Shattuck.

"Eight years ago, on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell declared that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

McConnell’s declaration of war on the Obama presidency ushered in the age of extreme obstruction and polarization in Congress. It also foreshadowed an eight-year Republican campaign to suppress or dilute voting by the coalition that elected Obama. That effort has intensified in the Trump era and is targeted at groups with low or uneven voting participation rates, especially minorities, young people, and immigrants."

Read the full Op-Ed in the Boston Globe.

170 Years Ago in Seneca Falls New York, Voting Was a Radical Idea
Kathryn Sikkink. 7/31/2018. “170 Years Ago in Seneca Falls New York, Voting Was a Radical Idea.” Medium. See full text.Abstract

Original publication via Harvard's Ash Center.

On July 19th, we celebrated the 170th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, a gathering that launched a global movement to secure the right to vote for women. As people in the US and around the world lament the state of our democracy, now is a good time to reflect on an anniversary that reminds us of how democratic change occurs.

Women’s suffrage was the most radical demand that Elizabeth Cady Stanton included in the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments in 1848. When Stanton first suggested a suffrage resolution at the Seneca Falls Convention, even her most resolute supporters were afraid that it might make the women’s movement look ridiculous and compromise their other goals. Voting was considered the quintessential male domain of action. Resolutions on other issues at Seneca Falls, such as equal access to jobs and education for women, passed unanimously, while the suffrage resolution carried by a small majority and only after eloquent speeches by Stanton and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. It would take decades of struggle, including parades, protests, arrests, hunger strikes, and force feeding, before the US acknowledged women’s right to vote in 1920. The struggle to secure the vote for African Americans is an even longer story that can be traced from the Civil War to current voter suppression in states like North Carolina.

Our appreciation of voting as a radical demand secured through decades of struggle has been lost in US politics today, as reflected in low voter registration and turnout. At Harvard, where I teach, 59% of eligible students voted in the 2016 presidential election and only 24% in the 2014 midterm elections. This spring, I did a small set of focus groups with Harvard undergraduates to gauge their attitudes toward voting in an attempt to understand these low numbers. In every group, at least one person clearly articulated the belief that voting is a privilege and duty of citizenship. A small number argued that there was no duty whatsoever to vote and that there might be good reasons not to vote. Most students, however, fell in between these two positions. They argued that voting is the right thing to do, but that it is optional and that there are many reasons why it is acceptable not to vote. These reasons include lack of compelling candidates, lack of information, lack of interest, and lack of a personal stake in the matter.

“All of us have to collaborate in helping people exercise their legal right and their civic duty to vote”

These students revealed disillusionment with the political system, saying their vote would not make a difference. Voting was one option for participation in a democratic society, but for many of the students it held little meaning or impact. The passion of Seneca Falls was missing. One student mused, “I wish that there was a way … to make people more enthusiastic about voting. … apathy is a huge problem…”

People often assume college students don’t need advice or help to vote, especially Ivy League students. But many of the students found the US voting system genuinely complicated, and antiquated, especially in the case of absentee voting. At times, what the students described reached the level of voter suppression.

We need to continue the struggles launched by the activists in Seneca Falls to expand voting. If some of the smartest and most motivated young people in America today find voting difficult, we have a responsibility to help them and many others as they navigate the often complicated and sometimes hostile terrain of the US voting system. Voter suppression has been a conscious and well-orchestrated set of policies in many states; voter encouragement must be no less conscious or collective. Ensuring that US citizens enjoy the right to vote is very much the work of our government and political parties, but should not be left only to them. All of us have to collaborate in helping people exercise their legal right and their civic duty to vote.

Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at Radcliffe

#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 #UsToo 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.

Human Rights: Advancing the Frontier of Emancipation
Kathryn Sikkink. 4/1/2018. “Human Rights: Advancing the Frontier of Emancipation.” Great Transition Initiative. See full text.Abstract
Human Rights: Advancing the Frontier of Emancipation essay by Kathryn Sikkink:
 

Amidst bleak prognostications about the future, the human rights movement offers a beacon of hope for securing a livable world. The movement’s universality, supranationalism, and expanding emancipatory potential serve as inspiration and guide for the larger project of global transformation. The sweeping vision embodied in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has experienced constant renewal and steadfast legitimacy in the tumultuous postwar world. It has been a foundation for the pursuit of supranational governance and an antidote to the notion that the ends justify the means. The human rights movement, despite its imperfections, has a key role to play in the transformational change in human values crucial to building a just, flourishing future. 

Businesses, Guns, and Human Rights
Patricia Illingworth. 3/22/2018. “Businesses, Guns, and Human Rights.” The Hastings Center. See full text.Abstract

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, resulted in the deaths of 17 people.

Tragically, from January 1 to March 21, 2018, there were 3,088 gun-related deaths and 5,355 gun-related injuries in the United States. Gun violence is a public health problem. But it’s also a human rights problem.  It is time to turn to international human rights and moral and social norms, which ground obligations for individuals and business organizations to limit gun ownership.

Human rights are entitlements that all people have by virtue of their humanity. Gun violence puts a number of human rights at risk. Most obviously, it threatens Article 6 of the United Nation’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Every human being has the inherent right to life.” Studies show that the mere presence of guns increases the probability of crime, suicide, and accidents.

Ethics asks us to promote the good and to prevent harm to others, especially when we can do so with little inconvenience to ourselves. Individuals are not alone in having moral responsibilities. In the eyes of the law, corporations are persons; they also have moral responsibilities. Businesses that manufacture guns have a moral responsibility to ensure that their products are not used in acts of violence. Businesses are also subject to the far more demanding obligations of international human rights.

Read the full post on The Hastings Center website.

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