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.
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.
The remark was instantly controversial because Augusto Pinochet was a Chilean dictator who committed massive human rights abuses.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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
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.
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.
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.
In this article, I describe how armed groups use one type of atrocity, wartime rape, to create social bonds between fighters through a process of combatant socialization. As a form of stigmatizing, public, and sexualized violence, gang rape is an effective method to communicate norms of masculinity, virility, brutality, and loyalty between fighters. Drawing on literature about socialization processes, I derive a set of hypotheses about individual-level factors that may influence vulnerability to violent socialization, including age, previous socialization experiences, and physical security. I analyze the support for these hypotheses using newly available survey data from former fighters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The results show the broad applicability of considering group violence as a form of social control within armed groups, suggest some of the limits of violent socialization, and have implications for both theory and policy.
On September 21, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed resolution 2379 to pursue accountability for atrocity crimes perpetrated in Iraq by the Islamic State (also called ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh). The resolution, in paragraph 2, requests the UN Secretary-General "To establish an Investigative Team, headed by a Special Adviser, to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL (Da’esh) accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group ISIL (Da’esh) in Iraq . . . to ensure the broadest possible use before national courts, and complementing investigations being carried out by the Iraqi authorities, or investigations carried out by authorities in third countries at their request."
The desirability of such an investigative team is well understood. ISIS has perpetrated widespread and systematic murder, kidnapping, sexual violence (including forced marriage and sexual slavery), and destruction of cultural heritage. The creation of this investigative team is thus a welcome, even if belated, development. However, this initiative prompts questions about the body’s scope, use of evidence, comparison to Syria, and precedential value.
Kaufman, Zachary D., New UN Team Investigating ISIS Atrocities Raises Questions About Justice in Iraq and Beyond (September 28, 2017). Just Security, September 28, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3044527
“There cannot be ‘innate’ rights in any other sense than that in which there are innate duties, of which, however, much less has been heard.”
Their article seeks to recover the tradition of individual duties that is integral to the historical origins of international human rights, arguing that increased attention to duties and responsibilities in international politics can be necessary complements to promoting human rights, particularly economic, social, and cultural rights.
Atrocity crimes rage today in Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Burundi, and Yemen. Given their potential to establish facts and promote accountability, recently opened United Nations investigations of international law violations in each of these states are thus a welcome, even if belated, development. However, these initiatives prompt questions about their designs, both in isolation and relative to each other.
This article describes the investigations into alleged violations in these five states, examines their respective sponsors and scopes, and presents a wide range of questions about the investigations and their implications, including their coordination with each other and their use of evidence in domestic, foreign, hybrid, and international courts (such as the International Criminal Court). The article concludes that, while seeking accountability for international law violations is certainly laudatory, these particular investigations raise significant questions about achieving that goal amidst rampant human rights abuses in these five states and beyond. International lawyers, atrocity crime survivors, and other observers thus await answers before assessing whether these investigations will truly promote justice.