Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

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Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Named afterGregory C. Carr
TypeHuman rights
Mathias Risse
Faculty director
Parent organization
Harvard Kennedy School

Carr Center for Human Rights Policy is a research center at Harvard Kennedy School founded in 1999. The center's scholars address issues related to human rights, including human security, global governance and civil society, economic justice, and equality and discrimination.

The center was founded with financial support from Harvard Kennedy School alumnus Greg Carr,[1][2] who donated $18 million for its founding.[3]

The current faculty director at the Carr Center is Mathias Risse.[4] The current executive director is Sushma Raman.[5] The Center was previously directed by Michael Ignatieff[6][7] (2000-2005), Sarah Sewall[8] (2005-2008), and by Rory Stewart (2009-2010).[9] The founding executive director of the Center is former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who held the position from 1998–2002.[10] Charlie Clements[11] served as executive director from 2010–2016.

Fellows who are or have been associated with the Center include John Shattuck, William Schulz, Luis Moreno Ocampo, William Arkin, Roméo Dallaire, Caroline Elkins, Sally Fegan-Wyles, Omer Ismail, Andrea Rossi, Beena Sarwar, Daniel J. Jones, and Taslima Nasrin.


The center was founded in 1999 by Graham Allison and Samantha Power[12][13] with the financial support of Kennedy School alumnus Greg Carr,[14][15] who donated $18 million.[16]

Mission statement[edit]

The Carr Center's mission is to realize global justice through theory, policy, and practice. The Center brings together theorists, policy makers, and practitioners in a vital mission: to enhance global justice. We accomplish this through research, teaching, training, and convenings focused on a more strategic and outcome-oriented human rights practice. Rethinking human rights has never been more critical. The threats to life and livelihood that millions face – war, mass atrocities, genocide, lawlessness, environmental disaster, human trafficking, and historic levels of income inequality—all cross borders. At the same time, human rights law, institutions and movements are succeeding in improving human rights and global justice around the world.[17]

Current programs[edit]

The center claims its programs are aimed at addressing public policy challenges that are complex, entrenched, multifaceted, and increasingly transcending boundaries of the nation-state. They require ideas, tools, and approaches that are global and cross-disciplinary.

The Carr Center claims that its objective is to respond to this rapidly changing environment through its mission of realizing global justice through theory, policy, and practice.

Human security[edit]

The Commission on Human Security[18] defines human security as protecting "the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment." Major global threats to human security include war, mass atrocities, environmental degradation, and public health crises. Some human security issues are well known, like torture and genocide, and others are hidden, like the millions of missing women in the world. Refugees, the stateless, and those who live in failed states are often the most vulnerable.

The United Nations lists seven types of human security challenges: economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security, and political security.

The Carr Center's approach to addressing human security over the next five years will focus on generating new knowledge and policy insights, as well as convening policy makers and practitioners across sectors, on key human security concerns such as war, genocide, torture, political prisoners, gender-based violence, trafficking, migration, climate change, and statelessness.

This builds upon past Carr Center work and expertise, as well as expands it to new and emerging human security challenges.

Global governance and civil society[edit]

The Carr Center's work on global governance examines the role and effectiveness of global governance institutions, such as the International Criminal Court; creates data-driven research projects and evidence-based policy recommendations on transitional justice mechanisms, such as truth commissions and tribunals; and identify how global governance institutions can best advance justice outcomes in the new century. The Carr Center's work on civil society will bring together practitioners, activists, and educators to build pedagogy and practice related to human rights education. Focused on building tools, skills, and capabilities, it aims to create a more strategic, outcomes-oriented human rights community.

Economic justice[edit]

Economic inequality has risen dramatically both within and among nations, fraying individual lives and straining social cohesion. Policies that over the past two decades have fostered the emergence of middle classes in India, China, and elsewhere, have also channeled disproportionate gains to the world's top 1%. Despite numerous international agreements and covenants that enumerate a range of economic rights, hundreds of millions of people struggle due to poverty, inequality, malnutrition, below subsistence wages, and lack of health care.

The Carr Center's approach to addressing economic justice[19] focuses on generating new knowledge and policy insights, as well as convening academics, policy makers, business leaders, and practitioners, on key economic justice concerns including fairness in trade, economic inequality within and across countries, and the role of business in human rights. Research on trade focuses on why trade should be treated as a matter of justice.

Equality and discrimination[edit]

Discrimination is the selection for unfavorable treatment of an individual or individuals on the basis of: gender, race, color or ethnic or national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, social class, age, or as a result of any conditions or requirements that do not accord with the principles of fairness and natural justice.

Around the world, millions of people suffer from discrimination. They are denied basic rights, freedom, opportunity, and dignity, based on their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other differences. Discrimination not only violates basic human rights, but has widespread social and economic consequences. Despite advances in law and public policy in many countries and contexts, far too many people are still left behind.

The Carr Center has had a robust program on gender, sexuality, and human rights[20] focused on student programming and support, as well as convening. Today, the Center seeks to expand on its past work, by focusing on intersectionality across different forms of discrimination.

Through research, the Carr Center will explore the roles that equality and discrimination play in the realm of human rights policy and practice. Through programming and convening, the Carr Center will develop public discourse and debate on key issues related to sexuality, race, gender, and human rights. Through student support, the Carr Center will work with students to help them become more effective scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and advocates.

Former programs[edit]

Learn about Carr's History:[21]

  • The Human Rights and Social Movements Program[22] examines the complex relationship between human rights and social movements with a particular emphasis on how grassroots mobilizations have shaped and contested modern conceptions and practices of human rights, both in the United States and throughout the world. This new program is guided by the faith that social movements have played—and continue to play—a significant role in the conception, development, evolution, and implementation of what Michael Ignatieff refers to as the "human rights revolution."
  • The Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery[23] attempts to expand the understanding of human trafficking in all its dimensions and develop policies to address this global affront to human dignity. This program conducts research, connects scholars and practitioners, develops best practices, and engages anti-trafficking policymakers and future public policy leaders around the world.
  • The Mass Atrocity Response Operation (MARO) Project[24] seeks to enable the United States and the international community to limit or prevent mass atrocities through an integrated strategy by explaining key relevant military concepts and planning considerations. The MARO Project is based on the insight that the failure to act in the face of mass killings of civilians is not simply a function of political will or legal authority; the failure also reflects a lack of thinking about how military forces might respond. States and regional and international organizations must better understand and prepare for the unique operational and moral challenges that military forces would face in a MARO.
  • The National Security and Human Rights (NSHR) Program[25] examines national security issues through the prism of human rights, weaving humanitarian concerns into the fabric of traditional security studies. Through research, publications, and dialogue among practitioners and academics, the Program aims to shape national and international security and human rights policies and the promotion of organizational learning and change. The Program addresses issues ranging from the effect of war on foreign civilians to the impact of security measures upon American citizens; from civil-military relations at the highest levels in Washington to actions in the field; and from the role of military ethics, leadership, training, doctrine, and capabilities in upholding human rights norms and laws to national and international judicial redress for abuses committed during armed conflict.
  • The Measurement and Human Rights Program (MHR)[26] is designed to bring evidence-based policy and programming to the realm of human rights. The MHR Program, aims to frame the discussion on the role of systematic assessment techniques in human rights work, by addressing some of the most basic and yet most difficult questions in the field: How can we collect solid evidence of human rights violations? How do we measure progress in promoting human rights? How can organizations assess their own impact more effectively? The Program has worked with leading academics and practitioners in the human rights field, promoting the systematic use of solid research methodology, data collection, and analysis in formulating human rights policies.
  • The Program on State Building and Human Rights, Afghanistan and Pakistan[27] seeks to enable researchers and practitioners to draw on their extensive field experience to better explain some of the key characteristics of the intervention in Afghanistan, including: the proliferation of objectives that often lack clear causal connectedness to the overall goals of the mission; what has worked and why; the implications of establishing parallel systems and how the perverse consequences of the actions of the international community can be avoided in the future; and documenting the structural factors that lead to "fairy tales" or myths becoming conventional wisdom. At the same time, the Program will identify positive examples of what has worked well and holds promise for the future.
  • The Afghan Students Initiative (ASI)[28] was formed in September 2009 to engage local Afghan students with Carr Center programs and resources. It has since evolved into an active student group that seeks to promote discussion and awareness on issues of importance to Afghanistan. The group, which is the first of its kind in the Boston area, was organized in collaboration with fellows and staff from the Carr Center's State Building and Human Rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan program.
  • The Kashmir Initiative[29] hopes to bring inclusive dialogue and broader awareness of the complex issue of Kashmir. Kashmir's geopolitical importance has increased drastically with the continuing war along Pakistan's untamed western border and Afghanistan. Divided and disputed between India and Pakistan, Kashmir has seen conflict for the past 62 years. It has been identified by the U.S. government as the world's most militarized dispute. This conflict is, however, more than a territorial dispute between two nuclear powers. As states negotiate solutions, the voice of Kashmiris who have suffered internal conflict and human rights abuses must not be lost in the cacophony of realpolitik.
  • The Latin America Initiative[30] examines the pressing human rights issues related to social conflicts that result from ethnic tensions, erosion in the practice of democracy, extreme poverty, and the war on drugs. In Latin America human rights abuses do not take extreme forms. Except for Argentina's Dirty War, the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, Guatemala in the recent past and in Colombia at some stage in its civil war, genocide and other mass atrocities are not a current occurrence in the region. However, there are still many pressing issues that need to be addressed. Most of these are related either to the lack of legal enforcement throughout the region or to governmental abuses in the face of weakening contending powers. In order to improve these conditions, it is important that democracies are strengthened and strong legal systems put in place or reinforced.
  • The Gebran G. Tueni Human Rights Fellowship,[31] sponsored by a gift from the Hariri Foundation-USA, supports two 10-month fellowships per year during a three-year period for scholars, journalists, writers, and human rights activists from Lebanon or Iraq to conduct research in residence at the Carr Center. Each of the Gebran G. Tueni Fellows will undertake a major research project focusing on the areas of freedom of speech, arbitrary detention, or discrimination against minorities, displaced populations, or other vulnerable groups in one or more countries in the Middle East.
  • The Right to Water Initiative[32] uses a human rights framework to examine global inequalities in access to clean water and sanitation. Nearly one billion people do not have access to drinking water, nearly 2.6 billion people lack access to sanitation, and nearly 1.6 million people die every year from water and sanitation-related diseases. However, improving access to water is not simply a question of engineering or science. At the heart of the problem lie fundamental legal, political and moral questions.


  1. ^ "Carr: From Business To Human Rights". Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  2. ^ Verhovek, Sam Howe (2001-03-07). "New Future for Idaho Aryan Nations Compound". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-06-10.
  3. ^ "Kirsch Foundation Major Philanthropists in Technology". Retrieved 2022-05-03.
  4. ^ "Mathias Risse".
  5. ^ "Sushma Raman".
  6. ^ Frankel, Rebecca. "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  7. ^ Konigsberg, Eric (2009-01-31). "Running on Book Sense and Charm". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  8. ^ Kaplan, Robert D. (2010-03-09). "Man Versus Afghanistan". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2022-04-22.
  9. ^ Meyer, Michael (2009-07-10). "Still 'Ugly' After All These Years". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  10. ^ "What Samantha Power actually said about 'imposing a solution' on Israel". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-05-24.
  11. ^ "Human rights are absolute". Retrieved 2022-06-01.
  12. ^ "Biden names Ambassador Samantha Power to Lead International Aid Agency". Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  13. ^ Power, Samantha; Allison, Graham (2000-09-30). Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-23494-2.
  14. ^ "Carr: From Business To Human Rights". Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  15. ^ Verhovek, Sam Howe (2001-03-07). "New Future for Idaho Aryan Nations Compound". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-06-10.
  16. ^ "Kirsch Foundation Major Philanthropists in Technology". Retrieved 2022-05-03.
  17. ^ Mission statement of the Carr Center, Retrieved December 23, 2019
  18. ^ "Human Security".
  19. ^ "Economic Justice".
  20. ^ "Equality & Discrimination".
  21. ^ "History - Timeline".
  22. ^ Archived 2010-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Archived 2010-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Archived 2010-08-02 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "National Security and Human Rights Program - Harvard Kennedy School". Archived from the original on 2008-08-29.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Carr Center for Human Rights Policy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-23.
  28. ^ Archived 2011-03-25 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Archived 2010-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Archived 2010-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Archived 2012-05-06 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Archived 2011-03-25 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]