23 October 2014
Cambridge – Workshop at the Harvard Kennedy School on Teaching Human Rights Practice
Workshop participants. Photo: ESI
Workshop participants. Photo: ESI

ESI's Gerald Knaus participated in a three days working seminar in Harvard on the future of human rights practice in the 21st century. The seminar was organized around a series of questions such as: What will be the human rights issues in the next ten to twenty years? How will the global human rights 'regime' need to change to safeguard and realize human rights aspirations in that time? Are there areas of current practice that must be developed or expanded as a result of these changes? Are entirely new skills and capacities, institutions and movements needed to meet those challenges?

One conclusion was that the big human rights organisations are good diagnosticians, but the crucial gap is policy and strategy. The widespread assumption that "once the world knows what we know, things will change" rarely holds true. The challenge is how to change this and how to become strategic.

Other participants included Michael Posner, former US undersecretary of state for human rights; Doug Johnson, former head of Center for Victims of Torture for 24 years; Michael Ignatieff; Tyler Giannini, co-director of the Harvard Law School human rights program; Elazar Barkan from Columbia and John Ruggie, Kathryn Sikking, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and others.

Gerald presented on the crisis of the European human rights regime. This crisis has become obvious in the recent crack down on human rights in Russia and Azerbaijan and in debates on what human rights standards should be upheld, from the Balkans to Turkey; and in the failures of the Council of Europe and the European Union to confront these new challenges effectively. 

Participants' biographies