Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in the 21st Century
Description: This course explores how promoting democracy and human rights around the world has evolved from the 20th century to the 21st century with a focus on the importance of leadership and institutions, the diffusion of power, the impact of information and communications technologies, and new challenges and opportunities. The course will explore these issues from thematic as well as country-specific perspectives, recognizing the tension between the universality of rights and the sovereignty of states as a reoccurring theme. In readings, writing assignments, class discussion, and meetings with experts, we will consider in particular the positive and the negative consequences of innovation and technologies as they affect transparency, engagement, and disruption. The modern human rights movement and the democracy promotion industry predate the Internet and the proliferation of mobile phones and cyber technologies by decades. Perhaps not surprisingly, technology has had positive and negative impacts. The course begins from the premise that technology is neutral but how it is used is not; deployment can increase societal conflict, including weakening democratic institutions but can also help elevate citizens’ voices in accounting for corruption, or mitigate violence and conflict, for example, by helping to combat human trafficking or prevent mass atrocities. Mainly, it is a tool, and the power of leaders—inside government and outside—and their connections to constituents whom they are trying to affect—positively or negatively—are also constants.