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 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 protection of civil and political rights as part of a human rights agenda is crucial to the region. We also believe in the importance of promoting the rights of indigenous populations, as they are some of the most marginalized groups in the region. All of these goals come together under the ideal that human rights should be coordinated internationally, within regional and global initiatives.
Human rights in Latin America are important in their own right but they also anticipate tendencies that may occur elsewhere. They also illustrate the difficulties of a newly arriving Washington administration to cope with trends that affect the US both directly and indirectly. They go to the heart of the interests of The Carr Center in dealing with international human rights issues, as well as looking to create a network of organizations, scholars, activists and students in the American region.
- Serve as focal point (promotion, connection, awareness) for Latin American Human Rights issues within the Harvard community.
- Bridge connections with national and international organizations, both academic and non-academic, regarding salient human rights issues in Latin America.
- Be a source for research and teaching themes at Harvard University.
- Raise awareness about impending human rights risks in the region.
Four Main Lines of Action
In order to pursue the above objectives we will advance the following four lines of action:
- An annual conference about a relevant topic that will bring both scholars and policy-makers to discuss analytical and policy implications. This year we will focus on the Honduran Crisis, which shows how non-resolved internal institutional issues can bring about constitutional crises and political upheaval.
- Student internships in Latin American countries in order to broaden their hands-on experience with different human rights issues. Countries where contacts have been explored are: Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia.
- A speaker series that brings to the Kennedy School and the wider Harvard University community a number of prominent protagonists of human rights in the region. We expect to bring individuals such as Luis Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who has extensive experience with bringing to justice perpetrators from the dark years of the Argentinean Dirty War.
- A study group, "Contemporary Human Rights Issues in Latin America" is a study group tackling the most pressing human rights issues in the region. We hope to give members of the Harvard community a space to present and analyze the current human rights situation in Latin America, ranging from the state of the Inter-American Human Rights system, currently under stress, to more specific cases of violations within each country or the prospects for overcoming troubling circumstances.