Lectures & Panels The Global Contest between Democracy and Autocracy: Less Dire Than It Seems

12:30-13:30 EST

WCC 2019 Milstein West B, Harvard Law School
Access for Harvard ID holders only

poster of Kenneth Roth event

Kenneth Roth, former Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, in conversation with Sarah Roy on the struggle between democracy and autocracy.

Event Overview

 The common wisdom these days is that in the global contest between democracy and autocracy, the autocrats are ascendant. That is wrong. Putin’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine and Xi Jinping’s “zero Covid” debacle are highly visible illustrations of the risks inherent in unaccountable government. It is not surprising that people in a broad range of countries have taken to the streets to support democracy and oppose autocracy. Many of the autocrats hang on, but increasingly by brute force rather than a process conferring any semblance of legitimacy. Yet despite the unenviable record of autocratic rule, democracies are also under threat because of their failure to deliver on many of their promised dividends. The defense of democracy requires not only spotlighting the failure of autocratic rule but also better governance within democracies. 

Kenneth Roth served for nearly three decades as the executive director of Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading international human rights organizations, which operates in some 100 countries. Before that, Roth was a federal prosecutor in New York and for the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. A graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University, Roth has conducted numerous human rights investigations and missions around the world, meeting with dozens of heads of state and countless ministers. He is quoted widely in the media and has written hundreds of articles on a wide range of human rights issues, devoting special attention to the world’s most dire situations, the conduct of war, the foreign policies of the major powers, the work of the United Nations, and the global contest between autocracy and democracy. Roth is currently writing a book about the strategies used by Human Rights Watch to defend human rights, drawing on his years of experience. Roth holds fellowships at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and at Perry World House of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Access for HUID holders only. Recording will be made available on the Human Rights Program YouTube channel.

The event is organized by HRP and co-sponsored by HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the International Human Rights Clinic, Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World, Harvard Human Rights Journal, the Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, and East Asian Legal Studies.