Kathryn Sikkink, Ph.D.

kathryn_sikkink@hks.harvard.edu

Harvard University

Country: United States (Massachusetts)

About Me:

Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at HKS and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Sikkink works on international norms and institutions, transnational advocacy networks, the impact of human rights law and policies, and transitional justice. Her publications include Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century; The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions are Changing World Politics (awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Center Book Award, and the WOLA/Duke University Award); Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy and Latin America; Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (co-authored with Margaret Keck and awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas for Improving World Order, and the ISA Chadwick Alger Award for Best Book in the area of International Organizations); and The Persistent Power of Human Rights: From Commitment to Compliance, (co-edited with Thomas Risse and Stephen Ropp). She holds an MA and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Sikkink has been a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina and a Guggenheim fellow. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the editorial board of International Organization.

Research Interests

Human Rights

International Law & Organization

NGOs

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Comparative Democratization

Networks And Politics

Political Violence

Publications:

Journal Articles:

(2019) Behind Bars and Bargains: New Findings on Transitional Justice in Emerging Democracies: Research Note., International Studies Quarterly

Tags: Conflict Processes & War, Development

The global transitional justice tool kit—involving the use of criminal prosecutions, amnesties, and other mechanisms to address past human rights abuse—has become a primary means for thwarting future human rights violations and consolidating democracy. Nevertheless, evidence on the consequences of transitional justice remains mixed and amenable to contradictory interpretations. Existing studies fail to adequately address issues of selection, the difference between short- and long-term effects of transitional justice mechanisms, and qualitative and quantitative differences in state practices. This article uses a new database of transitional justice mechanisms to address these concerns and test propositions from realist, constructivist, and holistic approaches to this set of policy issues. We find, among other things, that prosecutions increase physical integrity protections, while amnesties increase the protection of civil and political rights. Our analysis suggests that different transnational justice policies each play a potentially positive, but distinct, role in new democracies and in decreasing violations of human rights.

(2019) Breaking the Ban? The Heterogeneous Impact of US Contestation of the Torture Norm, Journal of Global Security Studies

Tags: Human Rights

Following the attacks of 9/11, the United States adopted a policy of torturing suspected terrorists and reinterpreted its legal obligations so that it could argue that this policy was lawful. This article investigates the impact of these actions by the United States on the global norm against torture. After conceptualizing how the United States contested the norm against torture, the article explores how US actions impacted the norm across four dimensions of robustness: concordance with the norm, third-party reactions to norm violations, compliance, and implementation. This analysis reveals a heterogeneous impact of US contestation: while US policies did not impact global human rights trends, it did shape the behavior of states that aided and abetted US torture policies, especially those lacking strong domestic legal structures. The article sheds light on the circumstances under which powerful states can shape the robustness of global norms.

(2018) Partners in Crime: An Empirical Investigation of the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program, Perspectives on Politics

Tags: Human Rights

In the years following the attacks of 9/11, the CIA adopted a program involving the capture, extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists in the war on terror. As the details of this program have become public, a heated debate has ensued, focusing narrowly on whether or not this program “worked” by disrupting terror plots and saving American lives. By embracing such a narrow view of the program’s efficacy, this debate has failed to take into account the broader consequences of the CIA program. We move beyond current debates by evaluating the impact of the CIA program on the human rights practices of other states. We show that collaboration in the CIA program is associated with a worsening in the human rights practices of authoritarian countries. This finding illustrates how states learn from and influence one another through covert security cooperation and the importance of democratic institutions in mitigating the adverse consequences of the CIA program. This finding also underscores why a broad perspective is critical when assessing the consequences of counterterrorism policies.

(2017) (Re)discovering Duties: Individual Responsibilities in the Age of Rights., Minnesota Journal of International Law

Tags: Human Rights

on rights and responsibilities

Books Written:

(2017) Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, Princeton University Press

Tags: Human Rights

"Evidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guantanamo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But respected human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to pessimistic doubts about human rights laws and institutions. She demonstrates that change comes slowly and as the result of struggle, but in the long term, human rights movements have been vastly effective." [from book's dust cover]

Book Chapters:

(2018) A Cautionary Note about the Frame of Peril and Crisis in Human Rights Activism, Dejusticia

.

(2017) Human Rights Data, Processes, and Outcomes: How Recent Research Points to a Better Future, Cambridge University Press

Tags: Human Rights

In Human Rights Futures

(2017) Timing and Sequencing in International Politics: Latin America’s Contributions to Human Rights, Oxford University Press

Tags: Human Rights

In International Politics and Institutions in Time, Ed. Orfeo Fioretos.