Letter from the Editors


What is a human right? And, these days, what is not a human right?

It often feels like “human rights” is a catch-all term. The concept has expanded beyond the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 30 articles with such velocity in recent years that it can feel quite vague.

Indeed, the human rights agenda is more inclusive than ever. We better understand the many shades of threats to our fundamental freedoms, and are better equipped to combat them.

But this conceptual expansion can be confusing and, for some, sparks disengagement. Lofty contemporary ideals of human rights soar beyond blue-sky thinking to the realm of the impractical.

The human rights congregation, although larger in absolute terms, is now dispersed and fragmented. Advocates, activists, defenders, and fighters are too often siloed into issue-cliques that seldom fraternize.

This plays out on university campuses across the globe, including at Harvard. There is an endless array of student associations and organizations, all mobilized around a specific issue – be it freedom of speech abroad, or minority rights here at home.

However, “human rights” can also be the unifying force that brings these communities together to learn from each other’s successes and failures, to consider policy solutions that really work, and to strategize for change.

This is the role we envision the Human Rights Policy Journal playing right here at Harvard. We want to be a platform for these different human rights issues and groups; to explore how Black Lives Matter can learn from LGBTQ rights advocates, for example, or how pro-democracy activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo can learn from the successes of civic protestors in Serbia. Here, you will find insightful analysis of pressing human rights issues and clear, action-oriented opinion pieces, calling for change and engagement.

If you are interested in human rights, we want to hear from you. If there is an issue you think we all need to know about, we want to hear from you. And if you have a strong opinion that you think has been overlooked, we want to hear from you. We need your help.

So, get involved! Write for us. Join the team. Read our articles, and share them with friends. Buy the journal, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Thank you. We look forward to getting to know you.


Alen Amini                                        Stephanie Kuei                                    Tom O’Bryan