On June 24th, Dr. Matthew Daniels, Chair of Law and Human Rights at The Institute of World Politics, discussed how the rise of authoritarianism is impacting human rights around the world on Fed Access with Derrick Dortch. Mr. Dortch also serves as IWP’s Director of Career Services.
The interview began with a discussion of the current state of human rights worldwide. Dr. Daniels noted, “I think we are in a very perilous time because we are seeing a rising tide of authoritarianism around the world.” He drew on the growing concern of human rights in China, Russia, and North Korea.
Furthermore, he said that these are movements rooted in violent and destructive ideas. “Part of the future outcome in this great struggle depends upon whether we use the tools of our age to project and disseminate ideas that are going to give us a peaceful, tolerant world, or a violent, divided world of groups that are using force against each other.”
The discussion moved to the topic of these digital tools and social media in impacting human rights. Dr. Daniels noted the growing concern for the rise in weaponization of social media, specifically in the rise of terrorism in Syria. He said that it is ironic that groups like ISIS have used Western approaches to social media to spread their ideologies. He recommended that the fastest way to catch up with counter-terrorism efforts is to utilize groups in the private sector. Additionally, he stated, “we need to unleash the people who are committed to freedom, democracy, tolerance, and human rights… as a force for good.”
The discussion moved to human rights and the battle of ideas in his new book, Human Liberty 2.0. He created this book to share stories and inspire others to advocate for human rights. He noted that individuals on social media have an unparalleled platform to share good news and drew on powerful examples. In order to motivate his students and others to act, he stated, “90% of people underestimate the potential they have in them for good and for impact… I would urge you to embrace the reality that you are capable of far more than you realize, and that as you step into your calling, other people who share that calling will come around you and help you do ten times more than you could have ever imagined.”
Next, the discussion moved to the role of government in advocating for human rights in the digital age. Dr. Daniels noted the power that people can bring to the equation with the creation of tools like phone apps and crowd mapping in the event of disasters, like the recent Haitian earthquake.
In conclusion, Dr. Daniels discussed the current concern for human rights and terrorism, specifically in West Africa. The growing movements share a commitment to ethnic cleansing, genocide, and violence to spread their views. He believes that the West is using hard power to explain the violence through topics like water rights. In opposition, he considers the violent religious ideologies present to be the primary cause of continuous violence. To combat the evil and violence, Daniels believes we must use digital tools to project good ideas to all corners of the world.