Research and Innovation
We provide evidence-based innovation to forge new ideas and interventions that advance the rights, health, and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet.
Phoenix Zones Initiative’s vision, expertise, and bold action provide comprehensive and evidence-based guidance for mapping out a new paradigm for how we can all thrive.
Thought Leadership and Innovation
Thought leadership is essential to inform public, governmental, and corporate policies and practices—as well as to transform cultural values.
Trailblazing Research and Scholarship
Phoenix Zones Initiative publishes pioneering pieces in academic journals and other high impact outlets, and we provide a platform for others to publish their innovative ideas.
For example, as a member of the Harvard FXB Health and Human Rights Consortium, we edited and helped publish a special section in the Health and Human Rights Journal on ecological justice and the right to health, highlighting the connections between human, animal, and planetary health and wellbeing. Our president, Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, served as a guest editor for the journal issue.
- intersections between social and environmental justice that impact the right to health;
- relationships between the legal, political, and economic treatment of humans, other animals, and the natural environment;
- how international frameworks such as One Health and the Sustainable Development Goals could better address the right to health; and
- the potential influence of expansive rights frameworks, including nonhuman rights, on human health outcomes.
Dr. Ferdowsian also serves as a senior editor of CABI One Health, an open access journal focusing on the interconnections between humans, animals, plants, ecosystems, and their shared environment in a transdisciplinary way. Her work published in CABI One Health shows how a socially and ecologically just One Health approach can effectively address and prevent many of our global challenges. Just One Health builds on a One Health framework and emphasizes the connections between rights, justice, and health outcomes for people, animals, and the planet. The term Just One Health was coined by Phoenix Zones Initiative.
Read Dr. Ferdowsian’s call for a socially and ecologically Just One Health approach in CABI One Health.
Phoenix Zones Initiative offers tailored technical expertise for public and private organizations that wish to craft policies and practices that improve the interconnected health and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet.
Our expert team has provided invited guidance for the United Nations High-Level Expert Panel on Sustainable Development, the UN Environment Program, UN Member States, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and corporations.
Phoenix Zones Initiative is an accredited organization of the UN Environment Program and holds special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.
Contact Catherine Broussard at [email protected] if you’re interested in receiving technical expertise.
Groundbreaking Social, Economic, and Legal Initiatives
Modern Economic Tools
Communities should be constructed to encourage vitality and ethical and sustainable development. We advocate for better urban and rural planning and for more ambitious economic frameworks that acknowledge the right to a healthy and safe home, community, and environment.
Phoenix Zones Initiative is creating a new tool designed to go beyond GDP as an indicator of global wellness. Because our most cherished assets can’t be measured in dollars.
Our research has shown a need for impact assessment tools and metrics that can be used by professionals, advocates, communities, and policy makers to determine the impact of proposed or existing policies, extractive industries, industrial agriculture, and infrastructure development on the rights, health, and wellbeing of people, animals, and the environment.
We are working with economic experts and other professionals to develop these metrics and tools, which move beyond GDP to measure progress in a way that aligns with our most cherished values and aspirations—including the creation of a just society and a sustainable planet.
Going Beyond GDP: As a society, we cannot know if circumstances are improving unless we compare them with the past. Since the early twentieth century, leaders in politics, economics, and other fields have commonly referred to economic metrics such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to assess progress. However, GDP does not count activity in which money is not exchanged—what is often called the informal economy—and it discounts fundamental aspects of progress. Often GDP reinforces and amplifies systemic violations of basic rights through the commodification of human and nonhuman individuals and populations.
Progress can be measured by how governments, industries, and communities treat the most vulnerable, including historically marginalized populations. Increasingly, threats to progress—including the climate emergency, pandemics and communicable disease risk, chronic disease risk, patterns of violence, and other public health threats—can be traced to the maltreatment of people, animals, and our shared planet.
No one should be abused or exploited for others’ economic interests.
A State-of-the-Art Legal Commission
Values guide science, and science cannot stand as an endeavor separate from history or current realities, including evidence of agency and suffering. Research policy—including the funding of research—should be based on sound ethics and principles.
Phoenix Zones Initiative partners with a leading academic center to advance ethics and science.
Phoenix Zones Initiative and George Washington University Law’s Animal Legal Education Initiative have partnered toward the development of a private commission to advance protections for animals, improve ethical standards in research, work towards the reduction and elimination of the use of animals in research, and enhance scientific inquiry.
The work of the private commission will be modeled after the work of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which produced The Belmont Report. The Belmont Report advanced key protections for human subjects of research through well-established ethical principles: respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. The report laid the groundwork for research policies that require informed consent, risk-benefit assessments, and special protections for vulnerable populations.
Findings and reports of the private commission will be distributed to the public, policy makers, professionals, the media, and other stakeholders.
Stay tuned to learn more.
A Brief History of Human and Animal Research Policy: Fortunately, we now have real research protections for human subjects of biomedical and behavioral research, including for vulnerable populations such as children. But these protections weren’t always in place. Despite an unjust history plagued by racism, sexism, and ableism, human research has become more ethical. In 1974, the US Congress established the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which published a document called The Belmont Report five years later.
At the time, The Belmont Report changed the conduct of human research and it led to informed consent requirements, mandatory assessments of the risks and benefits of research, and special protections for vulnerable populations such as children and incarcerated persons.
Using a broad framework of justice, The Belmont Report highlighted the importance of avoiding actual and potential harms—particularly in research involving individuals who cannot provide consent or those who could be targeted because of their vulnerabilities in society. The Belmont Report revolutionized human research, although its call for justice and avoiding harm have yet to be fully realized—often because of an over reliance on animal experiments rather than human-centered advances in technology.
Today, some of the most problematic research practices involve animals. Millions of animals—including dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, and many other species of small and large animals—are used in research each year. A growing number of doctors, scientists, and policymakers question the validity and reliability of applying knowledge gained from animal experiments to human ailments, as well as the risks poor science poses to vulnerable human patients and populations. Fortunately, although they have yet to be fully implemented, there are more ethical, patient-relevant tools that can be used to study disease and therapeutic interventions. Still, approximately half of the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds animal research. Members of the tax-paying public have scarce access to reports on how those public funds are spent, and whether these investments contribute to improved medical science or the prevention and eradication of major diseases and disorders.
As part of our commitment to a Just One Health approach, we believe it is time to extend the ethical framework set forth in The Belmont Report to animals, and we are working toward this goal. Our efforts to reexamine the principles outlined in The Belmont Report and related documents also prompt a reevaluation of human research, including the need to further enhance protections for those who are most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Read Dr. Ferdowsian’s and her colleagues’ seminal paper on the importance of The Belmont Report and a Belmont Report for animals.
A Transformative Center
Despite an urgent need to address the interdependent health of people, animals, and the planet, current laws rarely focus on relationships between the moral and legal rights of humans and other animals, and how the recognition of these connections influences health.
Rights are inseparable from health.
While numerous human rights laws and guidelines exist, they fail to protect many vulnerable and marginalized people. And few adequately protect animals.
Phoenix Zones Initiative is leading a new initiative highlighting the connections between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing. The Center will focus on proven and emerging strategies to advance the inalienable right to be free, safe, valued, and healthy.
The Center will address key questions, such as
- How can more inclusive legal frameworks that recognize the interdependence of human and nonhuman rights be advanced?
- What has been done in these areas—what are the successes and challenges? Nationally and internationally?
- What has worked socially, culturally, economically, and politically in terms of nonviolent resistance and progress?
- What are the other pressure points socially, culturally, economically, and politically?
- How can technology, including emerging artificial intelligence, be used to advance human and nonhuman rights?