Since 2005, every United Nations member state has participated in the Universal Periodic Review, a process for countries to reflect on – and improve – their human rights performance.
The UPR involves governments, National Human Rights Institutes, civil society organisations, and the general public, who can all give input into the review of their country.
Anyone submitting a report for the UPR can use HRMI human rights scores and our other rich data. We want to make this as easy as possible, so here is a guide, and a case study, to show how our data can be useful.
Using HRMI data at each phase of the UPR
The UPR process repeats every five years, and HRMI data can be useful at each phase of the five-year cycle:
- Writing national reports
- Writing stakeholder reports (by NHRIs and civil society organisations) which the OHCHR then summarises
- Feeding into government-led consultation leading up to the drafting of the national report
- Participating at pre-session events just before the Working Group Session in Geneva
- Awareness-raising and media communication around the time of the Working Group Session
- Lobbying government and embassies after the session and before adoption of recommendations
- Monitoring progress on countries acting on recommendations after the session.
There are several kinds of human rights measurement data on our Rights Tracker that can strengthen the submissions of civil society organisations at each of these stages:
- HRMI scores: robust measurements of how well a country is doing at fulfilling or upholding (so far) 13 sets of human rights (5 sets of economic and social rights; 8 sets of civil and political rights)
- Scores for around 200 countries for economic and social rights, and for 33 countries so far for civil and political rights (we add more countries each year as funding allows)
- For economic and social rights, our methodology allows us to measure the legal requirements of progressive realisation and using the maximum available resources
- Sex disaggregation for selected rights
- Trends over time: we have time series of annual scores, which reveal trends and progress or deterioration
- People at risk: for a subset of countries (33 countries so far), we have data on which groups of people are at extra risk of rights violations
- Comparisons between countries and across regions and other groupings.
It’s important to note that Section A.7.a) of the 3rd Cycle Technical Guidelines from the OHCHR (linked on this page) advise that ‘First-hand information should be given priority, as well as the stakeholder’s own views, findings and conclusions. Second-hand information should be referenced and referred to in endnotes, and included only if necessary.’
HRMI scores can, however, be used to provide context to your organisation’s first-hand observations. For example, if you have noticed a trend of some sort, or you are evaluating the effect of a law or policy change, you can report your observations, noting that HRMI scores show it to be part of a larger picture, and not an aberration – or otherwise.
This article will show how all of these things can be used in the UPR process to help shine a light on how a country is treating its people, and eventually improve people’s lives.
(See also UPR Info’s Civil Society Compendium, a detailed guide to participating in the UPR, which you can download from their website.)
Case study: Solomon Islands report for the UPR
Here’s an example you can draw on for your country.
Solomon Islands is due to be reviewed in 2021, with civil society submissions due 8 October 2020.
Here are some of the relevant HRMI data that civil society organisations in Solomon Islands could use in the UPR process.
Solomon Islands human rights scores
On our Rights Tracker you can see an overview of up to 13 high-level scores for how a country’s government is performing. Here’s the ‘at a glance’ chart for Solomon Islands:
Is Solomon Islands devoting its ‘maximum available resources’ to ‘progressive realisation’ of human rights?
It’s important to note that the starting point for our economic and social rights scores is international human rights law, as contained in:
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and its associated documents (such as the Limburg Principles, and a series of General Comments from the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights)
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child (and associated Committee Comments)
- The Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Article 2 of the ICESCR says each country is obligated to progressively achieve economic and social rights ‘to the maximum of its available resources.’ Essentially, this means that better performance is expected from richer countries.
For this reason, our scores combine two factors:
- What a country is achieving, shown by big-picture bellwether indicators such as infant mortality, or primary school enrolment rates
- The country’s level of income (GDP per capita in PPP dollars).
On the Quality of Life tab, on our Rights Tracker, you can see more detail for each economic and social right, and some interpretation discussion which you are welcome to quote in UPR submissions:
The Solomon Islands scores 60.9% on Quality of Life when scored against the ‘Income adjusted’ benchmark. This score takes into account Solomon Islands’ resources and how well it is using them to make sure their people’s Quality of Life rights are fulfilled.
This score tells us that Solomon Islands is only doing 60.9% of what should be possible right now with the resources they have. Since anything less than 100% indicates that a country is not meeting its current duty under international human rights law, our assessment is that Solomon Islands has a very long way to go to meet its immediate economic and social rights duty.
Solomon Islands indicator scores, sex disaggregation, and time trends
Further down the Quality of Life tab are the HRMI scores (not the raw rates) of how well Solomon Islands is doing – taking its income into account – at fulfilling people’s rights, showing the underlying indicators. Here you can see the score for the right to housing, which is made up of scores for the rights to basic sanitation and access to water in homes:
For some rights and indicators, sex disaggregated data are available, and we show this. Again, these are our scores, not the raw rates, here for secondary school enrolment, where we see that Solomon Islands performs worse for girls than boys.
We have 10 years of scores for economic and social rights. On the same Quality of Life tab you can choose rights and indicators and show the trends over time:
These time trends are particularly useful to look at when evaluating a country’s progress since its most recent UPR process.
Who is at risk of rights violations in Solomon Islands?
As well as the scores, for 33 countries so far, you can see which groups of people are at particular risk of specific rights violations.
These data come from our survey of human rights experts in Solomon Islands and show some of the groups of people identified at being at risk of violations of this right. There may be other groups who are also affected, but weren’t mentioned by our survey respondents in 2020.
Using the ‘Rights’ menu on the Rights Tracker, you can see all the scores from around the world, for each right and indicator. You can also filter the results by region and other options. Here’s the right to freedom of opinion and expression, filtered to show only Pacific countries:
The scores (the dark line in the middle of each bar) are shown within uncertainty bands, to show the 80% range of likely scores. The wider the band, the less certain we are of the score, because of a low number of survey respondents, or the wide range of answers they gave, or both.
The Solomon Islands’ score band overlaps with all the countries in the bottom half of the chart, so we can only say that Solomon Islands is performing in the bottom half of Pacific countries for this right – we can’t say it’s definitely the second to worst. We can say it is doing more poorly than any country it doesn’t overlap with above it, like Tonga, Cook Islands, Guam, and New Zealand.
HRMI scores show good news as well as challenges
An important feature of HRMI scores is that we report on everything – the good news and the bad.
Because the UPR is partly a political process, it can be of diplomatic value, particularly when one country is evaluating another, to be able to point to the positive scores as well as where there are shortfalls to be addressed.
We can help!
If you are working on a submission or report for the UPR, please feel free to get in touch with us. We are happy to help you find the data that’s most relevant, or to check your draft submission for accuracy when you use our data.
We would love to hear from you if you’re using our data, or if you have suggestions for other ways we could present our work to make it useful for you.
Thank you for your interest in HRMI. To explore our human rights scores, please visit our Rights Tracker, where you can find data by country, right, or people group.