HRMI word clouds reveal vulnerable groups, even in high-performing countries

This year many in New Zealand are celebrating 125 years since the Parliament allowed women to have the vote. In her address to the United Nations General Assembly last month New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, however, ‘I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity.’

It’s important in any discussion of human rights to acknowledge that there are usually some groups who enjoy their rights more fully than others, both across countries and within any society.

In New Zealand, for example, while gender has not been a legal barrier to democratic participation for 125 years, data from the Human Rights Measurement Initiative show that there are still groups who are not fully able to participate.

How HRMI identifies vulnerable groups

In our civil and political rights data collection, we ask human rights experts which groups they see as being most at risk of having their rights abused or limited. Their answers are represented in word clouds on our data site.

New Zealand democratic participation word cloud

Group names shown in a bigger type are those that were selected by a larger proportion of our experts as being at particular risk.

The word cloud in the example above, for the right to participate in government, in New Zealand, shows that experts identified detainees as particularly at risk of not having this right respected. This is probably because a 2010 law means that prisoners cannot vote.

These word clouds are a starting point, not an exhaustive list. For instance, given that Māori are significantly over-represented in the prison population, we could extrapolate from the HRMI data to argue that Māori are another group who are at higher risk of having their rights to democratic participation curtailed.

How to find the word clouds you want

You can see word clouds for every civil and political right we measure, and you can access them in two ways.

If you are looking at the circular radar graphs of one of the countries we have civil and political rights data for, just click on the right you are interested in. Extra information on that right in that country will appear in the bar on the right. Scroll down to see the word cloud.

Here are some examples from New Zealand and Kyrgyzstan:

New Zealand, arbitrary arrest and detention, word cloud

The right to freedom of expression and opinion in Kyrgyzstan: word cloud of groups most at risk

This is a good way to look at the word clouds if you are focussing on the human rights landscape of one particular country, because you can click through each of the rights in turn, and see each word cloud, one after another.

If you’re more interested in comparing comparing how different countries give effect to a particular right, there’s another way to reach the word clouds.

Choose ‘Explore by Rights’, then click on a right, such as the right to freedom from torture. Click on one of the country codes and more information will appear on the bar at the right. Scroll down for the word cloud.

Here is the graph for freedom from torture, with Fiji selected, then Australia.


Freedom from torture, Fiji

Freedom from torture, Australia


Who can use these data?

All of HRMI’s data are freely available to anyone. You can explore our data site here, and even download the dataset.

We have data on seven civil and political rights – these are the rights the word clouds relate to – as well as five economic and social rights.

Civil and Political Rights icons

HRMI aims to produce useful data. Some of the people we expect will use our data are:

  • Journalists, especially those reporting a particular country, and those focusing on human rights, politics, social issues or international affairs
  • Researchers
  • Government policy advisers
  • Human rights advocates
  • NGOs
  • Human rights monitors within a region, and at the international level
  • Private companies, for decision-making, to minimise risk for investors, and direct capital flows ethically.

If you know anyone in those categories, please let them know about HRMI, in case our data can be useful to them.

HRMI’s data have been available for only a few months so far, but as different people use them, we want to share stories and case studies. Whenever you see our data in action, please tell us, and we’ll include a link to it here.

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