To improve human rights conditions, we first need to be able to measure them. Until now, the available measures tracking human rights performance have been piecemeal and of varying quality, and it has been hard to get a comprehensive overview of how a country is performing. But no more! We are delighted to announce the launch of the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) beta dataset.
Before you check it out – just one word of caution. We are publishing 12 metrics (covering five economic and social rights, and seven civil and political rights), but we don’t yet have all metrics for all countries. So there’s a good chance there will be missing data for the countries you are most interested in. If the missing data is in the area of civil and political rights, we have some good news for you. Our intention is to extend our coverage of these rights to most countries in the world as soon as we have secured sufficient funding to do so. All going well, data for your country could be available as soon as next year.
If the missing data are in the area of economic and social rights, there may be less that we can do to help. These measures rely on official statistics, and if the relevant data are not being collected by national governments, there’s not much we can do about that, except lobby for better data! The good news is that for countries where the data do exist, we can go further than we already have. We can produce our economic and social rights metrics not only at the aggregate population level, but also broken down by ethnic group, gender, region of the country, etc.
What more do you need to know? There are a few tricks you need to be on top of.
1. Our civil and political rights metrics (in blue) are a score out of ten. They tell you the extent to which the government in that country is respecting that right.
2. By contrast, our economic and social rights metrics (in green) are percentage scores. They tell you the percentage level of enjoyment achieved on that right relative to what should be feasible for a country with that income level.
The second point above sometimes trips people up. When testing our data with people over the past few months we have often had people say things like, “But that score of 90-something percent on the right to education can’t possibly be correct. We are a poor country and our education system is nowhere near as good as in other countries. What’s going on?”
That’s a great question.
The answer is something like this. “Yes, your country is a relatively poor country, and because of that, the government in your country is not expected to be able to fulfil the right to education to the same extent as governments in richer countries. The 90-something percent score tells us that your country is doing almost as well as the best performing country with a similar GDP per capita. So it’s more a measure of how well your government is using its available resources. Even if a country has a score of 100% it can still do better by innovating to extend human rights enjoyment further than has been done in the past. But to provide all children with an education standard closer to that in rich countries would likely also require a higher GDP per capita.”
It is not surprising that this point can be confusing, because people are used to looking at data showing outcomes, rather than data that measures performance relative to the state’s obligation levels.
And the next point can also be a bit of a sticking point.
3. The economic and social rights metrics that you can access on our beta website are summary measures for the population as a whole. A high score does NOT imply that all population subgroups in that country (e.g. indigenous people, or women) enjoy the right equally.
Having said that, we can calculate metrics for population sub-groups if the statistical indicators exist. If you have the disaggregated raw data, we can calculate these metrics for different groups. Please contact us!
And finally, since we know many of you are interested in the population sub-groups who are most at risk, you will love this next point.
4. As well as producing aggregate scores for the intensity of violations of each civil and political right, we also publish data on the populations most at risk in each country. For example, the word cloud below shows the groups most at risk to violations of the right to opinion and expression in Kazakhstan.
You can find more of these word clouds by clicking on any civil and political right in our beta website.
This is just the beginning and we plan to extend our breadth and coverage over the coming years. In the meantime, we are excited to see how you use these data for real impact in the real world. As a provider of data we are always searching for new ways to increase the usefulness of the data we produce, and new people to produce them with. So if you have feedback on our data so far or any ideas for further development, please get in touch.
And finally, we would like to say an enormous thank you to the many of you who have already been contributing to this project: human rights experts around the world, website designers and developers, university researchers, volunteer translators, donors, and many more. This wouldn’t be happening without you.
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