The best way to predict the future is to create it: our East Asia expansion

By Anne-Marie Brook, HRMI co-founder and strategy and development lead

Our good news

Securing funding for HRMI’s work is one of my roles and one that I never feel I have enough time for. But recently we’ve been on a bit of a roll. Here’s the good news.

We’ve recently had our funding renewed from both Open Society Foundations and the New Zealand Aid Programme and received a significant donation from a private individual. We are very grateful for the investment these partners make in our ongoing work.

We’ve also been awarded a grant from the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy to make this website and the Rights Tracker available in Chinese.

This funding allows us to continue the work we are doing. But to expand to measure more rights in more countries we need more funding.

Can you help? Read on for more, or visit our fundraising campaign page at any time to make a donation that will enable us to expand our work.

Our expansion plans

In the coming year we want to extend our expert survey to more countries in East and South East Asia. We already produce powerful economic and social rights data for almost all these countries using a different methodology, but we only run our human rights survey, from which we produce civil and political rights scores, among other data, in two East Asian countries so far: Vietnam and South Korea.

Why East Asia?

The pandemic and other geopolitical considerations have drawn the world’s attention to this region, and we see a strong opportunity to build on this. An Asia expansion would be particularly impactful because:

  • The East Asia region (including South East Asia) is very diverse, including in terms of income per capita, and human rights performance.
  • The enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong (at a time when the world is distracted) has forced many Hong Kong human rights defenders to dial back their advocacy for reform, and in some cases to flee the country. We want to ensure that our expert survey tool can be used to amplify the voices of all human rights defenders, not only in Hong Kong, but also in other countries where voices of dissent and advocacy are silenced or forced to self-censor.
  • The relative success of many East Asian countries in containing the spread of covid-19 has drawn global attention. History tells us that pandemics typically usher in big changes, and if we want those big changes to be ones that help create a healthy, safe, and flourishing world, we need to take bold steps in that direction. What gets measured, gets improved: robust human rights data from East Asia will help to show that creating the conditions for people to flourish is what drives strong economies and healthy communities.
  • HRMI’s data methodologies have been explicitly designed to allow for robust and valid cross-country comparisons. The risks that pandemic-motivated repression or surveillance may not be fully lifted as we move out of this period, mean that rigorous cross-nationally comparable data will be vital for drawing attention to the nuances of policy and practice in each country.
  • Given the relatively unique co-existence in Asia of liberal and forward-thinking democracies at one end of the spectrum, repressive autocracies at the other, and hybrid regimes and threats to democracy in the middle, the lens of covid-19 provides a unique and urgent opportunity to shed new light on human rights in the region and highlight what good performance looks like.

 

Little girl, and text saying 'What gets measured gets improved RightsTracker.org'

 

Logistics

The average cost of extending our data coverage to a new country is USD 20,000 per year. It’s more for large and complex countries like China.

We are working right now to secure new funding for an Asia expansion by the end of September 2020, so we can include as many new countries as possible in the 2021 human rights survey, which goes out in late January/early February. We are already developing partnerships with human rights NGOs in the region, who will help connect us with those best placed to share up to date information about human rights in each country. Some of the countries our local partners, or we, are particularly keen to see included in time for the 2021 survey are: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, and mainland China (if we attract enough funding).

The more funding, the more countries we can include. If you would like to sponsor a country – or a group of countries – within the region, please get in touch.

Why now? What’s the hurry?

We know our time-line is tight. But we’ve got to try, right?

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

History tells us pandemics usher in big changes. If we want those changes to be ones that create a safe and flourishing world, we need to take bold steps in that direction.

What gets measured gets improved.

Robust human rights data will draw attention to what truly matters.

Any funding we secure after the end-September deadline will fund expansion for the following year. But we’re highly motivated to maximise our tracking in this, important, pandemic year.

If you would like to partner with us in this expansion, please consider donating via our September 2020 fundraising campaign page.

Anne-Marie Brook is one of HRMI’s three co-founders, and our strategy and development lead. You can hear Megan Doepker’s recent interview with Anne-Marie at This is Candor.

To explore our human rights scores, please visit our Rights Tracker, where you can find data by country, right, or people group.

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